Are festivals the safest place to take drugs?
Are festivals the safest place to take drugs?
Before reading this it is important that you understand I am not in anyway encouraging any kind of drug or substance use. The safest way to use drugs is not to use them at all. But we know you do or if you don't you will be given the option. We feel by giving facts and advise on how to keep safe more people will stay safe.
I am a none drug user and do not allow my staff or crew use in my space.
Its that time of year when worried parents wave off their perfect teens and watch with terror as they set off to their first festival.. knowing damn well that as they turn the corner to their rite of passage that they will be partying like they did themselves 20 odd years ago!
Its every parents nightmare! we were all young and we all know how likely it is our children will be around drugs at some point in their lives. We can't stop them from experimenting, partying and going mad but likewise we cant stop worrying either.
The biggest fear is that they do what we did!
Festival Drug Culture
There is no point pretending that drug use isn't a huge part of the festival culture, and young people often partake for the first time in the festival environment.
Me and my team have worked the festival scene for over a decade and have seen every possible drug related situation.
Only last week at Glastonbury my staff found themselves looking after a very distressing and frightening situation with a young girl who was in a life threatening situation. read Angel Matt’s account of it here. It was a prime example of how the festival team of professionals came together and saved a young woman's life.
It got us talking about how safe a space it really was for young people when It came to experimenting with drug taking.
As a parent of teens and as a festival worker and producer I still believe that festivals are the safest places to take drugs for young people.
Share this with your teens and read yourselves.
Here are 10 ways to use drugs at a festival in the safest way .
You can ask for help.
Unlike in the outside world a festival site is set up with its own systems to help anyone in need. Wether you are having a particular bad trip or experience or you simply find yourself having a panic attack, specialist welfare teams come as standard.
Welfare areas are separate to medical and security/policing areas, so people feel more able to approach them safely.
Comfortable and welcoming spaces allow for people to simply lay down in a quiet space for a while as well as been manned by trained and experienced councillors and welfare experts.
Welfare teams have seen and heard it all before and know how to handle a distressed festival goer, they know when to call for medical help, when a simple rest is needed or when a simple chat and cup of tea will help.
Often young people who are inexperienced in taking drugs can be overwhelmed and frightened, knowing there is a safe place to go and admit to their predicament without worrying about judgment or arrest is really helpful.
2. You can ask for information
You can ask for information about drugs and find out the stuff you cant ask anyone else.
More and more festivals are bringing in drug advisory areas to festivals to enable young people to ask the questions they may not feel they can ask among their peers and professionals.
Just finding out what certain drugs are called and what they do to you can help young people make good safe decisions when starting out in their party life.
If there isn't a specialised area for this, welfare teams will often be able to help.
3. You can test that what you are taking is safe.
Many festival professionals are calling out to festivals to pay for teams to start offering free drug testing on site too. Checking substances are safe to take is a huge deal and cuts out tons of risk for young people.
Last year we were at an event where a bad batch of ketamine had turned the first night of the festival in to a scene from a war film.
On delivering yet another vunerable young woman to welfare the staff member informed me, that if only the festival would pay for testing they could find the bad stuff and so many young people would be saved from such bad experiences.
This year we saw a rise in free testing.. we hope this will become standard we think its the responsibility of festival organisers to keep their customers safe.
4. You can ask for medical help without fear of arrest.
The policing of festivals is very different to on the 'streets' where anyone found using or possessing drugs can face arrest. This can stop people seeking medical help when they need it and puts them at risk.
Security and police at festivals are more interested the dealers, not the takers.
You probably won't get arrested at Glastonbury for smoking a joint in public but you may have to watch your back if you are selling 'sweeties' to everyone who passes by! With so much drug use on site, policing tends to remain with the bigger fish! So don't EVER let the fear of arrest stop you seeking help.
Medical teams are ready to treat people suffering from bad effects relating to drug taking, they have on site facilities and easy access to outside services if you need them .
As they are already on site, stewards, security and other professionals are able to radio for medical help in seconds and they don't have far to go to find you. Much quicker than getting emergency services to you.
Most festivals ask you not to call 999 in an emergancy as it causes chaos and takes so long, events have all emergency services on site and will be there in minutes… if they need to get you to hospital they will be able to take you themselves or call the emergency services directly to come get you.
5. You have specialist teams and your people keeping an eye on you
Should you need help and can't get to it, because you are just far too wasted, people are watching.
Security and stewards are there to look after festival goers and are trained and instructed to keep an eye out for those needing help.
There are very few places that aren't in public view on a festival site, even in the dark. Also its not just stewards and security who are watching, festivals have loads of staff running around with radios and they all take note of what is going on.
6- You have your new festival community looking out for you too.
Don’t forget that you are part of a community at a festival, they are great for bringing like minded people together and it's not like being in the street.. Folks don't just walk past you if your in trouble.
Different genres at events and different music and crowds tend to bring similar ages and accepting groups together. This allows great community spirit and peer support should you find your self in drug and drink fuelled trouble. Our experience shows that folks in trouble are brought to the attention of staff very quickly.
7- You don't Have to take drugs or drink.
Festivals are brilliant for bringing like minded people together and mostly people respect each other and their decisions.
It is absolutely fine not to partake in taking or drinking.
The most maturity you can show is to know your limits and not to do anything you don't really want to do.
8- Spiking and 'Date Rape' drugs
There is no doubt spiking happens, many festivals offer testing kits for your drinks or you can buy them on line before you go. Try here for a good starting point.
Most people don't want to share their drugs with strangers but it does happen. Take special care to not take a swig from anyones bottle of vodka or accept a drink from anyone… if you witness anyone popping anything into a drink either tell that person or approach a staff member.
All the above points are there for you should you find yourself in a position where you are feeling like you have taken something and you don't know what it is… feel safe to approach them.
So called Date rape drugs are rare at festivals as so many people are watching. ( see point 5) but if you see anyone looking vulnerable with a member of the opposite sex then flag it up immediately with a staff memeber
9. It's ok and safe to be honest
It's important to be honest, if you do know what you have taken and you are feeling unwell or vulnerable, it's crucial you tell the professionals exactly what you have taken so they can help you.
As said above you are safe to do this without judgment, don't be tempted to say you have been spiked because you don't feel you can admit what your choice of drug was.
10- Follow your own advice and do your bit.
To be safe everyone needs to work together, so watch out for others need help, looking vulnerable or just generally over doing it.
Stay with your friends and look after each other.
Flag up anything that worries you about someone to staff
Do everything you need to do listed above to keep you and everyone safe.
Ask yourself if you really want to to do this? don't feel pressure and don't pressure others.
Please note this blog does not in anyway encourage drug or substance use in any way. The safest way to take drugs is not to take them.
But if you do then this is here to advise.
Note all festivals have different systems in place, please check with each event on booking tickets.