HSE Launches Second Safer Nightlife Programme

Fans attending festivals are being asked to surrender drugs and other illegal substances.

The second Safer Nightlife Programme has been launched by the HSE this morning.

Fans attending festivals are being asked to surrender drugs and other illegal substances.

The harm reduction campaign is encouraging people to stay safe, reach out for help and not to use drugs.

46 drug samples were surrendered anonymously into HSE 'surrender bins' at Electric Picnic last year, as part of the initiative.

Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy Hildegarde Naughton says it's about staying safe.

She says no-one will be judged.

Life Festival in Mullingar this weekend will have the bins, while they will return to EP in Laois in September.

Nicki Killeen from the HSE outlines how it will work:

Prof Eamon Keenan, HSE’s National Clinical Lead, Addiction Services, says:

"I am delighted to launch the second phase of our Safer Nightlife campaign that includes an expanded ‘back of house’ drug checking service with an aim to identify drug market trends of concern. This approach will improve our drug monitoring capabilities and help to tailor our harm reduction services in Ireland. Through a ‘back of house’ approach we can access drugs in a safe, non-judgemental manner to quickly gain insight on what drugs may be in circulation and issue real time drug alerts about substances of concern to festival attendees via our social media channels.

As shown at the first phase conducted at Electric Picnic last summer, this approach has the potential to identify trends otherwise unknown. The HSE found trends of concern including high potency drugs, 12 new psychoactive substances and 4 drugs which had never been identified before in Ireland.

We are working with An Garda Síochána to guarantee that the Drugs.ie and medical tents are health-led settings and safe spaces for people to talk about their use and consider surrendering drugs. The HSE and Gardaí will work closely on operational plans to ensure the ‘back of house’ drug monitoring can be conducted for harm reduction purposes and that the surrender bin areas can be used safely by people attending the event.

As well as high strength drugs appearing, as seen recently in the UK, we are currently concerned about the possibility of new psychoactive substances being mis-sold as MDMA pills or crystal, cocaine and cannabis. New drugs are continuing to emerge and we must be aware of the risks they pose, in particular the risks of overdose and mental health problems. While the HSE recognises that it is safer not to use drugs at all and there is always risk, the campaign has been developed in response to a changing drug landscape in Ireland and aims to offer people who use drugs practical harm-reduction information on how they can reduce health harms if they choose to use."

Nicki Killeen, Emerging Drug Trends Project Manager, HSE says

"We currently have a number of concerns regarding the contents of drugs. We want to know if drugs contain harmful adulterants, if new drugs are in circulation or if something poses an extra risk due to its strength. We found 6 similar MDMA skull pills last summer that varied from containing 36mg - 235mg of MDMA which shows that people can never be fully sure of the contents and pills can vary even from the same batch.

We are also concerned about the emergence of new drugs such as synthetic cathinones in stimulants and synthetic cannabinoids which could be sold as cannabis, vape or edibles. We ask people to follow our information on social media, chat with us at events to discuss how the programme works and how we can support them to reduce the harms. Our harm reduction volunteer teams will offer non-judgmental and confidential support. They will operate between the festival community and medical teams to create a safe space for people who use drugs."

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