Authorities offer advice on safer drug use ahead of the 2019 summer festival season

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      The first day of the summer is barely more than a month away. It’s time to pull your festival gear out of storage and prepare for the year’s annual season of concerts under the sun.

      Breakout Festival is happening in Vancouver at the PNE Amphitheatre June 15 and 16, FVDED in the Park will take place in Surrey July 5 and 6, Constellation Festival is coming to Squamish July 26 to 28, and Shambhala returns to the Kootenays August 9 to 12. Those are just four of more than 40 multi-day musical events happening around the province between now and when the kids head back to school in September.

      Authorities know that some of you are going to pack drugs along with your camping gear and coolers. The B.C. government dropped a “just say no” approach years ago and since then has taken a more realistic attitude, aiming to see that people who do use drugs do so in as relatively safe a manner as possible.

      “Substance use at music festivals is hardly new, but recreational drugs today bear little resemblance to the pot at Woodstock,” reads a recent blog post by Providence Health Care.

      B.C. is several years into an opioid epidemic. The dangerous synthetic-opioid fentanyl was associated with 87 percent of fatal overdoses last year. Thankfully, opioid overdoses have not been an issue during past summer festival seasons in B.C. But it’s getting harder to know what’s in anything you’re taking.

      Providence’s blog post notes that last summer, a 16-year-old girl died after taking drugs at Kelowna’s Centre of Gravity festival. She thought she was taking MDMA (ecstasy or molly) but actually ingested a similar but more dangerous substance called MDA.

      St. Paul’s Hospital’s Dr. Joseph Finkler is quoted there noting that most people who experience an adverse reaction to drugs are usually less experienced than seasoned users. That means that if you’re trying something new, it’s always best to go slow.

      “The inexperienced may ingest too many cannabis-infused gummy bears, for example, not realizing that it can take an hour or two for the drug to metabolize,” Finkler says.

      The post concludes with a number of additional tips for a safer festival experience.

      “If you’re using, stick with a single class of drug. Don’t mix,” reads one.

      “Use with trusted and loyal friends,” reads another.

      And while fentanyl hasn’t proven a problem at B.C. festivals so far, that could change.

      “If you are using opioids, bring along a take-home naloxone kit and make sure you know how to us it in an emergency,” Providence says.

      It adds that while an increasing number of events offer drug-checking services, such tests are not 100-percent accurate and are never an assurance that any substance is totally safe.

      The post also notes that while illegal drugs generally receive the most attention from authorities, it’s alcohol that causes the most problems at summer events.

      “It should always be used responsibly and in moderation, especially at an outdoor event where heat and sun can heighten its impact,” the post reads.