The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is calling on all organisers of music festivals, where drug use is common, to provide safety testing facilities as standard, where festivalgoers can take “substances of concern” in their possession to establish their content and strength.

RSPH believes the move, which it says is backed by 95 per cent of festivalgoers, will help minimise the risk of serious health harm as a result of recreational drug use.

Drug safety testing was piloted in the UK at Secret Garden Party (pictured) and Kendal Calling last summer, with the support of local police and public health. Initial results – to be published later this month in RSPH’s Public Health journal – suggest almost one in five users (18 per cent) opted to dispose of their drugs once aware of the true content, immediately reducing the amount of potentially harmful substances circulating on site. Service provider The Loop expects to extend the facilities to around eight UK festivals this summer.
Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH, said: “The rise in drug-related deaths at music festivals and night clubs is a growing problem for policy makers, health authorities and events companies alike. While the use of stimulant ‘club drugs’ such as ecstasy can never be safe, and RSPH supports ongoing efforts to prevent them entering entertainment venues, we accept that a certain level of use remains inevitable in such settings. We therefore believe that a pragmatic, harm reduction response is necessary.

“The pilots carried out by The Loop last summer suggest providing drug safety testing facilities to festivalgoers and night clubbers is a promising part of the equation in preventing these deaths – both by exposing and reducing the circulation of super strength or adulterated pills, and by providing an opportunity to impart practical harm reduction advice to an audience who would not normally engage with drug services. We urge events companies to make these facilities a standard part of the UK festival and clubbing landscape, and we urge both local and national police and public health authorities to provide the support that will enable this.”

The RSPH’s full findings can be found here.