Summer music fests offer up a lot of fun in a big outdoor package, but if you’re not careful, they can also offer up health risks - heat stroke, overdose, dehydration and more.

Some care and preparation can go a long way towards you getting the most out of your experience. Here are six tips to help you:

In light of the current public health overdose emergency, Fraser Health is urging people to exercise caution if they consume substances (including alcohol, pills, cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin, etc.) at this summer’s festivals.

In the last few years, overdoses have been reported at festivals, and people in the Fraser Health region travel across the province to attend these events. We know that using alcohol or psychoactive substances is associated with these social settings, and we strongly encourage festival-goers to plan ahead and not use alone if they consume.

Between July and mid-September, at least 15 popular festivals will take place throughout British Columbia, ranging from music festivals, to fireworks shows, to concerts.

Though opioids may not be the drug a person thinks they are taking, any substance can cause an overdose and/or be contaminated with other substances. All unregulated drugs, including pills purchased on the street, may not be what they are sold as. Using combinations of drugs or drugs and alcohol is commonly associated with fatal or near-fatal overdose.

While it is important for festival attendees to stay hydrated and keep cool, we also believe there are other very significant concerns when substances are involved, including overdose. Since we know substances are contaminated and lethal substances are circulating, we strongly recommend that it safest to avoid using substances at these events. By remembering a few key tips, including the importance of the buddy system, a summer festival can become a lasting positive memory.

Attending a festival can be the highlight of your summer if you remember these important tips:

1. Consume wisely. While the surest way to prevent an overdose is to not use drugs, there are steps you can take to reduce risks or even prevent an overdose, especially because you can never be sure of what you’re actually getting with any street drug. If you consume substances:

  • Make a plan with friends before the event gets started which includes being ready to call for help. Plans can involve strategies like not using alone, and staggering use, and having a designated safe person. Know that overdoses may develop over hours and can occur after everyone has separated and are sleeping it off in their own spaces.
  • Take time to feel the effects of what you consume before adding more.
  • Mixing alcohol and other drugs or multiple drugs increases risk of overdose. 
  • Know the signs of an overdose and how to respond to one. If you see signs of an overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately and follow their instructions until help arrives.
  • Know that the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides protection from some charges like simple possession and violation of probation for people that overdose or call for help.
  • Get a naloxone kit and make sure you and your friends know how to use it. There are over currently 1,591 sites across BC including some major pharmacies: https://towardtheheart.com/site-finder
  • Use a drug testing kit if available or get drugs checked: 
    https://www.fraserhealth.ca/drugchecking
    http://www.vch.ca/public-health/harm-reduction/overdose-prevention-response/drug-checking
  • Familiarize yourself with the First Aid tent when you arrive at the event and any harm reduction amenities the organizer may have provided.
  • Don’t put things in people’s drinks and don’t leave your drink unattended, including your water bottle.
  • Recognize that benzodiazepines (benzos) are increasingly contaminating the drug supply and include fake pills. Benzodiazepine overdoses do not respond to naloxone. Benzodiazepines in combination with alcohol can be a potentially lethal mix. Overdoses require medical attention and hospital transport.

2. Consent comes before condoms. You always need a ‘yes’ for sex. People who are inebriated can’t provide consent.

3. Stick with a buddy. Make sure your phone is charged, agree on a meeting place in case you get separated, and plan a safe ride home.

4. Stay hydrated and have snacks. Not getting enough water and nutrients can cause muscle cramps and fainting; severe dehydration can send your body into shock. Some drugs including alcohol and caffeine-heavy energy drinks can dry you out, so make water every second drink.

5. Be sun smart. The more skin you have exposed, the higher your risk of heat stroke and sunburn - even when it’s hazy or overcast. Apply sunscreen that is 30 SPF or more every 2 hours. If you are sweating or dipping in the river, remember to reapply. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses will provide extra coverage.

6. Chill out. To prevent exhaustion, avoid the temptation to go non-stop. Pace yourself and take breaks to eat, drink and recharge. If you are feeling weak, dizzy, or nauseous, hit the first aid tent.

 

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