Summer music festivals aren’t always just about the music, and so Fraser Health issued an essential ‘stay-safe’ guide for participants this week.
Health providers are familiar with the dangers different types of activities can bring on, and they list heat stroke, overdose, dehydration and even sexual assault as things to be aware of when making plans.
Some care and preparation can go a long way towards you getting the most out of your experience, they say.
“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,” the guide says. “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.”
There are at least 15 popular festivals in B.C. between now and mid-September, they say, including this weekend’s popular FVDED in the Park in Surrey.
“Though opioids may not be the drug a person thinks they are using, any substance can cause an overdose or be contaminated with other substances,” they warn. “All unregulated drugs, including pills purchased on the street, may not be what they are sold as.”
The latest report from the BC Coroners Service says that the top four illegal drugs associated with fatal overdoses in B.C. were cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine/amphetamine. 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 other substances are involved, including overdose,” they say.”Since we know substances are being cross-contaminated and lethal substances are circulating at the street level, we strongly recommend that people 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.”
Here are their six 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. These plans can involve strategies like using with someone and if using with friends, stagger use and have a designated safe person. If someone needs to rest, please do not leave people alone in a tent to ‘sleep it off’. Many overdoses 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.
• Don’t mix alcohol and drugs, or use multiple drugs.
• 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 Law provides protection from charges like simple possession and violation of probation for people that overdose or call for help.
• Get a naloxone kit and know how to use it. There are over 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 and any harm reduction amenities the organizer may have provided.
• Don’t leave your drink unattended, including your water bottle.
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.
Not getting enough water and nutrients can cause muscle cramps and fainting; severe dehydration can send your body into shock. 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.