The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) has launched a drug harm-reduction campaign aimed at people attending Irish music festivals this summer.

Following last summer’s pilot project conducted at Electric Picnic festival (cap. 70,000) in County Laois, the multi-component campaign will involve outreach at festivals’ ‘back of house’ drug checking through the use of surrender bins, media awareness and a social media campaign.

HSE’s national clinical lead, addiction services, Prof Eamon Keenan said last year’s pilot identified trends of concern including high-potency drugs, 12 new psychoactive substances and four drugs which had never been identified before in Ireland.

Keenan said, “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.”

Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton said, “The programme was incredibly successful in 2022, and allowed us to highlight particularly dangerous substances encountered in festival settings while also creating greater awareness for people who use drugs as part of the night time economy.”