Medication advice better than government ‘do nothing’ approach, study finds
Posters in a drug tent run by The Loop. Photo: Norberto Fernández
New research published today indicates that a significant number of people who use drug control services at UK festivals have reported an ongoing behavior change when using illegal substances.
At three UK festivals in 2017, 1,482 people checked the strength and purity of their medicines using the free service provided by a UK-based NGO called The loop. In addition to getting your drugs tested, the service includes a 15-minute harm reduction consultation. Of the 130 users who responded to a follow-up questionnaire three months later, almost two-thirds said this brief intervention had a positive impact on the way they use drugs.
“This study sheds light on the decision-making process of drug addicts,” says Fiona Measham, research co-author and co-founder of The Loop. “We can see that, on the whole, people are considered and cautious. It really challenges some of the biggest stereotypes about drug addicts and young adults. “
Other notable results were that 32.3 percent of respondents said they were more careful with multiple drug use, 26.8 percent were now less likely to purchase drugs from strangers, and 19.7 percent continued to use lower doses. While these numbers represent a minority – albeit a significant one – overall, only 7.9% said their experience had no impact on their drug use choices since.
The Loop first carried out its drug control service at Secret Garden Party in 2016, following deaths linked to MDMA and ecstasy rising from 13 in 2011 to 63 people that year. Published results of this pilot study focused on on-site results – including that one in five festival-goers sold a different drug than they thought they were buying, and the same amount threw away their drugs after testing.
Freddie Fellowes, founder of the now-defunct Secret Garden Party, told VICE World News: “The Loop was the only positive harm reduction development I have seen in the festival’s 15 years of operation. This reduced hospitalizations and avoided life-threatening mishaps. “
Nonetheless, Measham says they are constantly grappling with skeptical decision-makers – despite recent drug-related deaths at festivals, including Mutiny, Bestival, Reading and Leeds. Melvin Benn – director of Festival Republic, which runs the Reading and Leeds festivals – said he was “Fairly certain” that these events would have drug testing from The Loop onsite in 2017, before go back after backlash anti-drug activists.
Then, just last month, a Meeting of the parliamentary committee on the future of music festivals discussed the government’s current position on The Loop’s drug control service. MP Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, questioned its effectiveness in the face of British festival-goers’ penchant for poly-drug use, saying that her “great concern is that this form of test which is suggested be made unnecessary by combining one substance with another. Almost all deaths… are a combination of substances.
Dinenage went on to say, “I’m also concerned about how an illegal illicit drug that is considered safe will impact people’s appreciation of it. The government’s position on this matter is very clear: no illicit drug can be considered safe.
Measham says, “The Loop never claims that a drug is ‘safe’ – we are just helping young people make more informed decisions that could potentially save their lives. The implications [from this new research] is that people will use the information if they receive it – whether it is information on poly-drug use, lower doses, or broader harm reduction messages from our team of healthcare professionals. health.
Only 3.6% of people who responded to the survey said they had ever discussed substance use with a healthcare professional. The results suggest that this informal conversation with one of The Loop’s teams of nurses, psychiatrists and drug workers could help create a new culture of drug-related self-care; 41% now search online for drug alerts, 49% are trying to find out more about substances and 67% say they are now more familiar with the term and concept of ‘staying safe while in session’.
“The Loop’s harm reduction approach is fantastic… I especially liked the chat after the drugs were tested,” said an anonymous user of the service. “It was really refreshing to be able to speak confidentially and impartially about all of my questions or questions – not just about my sample, but about medication advice in general.”
Countries like Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal have long-standing recreational drug control services and the Measham Research Mirrors which were recently conducted by the New Zealand Department of Health; 68% of festival-goers reported a change in behavior after trying the drug control service presented by Know your NZ stuff.
One of the findings of the government-sponsored study report was that “there is no evidence that drug control increases drug use or encourages those who do not use illegal drugs to start using them.” Objections to drug checking appear to be based on moral claims about illegal drug use and are not supported by research evidence. “
What now for The Loop? Until now they were part of a growing gray area in UK drug policy – where local police force enforce progressivity drug policies which are not enshrined in national law, and blind eyes are on Peter Krykant rogue drug use room.
“This study is a staple of the ever-growing international database for drug safety testing,” said Jason Kew, Chief Inspector of the Thames Valley Police. “This approach isn’t about acquiescing or normalizing drug use, it’s about proactively reducing harm and achieving positive results. One drug-related death is one too many.