Shambhala music festival can't test for fentanyl or W18
The music festival is one of few that offers free, no-hassle drug testing but its drug testing is limited
The Shambhala music festival — an annual electronic music festival held in the first week of August in the West Kootenay — won't be able to test for trace amounts of drugs like fentanyl or W18 — which police have described as 'scary and terrifying' because of how fatal even a small dose can be.
Nelson, B.C.-based society, Aids Network Outreach and Support Society (ANKORS) runs a drug testing tent at Shambhala tests for MDMA and 15 other drugs.
The reagents they use can tell whether a drug is what consumers have been told it is or not, but it cannot pick up trace amounts of other drugs.
"We are generally testing for misrepresentation. If a drug is sold as MDMA but doesn't have any MDMA in it at all, we can tell people that ... but if it is MDMA mixed with something else we cannot," said Chloe Sage, the festival's harm reduction coordinator.
Sage said the reality is scary and they are constantly trying to play catch up.
"Fentanyl is probably one of the scariest and W18 is even scarier and I don't think it is the last one we will see either," she said.
To address the growing concern over fentanyl and W18 this year, outreach teams at the festival will be equipped with the drug, naloxone — a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.
Sage says there has been a huge rise in drug misrepresentation and adulterated drugs in the past decade.
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"There is no such thing as pure drugs anymore," she said, which is why a major part of the conversation at the drug testing tents is about education and dosage.
Last year, there were five hospital transfers at the festival and 13 the year before that.
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