British Columbia

Squamish Valley Music Festival: 5 Tips for staying safe

Fraser Health officials say there is no way to take drugs safely and the buddy system only works if someone is sober and willing to seek help.

Fraser Health warns even prescription medicine can be adulterated with fentanyl or other toxic chemicals

The Squamish Valley Music Festival, which took place Aug. 6-9, attracted approximately 125,000 people, and more than a few drug enthusiasts. (floshe24/Flickr)

More than 125,000 people are expected to attend the Squamish Valley Music Festival this weekend — and some of those music fans will likely be using drugs and alcohol. 

Last year two people, at two separate B.C. music festivals, died and a recent spike in fentanyl-related overdose deaths, have health officials urging people to be careful when consuming drugs and alcohol.

Dr. Marcus Lem, a medical health officer with Fraser Health, gave On the Coast host Stephen Quinn some points that people should keep in mind.

1. There is no way to make recreational drugs safe

"They're just inherently unsafe," said Dr. Lem. "Even if you think it's a prescription medicine it could be a counterfeit medication and it could have anywhere from absolutely no narcotic in it to a lethal dose. So just one pill can kill you."

He said that it's not just fentanyl that is a concern, since recreational and prescription drugs are being adulterated with a variety of chemicals that can be very toxic.

2. Buddy systems don't work if both people are taking drugs

"Some folks think if you have a buddy with you when you're taking the drug it's safe, but it's really only safer if your buddy  is not taking the drug as well," Dr. Lem said.

Earlier this month North Vancouver couple Amelia and Hardy Leighton were both found dead in their home after ingesting fentanyl in combination with other illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is a painkiller only sold legally in a slow-release patch, but it is now appearing illegally in powder and tablet-form across B.C. (CBC News)

Last weekend, 17-year-old Jack Brodie died after he and a friend consumed what is suspected to be fentanyl.

Bodie was with another 16-year-old boy when they both lost consciousness in an East Vancouver park, according to Vancouver Police.

3. A buddy system only works if people are willing to call for help.

"We've seen cases of overdoses where the person taking the drug had people with them, but they've been too reluctant to call emergency services because they're afraid of being caught doing drugs," Dr. Lem said.

"The first priority has to be getting help for that person who needs it."

He said medical help should be called if a person becomes very sick or nauseous, unresponsive, or their breathing starts to slow.

4. Moderation and staying hydrated are important when drinking alcohol

Dr. Lem said it is important to stay hydrated when consuming alcohol so as to not get dehydrated and over-intoxicated. He also said that alcohol should not be mixed with any drugs, including prescription medication.

5. Make sure you know how and where to get help.

"Make sure, if people are aware of the dangers, that they have access to emergency services, medical care, immediately," Dr. Lem said.

"So if they do take a dangerous substance — whether it be fentanyl or even just becoming over-intoxicated from alcohol — that they can actually get help and not do further harm to themselves."


To hear the full interview click on the audio labelled: Staying safe at Squamish Valley Musical Festival

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