New Brunswick

Evolve Festival ups its naloxone supply in light of fentanyl crisis

With fentanyl overdoses already happening in New Brunswick, Evolve Festival Moncton has increased the number of naloxone kits it keeps on hand for the event, which starts later this month near Moncton.

Organizer says they plan on having ‘tenfold’ the number of naloxone kits

With fentanyl overdoses already happening in New Brunswick, Evolve Festival Moncton has increased the number of naloxone kits it keeps on hand for the event, which starts later this month near Moncton. 

The festival has 10 times as many kits on site now as it did last year, said Jonas Colter, one of the main organizers of Evolve, which runs July 13 through July 16.

"Some of our staff have taken training on naloxone, too, recently."

Evolve, an 18-year-old festival that had its first year in Beersville last summer, draws thousands of concertgoers.

Wasn't as threatening last year

Fentanyl, a drug sometimes cut with cocaine and ecstasy to reduce costs, is estimated to be 100 times more powerful than heroin.

The opioid often leads to overdoses, and cases have already been recorded in the province.

Naloxone acts as a counter, blocking or reversing the effects of opioid medication and, if used in time, can save a person's life.

Colter, who doesn't know the exact number of kits the festival will have, said some were present for last year's festival but the threat of fentanyl wasn't as real.

The Evolve Festival has been held for 18 years, but moved to Beersville, N.B., from Nova Scotia in 2016. (Chris Smith/Evolve Festival/Flickr)

"We knew it may or may not be here," he said. "We were prepared. Luckily, nothing came up."

"This year, you're starting to read articles in Saint John and stuff of paramedics having to administer it. Now you know it's here. You know it's happening."

Colter said Evolve has also doubled the number of paramedics on site, partnering with Maritime Paramedics Services.

Better safe than sorry

Debby Warren from Aids Moncton said one of the better ways for users to protect against an overdose is to try a small sample of a drug first to see if there's a reaction.

And no one should be alone when taking a drug that may contain fentanyl, she said.

Debby Warren of AIDS Moncton says a person should never be alone when taking a drug that might contain fentanyl. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

"It's about being aware and putting safeguards ... in place," she said. "That's all you can do."

B.C., which recorded 129 fatal overdoses in May alone this year, has more experience that most provinces in dealing with the fentanyl. 

Warren said music festivals in B.C. have "testing tents," where people can find out what's in their drugs before they take them, and she thinks New Brunswick could benefit from such a service. 

But a stigma remains in the province, and across the country, when it comes to drug testing, she said.

Warren said she was happy to hear Evolve make responsible moves toward protecting patrons.

"Everybody's lives are very important," she said.

Colter said all the paramedics will have kits, and festival staff at all four stages and green room staff will have someone trained as well.

Fentanyl, which is sometimes cut with drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy to reduce costs, is estimated to be 100 times more powerful than heroin. (CBC)

"Once in a while, even artists do drugs," the organizer said.

Colter has heard some of the concertgoers plan on bringing their own kits.

"It's definitely on our radar," he said. "And it's definitely the RCMP's biggest concern. 

"We want to be as prepared as possible."