'Drug amnesty' box could see encore at Ottawa festivals

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau says the "drug amnesty" box piloted at the Escapade music festival this past weekend should be considered for future events.

Pills, powder seized at Escapade festival to be tested for opioids

Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau said the drug amnesty box was a trial that had 'some success.' (CBC)

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau says the "drug amnesty" box piloted at the Escapade music festival this past weekend should be considered for future events.

Police set up the box at the electronic dance music event to give festival-goers the option of discarding drugs with no questions asked before entering the Lansdowne Park venue.

"I think everything we do to try to mitigate the potential deadly impact of drugs is a good thing," Bordeleau told the Ottawa Police Service Board Monday afternoon.

"It was a trial thing, which had some success, but I think it's something we want to start looking at for other events, as well as providing those opportunities."

This was the first time Ottawa police tried the amnesty approach. Bordeleau said it could be an effective option in the future.

Bordeleau said police collected a variety of drugs through a combination of seizures and voluntary surrender over the weekend, including small amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, hashish, marijuana and lollipops laced with the active ingredient in marijuana.

"If somebody would've dropped that lollipop on the grounds and a young person — because Lansdowne Park is used by many kids — a young person picked that up in the grass and started sucking on a lollipop that was laced with THC. That could've been disastrous," Bordeleau said.

No naloxone administered at festival

There were concerns going into Escapade, the first major festival of the summer, given that overdoses are on the rise in Ottawa, especially those involving the powerful and deadly opioid fentanyl. 

Coun. Allan Hubley asked  at the police services board whether any fentanyl had been collected at the festival.

"We had some powders and some pills seized, we would have to get those analyzed to determine exactly what they were," Bordeleau said. "I know that a number of people were taken to hospitals with overdoses. Not too sure exactly what caused those overdoses — a combination of drugs, alcohol and heat."

Paramedics told CBC News on Sunday that 18 partygoers were treated during the Escapade music festival, and 10 of those cases were related to drugs and alcohol. (Escapade Music Festival)

However the overdose catastrophe some predicted at Escapade never really materialized.

Paramedics told CBC News on Sunday that 18 partygoers were treated during the two-night festival, and 10 of those cases were related to drugs and alcohol.

Two people overdosed on ecstasy and the sedative GHB, while another slipped and broke their leg, according to paramedics.

None of the patients treated was in life-threatening condition, and responders did not have to use a single dose of naloxone, a medication used to treat opioid-related overdoses.