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Mema SC, Sage C, Xu Y, Tupper KW, Ziemianowicz D, McCrae K, Leigh M, Munn MB, Taylor D, Corneil T. 
“Drug checking at an electronic dance music festival during the public health overdose emergency in British Columbia”. 
Can J Public Health. 2018 Nov 30;109(5-6):740-744.
Shambhala is a 5-day electronic dance music (EDM) festival held in rural British Columbia that annually hosts between 15,000 and 18,000 people on a 500-acre ranch. The AIDS Network Outreach & Support Society (ANKORS) has provided harm reduction services throughout the duration of the festival since 2003, including point-of-care drug checking, which allows real-time testing of illicit substances to assess their composition. Drug checking results are provided directly to clients and displayed in aggregate on a screen for all attendees to see.

In 2017, ANKORS added fentanyl checking to their repertoire of drug checking technologies for festivalgoers. Volunteers used a brief survey to collect information on what clients expected the samples to contain. Volunteers carried out drug checks and subsequently logged test results. ANKORS provided an amnesty bin at the tent for clients who chose to discard their substances.

Of the 2683 surveys, 2387 included data on both the client's belief and the actual test result. Clients were more likely to discard when the test result differed from their belief (5.16) than when their belief was confirmed (0.69). Discarding increased to 15.54 when the test could not clearly identify a substance and to 30.77 if the client did not have a prior belief of the substance. Of 1971 samples tested for fentanyl, 31 tested positive and 16.13 of clients discarded compared to 2.63 in the negative group.

Drug checking services appeal to festivalgoers who, when faced with uncertainty, may discard their substances. This innovative harm reduction service allows for a personalized risk discussion, potentially reaching others via word-of-mouth and early warning systems.
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