Shambhala organizers hoping to educate patrons on dangers of fentanyl as Music Festival opens
As the Shambhala Music Festival kicks off its 18th event this week, organizations like the Aids Network Outreach & Support Society (ANKORS) are doing their best to educate attendees about the dangers of drugs like fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is often falsely sold under brand name narcotics labels like OxyContin.
Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful and dangerous drug linked to more than 200 overdose deaths in the first three months of 2016.
Fortunately, most people looking to indulge at Shambhala will be after stimulant drugs like MDMA, and not opioids, said Chloe Sage of ANKORS.
However, her organization, which runs the Harm Reduction Services Tent at the Shambhala Music Festival — an operation that tests drugs for patrons and mans a medical response team — is coming prepared to educate festivalgoers on the signs and dangers of the drug.
“What we’ve been doing is a lot of education around fentanyl; we’ve got 4000 pamphlets on [fentanyl] and the signs of opioid overdose and we’re also giving out Naloxone kits to opiate users at the festival,” Sage told The Nelson Daily this week on the eve of the annual festival that turns a small farm outside Salmo into the largest city in the West Kootenay for three days.
“All the outreach teams carry Naloxone and there’s also an SOS number that people can call on site to get immediate medical support.”
The Shambhala Music Festival, which began in 1998 when some 500 people gathered at the Salmo River Ranch for a party that showcased local art and music, is held during the first week of August at a 500-acre ranch outside Salmo.
The festival begins Thursday, running through Sunday offering mix of electronic music, art and culture.
Organizers are aware of that some patrons will want to partake in the illicit drug scene and its team of volunteers will be receiving assistance with testing of those drugs by a machine called a Raman Spectrometer, which while incapable of testing for trace amounts of a substance can test for multiple ingredients.
“We’ve been able to tell people if there’s PCP in their ketamine which is coming up on the tests, but we can’t test for fentanyl because if fentanyl is mixed in with other substances it’s usually in trace amounts and it won’t come up as the top two main ingredients,” Sage explained.
“That’s why it’s very tricky and we need to get a very sensitive piece of equipment in order to test for trace amounts of a substance in a mix.”
One of the goals of ANKORS and the Harm Reduction Services, which is just one of many services provided during the festival by organizers, is to purchase a mobile spectrometer that can test for various substances and alert users to possible traces of fentanyl.
The company has started a gofundme campaign to help raise funds for a device that will be able to test to the degree that will ensure detection of even trace amounts of deadly substances.
“We’ve had an amazing response,” Sage said.
“In the first ten days we raised $10,000. We want something that’s mobile. We want to be able to take it out to the festival and use it here and then bring it back to our office in Nelson and use it all year round and be able to do community testing as well.”
As for Shambhala, Sage stressed that people should be on the lookout for signs of opioid overdose so the harm reduction team can act quickly.
“Signs of fentanyl in a stimulant [are when] someone starts to feel sleepy or nodding off, that shouldn’t be happening on a stimulant so that’s a really good sign right away that something else is in there like an opioid, which would probably be fentanyl,” Sage said.
“We’re asking people to look for the signs and get help immediately if they see that kind of thing happening because we Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose so if they can get help right away then we can get that Naloxone into them.”
Shambhala Music Festival begins Thursday. The RCMP West Kootenay Traffic Services have said police will be setting up roadblocks as the area welcomes more than 12,000 people planning to attend the 2016 Shambhala Music Festival outside Salmo.