Analysis of biological samples collected in a psychedelic music festival



Music festivals gather every year thousands of young people. The stimulating atmosphere of this type of events, the lights, the heart-beating sounds and friendly environment seem to potentiate the effect of some drugs. These contexts are usually perceived by its patrons as good places for the use of psychostimulant or psychedelic substances. In fact the levels of drug use among festival attendees is higher when compared with general population. The identity and prevalence of the drugs used is considered of high relevance for epidemiologic studies, to inform medical and legal authorities and also to plan effective and targeted prevention and harm reduction interventions. Epidemiologic studies of drug prevalence should preferably be made by the triangulation of data collected by police seizures, waste waters analysis, analysis of drug samples provided by the users (drug checking), auto-reported surveys and other sources.

Herein we report a pilot study where biological specimens (urine) were collected from festival attendees that reported having a psychological crisis due to the use psychoactive drugs.


Boom Festival is one of the major psychedelic transformational festivals of the world, happening every two years. Boom Festival is marked by its artistic expression and freedom promotion. It gathers around 40.000 people from 160 different countries during a full week, in Castelo-Branco, Portugal. Kosmicare is an association that provides services of harm reduction in different contexts. In 2018’s Boom Festival edition Kosmicare had available a set of harm reduction services, including a psychedelic emergency service, where people having difficult psychological experiences could seek help.


Urine samples from 20 beneficiaries of the psychedelic emergency service were collected. All samples were screened and analyzed through the immunoassay COBAS, by GC-MS and LC-HRMS. Analytical standards of the most common classic and new psychoactive substances were used as reference. Subjects were surveyed about their gender, age, nationality and drug consumption patterns in the festival and in the past 15 days. All participants voluntarily agreed participate in the study and personal identifying information was not registered.


Ten of the participants were female and ten were male, with ages raging 18-37 years old. The majority of the substances reported being used by the participants have been detected in the biological samples analysis. Auto-reported information of psychoactive drugs used in the past days and weeks will be compared with the results of the urinalysis. Some considerations regarding the influence of the drugs detected and the nature of the psychological crisis will be made. The results of this study reinforce the pertinence of gathering this type of data, namely to improve the monitoring of drug markets, measure the quality of information provided by auto-reported drug use and support services related to harm reduction intervention.



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