Drugs at the festivals : perceptions of prevention, harm reduction, care, and law enforcement strategies
Research demonstrated festival audiences to use illicit drugs and alcohol more commonly than their age-matched cohort in the general community. So far, drug policy strategies at festivals, designed to reduce drug use and related harms, have not always demonstrated to be effective or yet remain uninvestigated in terms of effectiveness. In Belgium, numerous prevention, harm reduction, health care and/or law enforcement strategies are currently implemented in nightlife settings, including the music festival scene. This study focused on these different interventions and their perceived impact on the behavior of people who use drugs (PWUD) at music festivals. For the purpose of this study, 15 different drug-related actions were included.
A mixed-method study was conducted between 2019 and 2021, combining a quantitative online survey and qualitative interviews. The quantitative study was conducted using experience sampling methodology (ESM), which is based on data collection in a real-world environment. Respondents for the ESM study were recruited online. The qualitative study built further on the data originating from the ESM-study with face-to-face interviews.
In total, 305 festival attendees completed the pre-festival questionnaire (T1), of which 187 also completed the questionnaire during (T2) and after (T3) their festival visit. The sample consisted of participants with a high prevalence rate in terms of (illegal) substance use. Most of them perceived a(n) (omni)presence of substance use during their festival visit, although at varying degrees and depending on the substance (i.e., alcohol, cannabis, or other illegal drugs). The final results will be presented.
Although none of the 15 interventions under study were believed to have a straightforward impact on substance use, festival attendees seemed to have employed certain strategies to cope with repressive actions. In addition, harm reduction actions were believed to reduce substance use-related risks, while repressive actions were presumed to lead to riskier use.