It’s official – we are in the depths of Festival Season. We are also in the depths of a crisis. Fentanyl – a synthetic opioid pain killer – is causing hundreds of thousands of overdoses annually, many of which are accidental. Harm reduction is the most effective tool to combat this fact.
Even if you do not partake in substance use, you know someone who does. It’s an absolutely crucial time for education around testing and signs of overdose.
So what is Harm Reduction?
Harm reduction (HR) is a “set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. It’s also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs. (National Harm Reduction Coalition)”
Harm reduction is any strategy that focuses on humanizing drug users and providing them with resources to ensure they are safe while using drugs without forcing them into abstinence.
Oftentimes, HR in the music community looks like testing before using and carrying overdose treatments such as naloxone. Naloxone is better known as Narcan.
While this article focuses specifically on harm reduction as it relates to recreational drug use and avoiding Fentanyl overdose, HR is effectively used for addiction treatment and prevention of overdose from any substance.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, consider SAMHSA’s National Helpline – a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing substance use disorders.
Dance Music Focused Organizations
If you have been to a music festival, chances are you’ve seen the Bunk Police.
Bunk Police has a huge variety of testing kits available on their site as well as tools used to test and merch to rep the highly respected organization.
One of the most amazing things that Bunk Police does is called “BunkBot.” BunkBot is a text service that alerts anyone who signs up at an event of three things:
- When Bunk Police is set up and starts distributing kits at the event
- If Bunk Police is shut down by security, and when they are reopened elsewhere
- When Bunk Police finds an adulterated or otherwise dangerous substance
Unfortunately, the services of Bunk Police (and most HR organizations) are not legal due to the RAVE Act and conflict with festival policies:
“Our services have been forcibly shut down at over a dozen events—proving the future of accessible drug checking and the necessity for improved safety is trending in the wrong direction. As a number of harm reduction organizations are turned away at the door, the vast majority of these cherished events and festivals are becoming more dangerous for the attendees—as the push for prohibition increases, and the understanding of drug use and abuse in our culture strays further away.”(Bunk Police)
DanceSafe has been making the dance music community a better place for more than 25 years. Not only do they provide resources around substance use, but they also do work around advocacy, health and wellness, and consent. They also distribute free earplugs!
On the DanceSafe website, you can purchase a variety of testing kits and strips.
They also provide in-person services at some events.
“We’re here because we believe in the transformative power of people caring about other people.”(DanceSafe)
Other Harm Reduction Organizations
EndOverdose is a 501(c)3 non-profit that aims to prevent drug-related death through education, medical intervention, and public awareness. They provide test strips, Naloxone, and opioid overdose response training. As of February 2022, EndOverdose has distributed over 10,000 test strips and certified 1,500 people per month.
“We believe training is essential. Everyone must know how to identify and respond to overdose, in the same way the nation is competent in responding too Cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). There was a time in our country when the leading cause of death for Americans above the age of 55 was heart disease, we discovered that by training people to preform CPR, prehospital death rates from cardiac arrest steeply declined. Opioid overdose is now the leading cause of death for 18-45 year old’s. Modeling the American heart associations friends & family campaign from 2005, we are training the nation to identify and respond to overdose with fervor.”(EndOverdose)
NEXT started as a Needle Exchange Technology organization in 2017. They expanded to ship naloxone to all 50 states in 2018 by partnering with local organizations nationwide. NEXT Distro is an online and mail-based harm reduction service designed to reduce opioid overdose death, prevent injection-related disease transmission, and improve the lives of people who use drugs.
“We envision a platform where people who use drugs can find support, solidarity, and the tools to fight against stigma. We believe people who use drugs have the right to organize and leverage their political power to stop the drug war. We will ensure that people who use drugs have the supplies they need to keep themselves safe and well with a particular focus on communities who have been structurally shut out of the healthcare system, have no access to wealth (generational or otherwise), and have been mistreated and discriminated against.”(NEXT)
How to Find Harm Reduction Organizations Locally
When looking to get harm reduction resources in your city, simply do an internet search of “Harm reduction [city name].”
For example, in my city – Kansas City – I looked up “Harm Reduction Kansas City” and found Confluence. Their website provides a phone number that you can text confidentially and request resources including Fentanyl test strips, Naloxone, condoms, PPE, and basic wound care supplies. They will meet you and pass along those resources discreetly and send you on your way.
There are so many Harm Reduction organizations – it would take a year to list them all. Find one with a mission that resonates with you and resources that fit your needs. Then support them relentlessly!
What can I do to support Harm Reduction and Harm Reduction organizations?
- Donate – Harm Reduction organizations are often run by volunteers and their operating expenses are primarily funded by donations.
- Participate – Test your substances and tell your friends to do the same. Never use untested substances. Never use drugs alone.
- Advocate – Harm Reduction is made more difficult by laws and policies that focus on prohibition such as the RAVE Act. Both state and national legislators AND event promoters need to be contacted directly or blasted via social media – specifically Insomniac, Madison House, LiveNation, and Goldenvoice do not allow HR organizations at their events. This is in part because Harm Reduction policies vary by state (check out what is and is not legal in your state here or here) but primarily because the RAVE Act prohibits the acknowledgment of substance use by event promoters. While the RAVE Act is hugely problematic and should be rescinded, starting locally is just as important if your state has restrictive laws against HR resources.
Thank you for reading about this important topic!
Please share this, and other resources, with your friends.
Test your substances, carry Narcan, and demand the ability to get to these resources if your state restricts access.
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