Care2: Drug Use at Festivals Doesn’t Have to End in Hospitalization or Arrest

Summary: Care2’s “Healthy Living” blog highlights the Zendo Project’s psychedelic harm reduction services as a progressive step toward improving public safety at festivals and events.

Originally appearing here.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is earning praise for an innovative approach to reducing drug harm. With help from an Indiegogo campaign, the Zendo Project seeks to reduce drug harm without judgment in environments where psychedelics are being used.

Psychedelic drug issues at music events came to popular attention after a rise in the popularity of MDMA and a string of hospitalizations related to its use.

Many of the news reports found journalists struggling to accurately describe the drug, its effects and the impact it was having on their communities. Parents panicked, and calls for stricter drug policies predictably increased, but neither panic nor prohibition was going to solve a growing health concern.

The Zendo Project hopes to change this by offering education and counseling in high-risk settings. The group specifically works with large events where psychedelics are expected to be used and on-site staff are not normally equipped to deal with the situation:

“The Zendo Project provides a safe space and professionally trained staff to care for individuals at festivals, concerts and other events where psychedelic substance use may be present. Zendo Project staff and volunteers also work closely with event security and medical response teams to provide comprehensive psychedelic first aid services.”

This initiative hopes to provide an “effective public health-based alternative to hospitalization and arrest.” So far, the Zendo Project says it’s trained over 500 volunteers who have served at popular destinations, like Burning Man.

Non-judgmental drug intervention strategies that target harm reduction, like DanceSafe and the Zendo Project, face an uphill battle against stigma around efforts that break with traditional ideas about enforcement policies.

But advocates believe these non-policing forms of intervention are in the best interest of public health, which should be the primary goal in any discussion of drug policy.

“We are working towards the day when psychedelic harm reduction will be an integral and required part of festival safety infrastructure,” says MAPS Director of Harm Reduction Linnae  Ponté. “It is a pleasure to work with festival organizers and medical staff to reduce the number of drug-related hospitalizations and arrests, and help keep event attendees safe.”