Drug testers found fentanyl in over two dozen of the 2,720 samples examined at the Shambhala Music Festival last August. File photo

Drug testers found fentanyl in over two dozen of the 2,720 samples examined at the Shambhala Music Festival last August. File photo

Fentanyl found in over two dozen samples at Shambhala last year

A new study shows the opioid was more prevalent at the event than previously thought

Fentanyl was more prevalent in drugs at last year’s Shambhala Music Festival than initially reported, according to a new study.

An upcoming paper co-authored by the Interior Health Authority and ANKORS will reveal over two dozen drug tests detected fentanyl at the annual event near Salmo, as opposed to the nine positive results that were initially made public.

The exact number of results won’t be revealed until the paper, which has been submitted for review in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, has been published.

Chloe Sage is ANKORS’ hep-c project co-ordinator and worked on the upcoming paper along with Dr. Silvina Mema of Interior Health. She told the Star that the fentanyl, an opioid, is not usually mixed in with stimulants such as MDMA, ketamine or cocaine, which are the most popular drugs used at the festival.

Sage said she was surprised fentanyl was found by the event’s drug-testing team, and thinks accidental contamination is one of the likely causes.

“The problem is even with a small percentage, when you’ve got a population of people who are opioid naive, meaning they don’t have a tolerance for it, it really is a death sentence if they accidentally do get fentanyl in their body,” said Sage.

Drug testing is a service provided at Shambhala in a partnership between the event, which pays for supplies and two team captains, and ANKORS, which supplies three staff members. A total of 57 people conducted 2,724 tests over three days last August. Over 200 festival goers were also trained in how to administer naloxone.

Last year was the first time the team tested for fentanyl, which was responsible for 81 per cent of the over 1,420 overdose deaths in B.C. in 2017.

Related: Meet Doctor Shambhala

Festival goers only need to submit what Sage described as a grain of their drug for it to be tested. She said not all test results are posted to a real-time board at the event, which accounts for the discrepancy between the first and latest fentanyl figures.

If fentanyl was found, Sage’s team alerts the person who brought in the sample, talks to them about the risks of taking it and offers safe disposal.

“We had lots of people choose to dispose when they find it’s not the answer that they’re looking for,” she said.

Of the drugs examined, the fourth most common was classified as unknown by testers. Sage thinks that’s because drugs that are found on the ground are being brought in for testing.

“They are finding stuff on the ground and bringing it in to test it, which we are very happy about because if they weren’t, there’s a possibility they could take them and not know what it is,” said Sage.

“And the dosage of one drug is totally different from another. So you could be overdosing by taking too much if you don’t know what it is.”

Sage said no opioid overdoses or deaths occurred at the festival, although that doesn’t account for stimulant types of overdoses.

Sage said she did not know the total number of overdoses at the event, but that gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), which is used to treat narcolepsy, was responsible for the majority of them.

“GHB is very, very dose sensitive,” said Sage. “If you take too much, you can actually go unconscious and stop breathing because it’s a depressant, like alcohol and opioids. Naloxone doesn’t work on it. When people mix GHB with alcohol, it’s even worse and it’s much harder to respond to a GHB overdose when they’ve taken alcohol as well.”

Drug testing at music festivals is not common in Canada. Sage, who recently returned from a drug-testing conference in Vancouver, said although the topic has been discussed for years it is only now being seriously considered.

“It’s very difficult. Some people have tried to get festivals to do it and then their insurance companies pulled out…,” she said. “It’s happening, it’s definitely happening.”

ANKORS also conducts on-site drug testing at its office, located at 101 Baker St. The service is free and confidential.



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Slava Doval and her youth group DanceFusion got an emotional response from residents at Mountain Lakes Seniors Community on April 30. Photo: Submitted
‘It touched me deeply’: Youth dancers perform at Nelson seniors home

Slava Doval’s DanceFusion danced outdoors for Mountain Lake residents

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read