Preventing Drug- and Alcohol-related Harms at Music Festivals in Canada - Recommendations from first-ever national, multi-sectoral collaboration

OTTAWA, June 25, 2015 /CNW/ - Like any major event, music festivals — popular among youth and young adults — are not without their inherent risks. In the summer of 2014 at least five young adults died while attending Canadian music festivals, while many more were treated on site or admitted to hospital. Use of drugs or alcohol or both was strongly suspected as a contributing factor in these deaths and illnesses.

A report released today by a group of multi-sectoral stakeholders offers recommendations to prevent and address drug- and alcohol-related harms at future music festivals. The recommendations were produced at a national meeting between representatives from the music festival, police and security, and public health and medical communities earlier this year — the first time these sectors have come together to develop collaborative solutions to a common issue. The meeting was organized by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) in partnership with the University of British Columbia's Mass Gathering Medicine Interest Group (UBC MGM) in response to the harms being experienced at festivals and the need for a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to addressing them. 

The recommendations cover all aspects of music festival design and execution, and apply to event organizers, staff, security services, first responders and attendees. Among other recommendations, the report calls upon organizers to ensure reliable access to free drinking water, as well as training for all on-site personnel so they can recognize and respond to signs and symptoms of someone experiencing harms from drug or alcohol use.

The report highlights the need for safe or chill spaces where festival attendees can get away from the noise and activity, and recommends having drug- and alcohol-free zones. The report also raises the need for evidence-based substance use prevention messaging, including using social media to draw attention to potential risks and harms.

Regarding on-site personnel, the report recommends that guidelines be developed to ensure the appropriate size and composition of the first response and medical teams, and that a national framework be developed to guide consistent policing and security approaches.

Working groups are now being established to advance the recommendations with a view to ensuring that evidence-based practices are adopted at music festivals across Canada to reduce substance-related harms. For more information, please view the summary report.


"Bringing together this diverse group of stakeholders to learn from each other and agree upon health and safety practices to carry out collaboratively will help to enhance the safety and enjoyment of festival attendees and ultimately save lives."

Matthew Young, PhD
Senior Research and Policy Analyst, CCSA

"On the issue of improving safety at music festivals, we need to collaborate. Among all of the stakeholders, there is an evolving understanding that by working together, sharing information and being willing to test new strategies, we may be able to change outcomes. It was heartening to see the passion and commitment stakeholders brought to the table during this two-day meeting."

Adam Lund, MD, MEd, FRCPC (Emergency)
Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, UBC MGM


SOURCE Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Image with caption: "Report prepared in collaboration with: (CNW Group/Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse)". Image available at:

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