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Drugs at Music Festivals

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Drug and alcohol use is common at large outdoor music festivals. Typically, the extent and types of substances used can vary considerably.

Why is substance use at music festivals a concern?

Like any mass gathering event, outdoor music festivals present many health-related risks. Individuals who choose to use substances at these events can be at risk of a number of health harms such as dehydration and hyperthermia. In severe cases, people may lose consciousness and can die.  

Each year, many individuals attending Canadian music festivals are treated for drug- and alcohol related harms. In the summer of 2014, five young adults died while many more were treated onsite or admitted to hospital. Alcohol or drug use or both was strongly suspected as a contributing factor.

Planning for, preventing and treating such harms requires a broad spectrum of stakeholders to work closely with one another. To date, this had not happened consistently, and likewise there has not been a standardized health and safety approach to governing event organization, health promotion, mass-gathering medical care, and policing and event security.

Addressing drug- and alcohol-related harms at music festivals

To address gaps and build consistency in approaches to reducing and addressing harms at music festivals, CCSA in partnership with the University of British Columbia’s Mass Gathering Medicine Interest Group (UBC MGM) held a national meeting in January 2015. Representatives attended from key sectors with the goal of developing recommendations that could be applied to events across Canada.

The group’s recommendations centred around four key areas:

  • Event organization and design

  • Promotion of health and reduction of harms

  • Delivering health care at mass gatherings (mass-gathering medicine)​

  • Policing and event security

Working groups are now being established to further develop and implement these recommendations.

For more information, complete the request form or contact UBC MGM at

The Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (CCENDU) released a bulletin on drug trends observed at music festivals in 2017. Read the report here.