“Drug testing” are two words that instinctively make me turn pale, but a whole different sort of drug testing took place this weekend at a UK music festival: checking festival-goers’ pills and stash to see if they’re safe – or even what they purport to be.

Secret Garden Party, the 12 year old music festival in Cambridge, UK, has pioneered testing patrons’ drugs for purity and user safety. According to the Guardian, this is the first time such a service has been offered.

The founder of Secret Garden Party, Freddie Fellowes, remarked that “harm reduction and welfare” were essential in hosting events. “It’s an area that for too long has seen little development or advancement,” he said.

The tests were provided by The Loop. The organization (site here) says it aims “to promote health and minimise harms in nightclubs, bars and festivals. We provide information, outreach and interventions by trained and experienced staff about alcohol, drugs, sexual health, mental health, crime and violence. Alongside this we research and evaluate health, harm and pleasure in the night time economy.”

The Guardian claims that more than 80 “substances of concern” were tested in the first 1.5 days of Secret Garden Party. Some of the tests indicated both high purity ecstasy pills being circulated – as well as people being sold fake ketamine.

The testing was done with the cooperation of both festival organizers and local police, which would seem to be an obvious sticking point in the way of a broad adoption of onsite drug testing at music events. Another might be liability and/or insurance providers taking this the wrong way.

Regardless, it’s been some decades now since DanceSafe began doing similar activities, albeit without official sanction, so you’d think this is the next logical step. So you’d think…

Photo by epSos.de [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons