Tame Impala, the headlining act of Saturday night at Electric Picnic, was once described by Rolling Stone as a ‘psychedelic pop conjurer’. I don’t think it’s a secret that the artist has long been associated with drug use.
You need look no further than the marketing surrounding his latest world tour to see that Kevin Parker is acutely aware of this fact, with each performance opening with a video of a woman describing the tour as a clinical trial for a drug known as ‘rushium’, before giving way to a series of psychedelic images.
It is hard to ignore the glaring irony of Electric Picnic giving top billing to an act that is heavily associated with drug use, given that this year was the first time any sort of drug testing scheme had been put into place by the festival.
Under this anonymous drug testing scheme, introduced by the HSE at this year’s event, festival goers could surrender a sample of their drugs, so that substances could be tested onsite, and the public made aware of any potential dangers.
Statements released by a variety of officials, from festival organisers to the Gardaí Sióchána, all share the same sentiment that drugs are illegal, and that the safest option is to not take them at all. But, as they are of course aware of the drug use that does occur, this new scheme is a way to ensure the safety of those who take part.
Forgive me for holding my applause but I find it difficult to commend these officials for no longer turning a blind eye. To say that the safest option is to not take drugs at all is frankly eye rolling – are we still so sheltered in Irish society that we must walk on eggshells when addressing these issues?
RTÉ reported only two months ago that between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of young people receiving treatment for cocaine use had risen by 117%.
The data makes it clear, drug testing at festivals saves lives and by implementing a scheme to facilitate safer drug use, the organisers of Electric Picnic have taken a step in the right direction. I can’t help but wonder, though – why is it that Ireland has fallen behind yet again in addressing these issues?
The Loop, a drug testing organisation founded with the aim to reduce drug-related harm incurred at festivals, has been operating in the UK since as early as 2014. The punitive attitude towards drug use in this country has put lives at risk. We as a society would rather look down on those who choose to partake in this growing drug culture than look at what we can do prevent further harm.
There are little to no resources available to the general public educating them on safe drug use, something that becomes all the more sinister when we consider the fact that drug related deaths have only continued to increase in recent years.
Whatever your opinions on the consumption of drugs, I think we can all agree that as long as they are available to the public, people are going to consume them. To think otherwise is quite frankly naïve.
It is in the nature of young people to experiment and rebel – must we continue to be condemned for this? Pick up any book on contemporary Irish history and you can see that the Irish government’s reliance on fearmongering as a tactic to get young people to conform is not only ineffective, it allows for a culture in which we attempt to ignore our problems into submission rather than come up with the head-on solutions needed to make real change.