Quebec City music festival liquid ban ‘good prevention’ for overdoses, says first aid co-ordinator

A Quebec City music festival’s move to ban fans from bringing liquids on-site is seen as ‘good prevention’ in the eyes of its St. John Ambulance team.

The organization provides first aid services for the Festival d’été de Québec and medical co-ordinator Pier-Luc Vocal says the ban, which was introduced in 2016, is a good move for preventing drug overdoses, namely from GHB.  Many people bring GHB camouflaged in water bottles, so the ban is a help, he said.  “Restricting liquids is good prevention,” he said.

GHB is a powerful, rapidly acting central nervous system depressant that’s commonly referred to as the date rape drug. Depending on the dose, it can knock someone out or, in larger amounts, kill.  Five years ago, there was hardly any GHB at concerts, Vocal said, but that’s now changed. Last year, someone accidentally overdosed after voluntarily taking GHB and alcohol.

The resulting decision to ban fans from bringing their own liquids to the summer festival was unpopular, but organizers have installed four water fountain stations around the site so festival goers have access to drinking water.

Festival d’été production manager Patrick Martin says there will always be drugs on the site, no matter how much officials beef up security.  “They find ways to hide the drugs into their clothing, bags, shoes even, so we make sure if they go inside with drugs, we can treat them and help them the best that we can,” he said.

Vocal said people often take the wrong dose by mistake, and it can cause serious problems.

Festival officials did not reveal how many overdoses there are each year.