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Harm Reduction @ Shambhala

Posted on: May 5th, 2015

“You  basically saved my Shambhala by the test I just got” (male, 25, BC)

For many years ANKORS has provided harm reduction and pill and powder testing services at the Shambhala Music Festival. We commissioned a survey to assess use of our harm reduction programming at the 2013 festival and to learn about festival-goers’ patterns of alcohol and drug use. We obtained 182 completed questionnaires from ANKORS service users—or “guests”—over 5 festival days. The final report has now been posted here.

Guests were mostly in their 20s and 30s, well educated, and from British Columbia or Alberta. Like at many music festivals, alcohol and drug use was common. Using multiple substances close together was the norm and occurring by happenstance. Festival first-timers and veterans used our services extensively—pill and powder testing was the most popular. Guests disposed of unwanted drugs at ANKORS’ tent using the protocol developed with the RCMP and festival security. ANKORS harm reduction messaging has been heard and our guests trust us and the information we provide. We found an interesting story about the role of alcohol and cannabis too.

Our report shares interesting insights and optimism about how festival organizers, the community and festival participants have responded to substance use and provides some useful resources on pill and powder testing. Get the full report or a 4-page summary at