Drug checking at dance festivals: A review with recommendations to increase generalizability of findings

Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2021 Jun;29(3):229-235. doi: 10.1037/pha0000452. Epub 2021 Feb 18.


Dance festival attendees are at high risk for consuming adulterated drugs. In recent years, drug checking studies have been conducted at various dance festivals to provide valuable harm reduction information to attendees regarding drug content. We conducted a review of the literature to determine the generalizability of findings to the target population of interest-festival attendees at risk for using adulterated drugs. Six published studies involving drug checking at festivals were reviewed. All relied on self-selected samples and male attendees were overrepresented based on previous research. Test methods, drugs tested, definitions of adulteration, and prevalence of adulteration varied across studies. Prevalence of detection of adulterants ranged from 11% to 55%. While the drug checking services described appear to have been beneficial for participants, results have limited generalizability to the target population. We recommend that researchers expand beyond the self-selection model in future studies and utilize recruitment methods that involve random sampling techniques such as systematic random sampling, stratified random sampling, or time-space sampling within festivals. We also recommend that individuals approached are surveyed for demographic characteristics, planned drug use at the festival, and willingness to test their drugs. These methods would help determine how representative the sample is compared to the target population and allow for more generalizable estimates. In conclusion, as these valuable harm reduction services expand, it may be possible to reach a wider portion of the population at risk and to obtain more generalizable estimates of engagement, adulteration, and reactions to learning one possesses adulterated drugs. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dancing*
  • Drug Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Drug Overdose / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Harm Reduction*
  • Holidays*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Illicit Drugs