Read about the work and experiences of the social workers at Odyseus, Drugreporter’s partner, who provide information about safer drug use and sex practice at festivals and in clubs in Slovakia!
It’s Saturday night and trained social workers are heading to one of the popular festivals. Even though they don’t know yet what the night will bring, their task is clear – to contact their peers at the festival and provide them with information about safer drug use and safer sex, or to distribute condoms. It’s not just about the information itself, it’s about protecting one’s health.
“At the entrance we’ve seen a group of young people around one girl laid on the ground and the first-aid workers were trying to help her. It was one of the moments when I realised that our consultations on the prevention of drug overdose will be key tonight”– recalls Nikoleta Bedusova, one of the social workers of C.A. Odyseus. Civic Association Odyseus is the oldest organisation in Slovakia which provides outreach social work. As well as their needle exchange programme and drop-in centre for people who use drugs and sexworkers, Odyseus is attending music events and festivals in Slovakia, to speak with young people who are experimenting with drugs about safer drug use and safer sex practices.
Within the first contacts with their peers at the festival it’s obvious that drugs are being used among its visitors. The most used drugs are marijuana and ecstasy. Alcohol is a matter of course. “It’s really great that there is someone doing this job. I didn’t have much information about drugs and these brochures and consultations are better than some ‘friendly advice’” – comments one festival visitor (19 y.o.).
What could happen if I combine drugs? How to prevent an overdose? Why should I use the condoms? What is a “bad trip”? These and many other questions were answered during the festival.
In the summer of 2018 Odyseus could not miss the biggest Slovak festival Pohoda. During 3 days of concerts and parties, workers at Odyseus contacted 1,412 people, gave 741 consultations about safer drug use, and led 861 workshops regarding safer sex.
“Most people who visit us already have an experience with drugs. What was surprising, however, was how many young people did not have any information about drugs, even though they use them regularly. And that’s why Odyseus is going to these events to speak openly with the young people about drugs. Because drug prevention in terms of drug intimidation and prohibition does not provide real and truthful information for people, which they can use in case they finally decide to try drugs.” – Dominika Jasekova, director of C.A. Odyseus.
Outreach work at the clubs, festivals, or music events reduces the harms related to drugs, protects one’s health, and helps the organisers of such events. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, it is up to 10 times more likely that young people in dance events will try out stimulant drugs than those who do not normally attend such environments. Almost every third young person in Slovakia has tried an illegal substance at least once. Keeping young people under lock and key is not a solution, and so Odyseus chooses a “responsible and open about drugs with youth” approach and continues its work with young people.
Dominika Jasekova, Civic Association Odyseus