There is no ignoring the rise of opioid, particularly Fentanyl, related overdoses in Ottawa (as well as across Canada and the United State and at festivals across the country every effort is put into preventing the existence of drugs to begin with. However, the truth is that drug use at festivals, all festivals, happens and it is naive to propose otherwise. For this reason it is important that festival goers and festival staff/volunteers have the resources and information to ensure the safety of those who do decide to use drugs either before or during their visit to the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival.

Familiarize yourself with the following information to help ensure the well-being of all festival attendees:

  • Front of line bar staff are all required to be Smart Serve certified, and will refuse service to anyone considered inebriated. It is highly advised that if you have been using drugs that you DO NOT mix drugs, this includes alcohol.
  • Security and First Aid Staff have been trained and equipped with the necessary information and resources to recognize an individual who has or is at risk of overdose and to provide the proper care to ensure their safety.
  • Festival Staff and Volunteers will be available throughout the site, do not hesitate to approach one of them if you feel you or someone around you may be experiencing an overdose.
  • Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. This law protects you against minor drug related charges if you call 911 to report yourself or someone else suffering an overdose. For more information on this law visit

The following information comes directly from Ottawa Public Health:

The Ottawa Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force (Task Force) is reminding residents to party safely while celebrating. The Task Force advises that overdoses, whether from drugs, alcohol or a combination of both, are preventable. There is also an increased risk of alcohol and drug-facilitated sexual assaults at large events.

The Task Force reminds festival goers that counterfeit pills in Ottawa have tested positive for fentanyl, which is an opioid that is approximately 50-100 times stronger than morphine. Getting “street drugs” from a non-medical source such as a friend, ordering online, or from a drug dealer is very risky and potentially life-threatening. There is no way to know what is actually in them or how toxic they may be.

Ottawa sees over 30 accidental drug overdose deaths every year, and the number of emergency department visits related to accidental drug overdoses nearly doubled from 2009 to 2015. In Ottawa in 2016, there was an average of 22 emergency department visits per week for life-threatening drug overdoses.

To lower the risk of overdose and sexual assault, the Task Force is working with festival organizers, security companies and first aid providers, as well as providing festival goers with safe partying tips.

  • Don’t mix drugs with other substances like alcohol. Using more than one drug at a time increases the risk of overdose.
  • Stay hydrated with water and take breaks from dancing to prevent dehydration and overheating.
  • Don’t accept drinks (even water) from people you don’t know –  there is increased risk of alcohol and drug-facilitated sexual assaults at large festivals.
  • Speak up! Don’t be afraid to say you feel unsafe or don’t feel well.  Seek help from your friends, first aid providers or festival support staff.
  • Plan a safe ride home before you go out – have a designated driver, plan your bus route or your cab ride before going out.Partying at festivals doesn’t have to include drug use.

Festival goers who choose to use drugs should:

  • Never use alone – stay with friends you trust and keep an eye on each other
  • Go slow if you are using a new substance;
  • Know the signs of an overdose and call 911 – an overdose is always a medical emergency;
  • Carry naloxone – it is a medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose;
  • If you witness an overdose, call 911 immediately. Administer first aid, give naloxone and if you are on festival grounds, send someone to get festival medical staff.

Festival goers should also be familiar with the signs of an opioid overdose, which include:

  • Breathing will be slow or absent
  • Lips and nails are blue
  • Person is not moving
  • Person may be choking
  • Person will make gurgling or snoring sounds
  • Person can’t be woken up
  • Skin feels cold and clammy
  • Pupils are tiny (also known as pinpoint)

The Task Force is working with festival organizers to reduce harms to festival goers, including facilitating training to first aid attendants and other first responders on overdose prevention, opioids and naloxone administration. You can get a take-home naloxone kit for free from pharmacies(link is external) and other agencies in Ottawa. For more about overdoses and how to prevent them, visit and

Members of the Ottawa Overdose Prevention and Response Task Force include Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa Paramedic Services, Ottawa Police Service, Ottawa Fire Services, OC Transpo, The Ottawa Hospital, The Royal Ottawa Hospital, Montfort Hospital, Queensway Carleton Hospital, The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario,  Rideauwood Addictions and Family Services, The Office of the Regional Coroner, Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres, Respect Pharmacy, Champlain Local Health Integration Network, Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre, Ottawa Carleton Pharmacist Association, Direction de santé publique, Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais.

Public Inquiries


Opioid overdose wallet

These wallet cards include information on how to spot and react to an opioid overdose as well as information on the Good Samaritan Law.

The cards are available free of charge, and can be ordered via the Health Canada website:

For orders of 150 wallet cards or more, please contact Monica Pantusa, Senior Advisor, Partnerships (Health Canada, Opioids) –

Opioids toolkit

Drug Use During Festival Season (2017)