CHICAGO (CBS) — Safety is always a priority when it comes to Lollapalooza, but this year the city is sending out a different kind of safety warning – know what’s in your medicine.
Some say such messages can save lives, while others say they simply encourage the use of illegal drugs.
But the town is real – people use drugs and ERs see overdoses during Lollapalooza. So this year, the city is giving people the tools to be safe, like distributing Narcan, as well as fentanyl drug test kits.
The Chicago Department of Public Health posted an alert on its social media accounts warning Lollapalooza fans that fentanyl can easily cause an overdose. Fentanyl can be found in cocaine, MDMA and other drugs, not just heroin. The ministry also advised the public not to use drugs on their own.
At Lollapalooza, anyone can get fentanyl test strips for free. Test strips can detect the powerful opioid when mixed with other drugs.
Free doses of Narcan are also given out, which can reverse an overdose.
“Every year we see young people ending up in hospital because they’ve experimented – at a time when we really want people to have fun, but to have fun safely,” said the Commissioner of the CDPH, Dr. Allison Arwady.
Kathy Zander’s son, John Allen, died of a fentanyl overdose in 2016. He was just 22.
“He snorted what he thought was just cocaine, and his best friend spiked him with fentanyl — which killed him,” Zander said.
While Zander is an advocate for Narcan, she is torn when it comes to fentanyl test strips.
“You activate by saying, ‘OK, so I’m going to give you these fentanyl test strips — which I know you’re not going to use anyway,'” Zander said. “I’ve never met an addict who used a fentanyl test strip – ever.”
Kimberly Earling’s daughter, Samantha Kile, also died of a fentanyl overdose.
“I experience pain every morning when I wake up,” Earling said. “I lost my daughter and my grandson in the blink of an eye.”
Kile overdosed on a lethal mixture of heroin and fentanyl in Will County in 2018. Her unborn child – whom she planned to name Jaxsen – did not survive.
Earling took issue with the notion that town councils during Lollapalooza amount to encouraging drug use.
“I don’t believe it encourages drug use – I think it could help save lives,” she said.
In January, the city made fentanyl test strips available at public libraries across the city. They are free
During this weekend, there will be a motorcycle ride in honor of John Allen. The charity run is sponsored by My Child’s Life Matters & Motorcycle Safety Lawyers and is dedicated to all those who have lost people to opiate and fentanyl poisoning.
The ride starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at Woodstock Harley-Davidson, 2235 S. Eastwood Dr. in Woodstock. The cost is $25 per passenger and $5 per passenger.
A live concert will follow at the Carol Stream Town Center afterwards. For more information on events, follow this link.