Electronic dance music, or EDM, festivals have always been a place where drugs are commonly used among partygoers. Now, parties mimicking the festivals are becoming increasingly popular throughout the United States. From alcohol and cocaine to Molly, studies show that EDM concerts are likely to have the most drugs and alcohol than any other type of concert. The result: People who attend EDM parties are more likely to have drug-related emergencies.
Not only can EDM parties and concerts pose drug-related dangers, but rave culture may be another cause of this increased risk of emergencies. They promote hardcore parties and a wilder experience by using drugs. Drugs that are offered at raves can be dangerous because they may be laced with something too strong for the user, causing an overdose. The risk factor with drugs offered at festivals is continuing to increase as more people are less careful about what they consume. People who are uneducated about how much they should take of a certain drug can end up in drug-related emergencies. These incidents can easily result in an overdose or even death.
As experts and the government face the devastating outcomes of those who overdose every year, solutions for drug users are crucial. By learning about what drugs you are taking, being prepared for emergencies, or avoiding drugs altogether, people can be safe when jamming out at an EDM concert. However, education can only start by communicating with your communities about the high-risk factor that EDM festivals can pose to partygoers.
Increasing Danger in Drug Use
Research published in the International Journal of Drug Policy studied more than 1,000 people in New York who attended EDM concerts in 2018. The researchers concluded that drug-related adverse effects are common at EDM concerts and festivals, making them a high-risk factor for partygoers.
The researchers interviewed partygoers on their bad experiences with drugs. The study estimated that a third of EDM partygoers have experienced an adverse effect from drugs in the past year. Of those who did have an adverse effect, 40 percent experienced this on more than one occasion. Five percent experienced these effects on five or more occasions. Researchers also found that 67.8 percent of adverse effects involved the use of alcohol. In fact, alcohol or opioid misuse were the most common factors in producing adverse effects. But a significant number of partygoers reported having adverse effects when taking drugs or alcohol along with LSD (56.5 percent), ketamine (56.3 percent), cocaine (55.7 percent) and Ecstasy/MDMA/Molly (47.7 percent).
Adding to the risk is that people at EDM festivals are often offered drugs without knowing the full contents of the substance. Users taking common club drugs such as MDMA do not realize that they can contain toxic chemicals such as bath salt. Adverse effects from bath salt use were most likely to result in a hospital visit (57.1 percent).
One of the study’s researchers is Dr. Joseph Palamar, an associate professor of population health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. He found that people who attended EDM festivals tested positive for MDMA, as well as other drugs.
“Among Molly users testing positive for drugs they denied using, about seven out of 10 tested positive for ‘bath salts,’ methamphetamine and/or other new stimulants,” Palamar writes. “Alarmingly, we detected unknown use of the highly-potent ‘bath salt’ called Flakka. We also detected unknown use of PMMA, a substance linked to numerous deaths.”
Researchers from Rutgers University joined NYU in conducting the study. In an interview with Rutgers Today, Palamar says the environment at the festivals also is a factor.
“While we couldn’t deduce to what extent adverse effects occurred at these parties, these are high-risk venues due to a combination of drug use and environmental factors,” Palamar adds. “Dancing for hours, hot temperatures and dehydration appear to exacerbate the risk for adverse effects among those who use drugs.”
Preventing Drug Emergencies
To prevent drug-related emergencies at EDM parties or festivals, experts suggest more viable options. One thing people can do when regularly going to a party of some kind is to bring a supplement kit to be safe when taking drugs such as Ecstasy. The supplements each provide antioxidants, as well as scientifically proven compounds that work in harmony to prevent MDMA-induced toxicity.
In 2002, the government created the RAVE Act, which stands for Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy. The legislation was intended to respond to the Ecstasy epidemic of the early 2000s. In 2003, the legislation was changed to the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act after the original was voted down several times in Congress. However, the new act did not include programs to educate people about drugs. Now law, the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act gives law enforcement the power to stop festivals or concerts they believe are enabling drug use.
The Las Vegas Sun reports that at the 2018 Electronic Dance Carnival in Las Vegas metro police arrested 33 people in a day. Of those 33, 29 were arrested for felony narcotics. The carnival spreads over three days and each year the police arrest on average 25 to 30 people a day. Nearly all the arrests are felony narcotics.
Despite the name change, the law is still commonly called the RAVE Act. According to an article on 6AM, a webzine that follows the underground EDM culture, “The flaws and limitations embedded on the RAVE Act as well as its negative effects have brought about calls for its amendment. Leading the way is the Amend the RAVE Act movement with an online petition to amend the law and make it more responsive to the drug problem by encouraging safety and education.”
Educating to Prevent Harmful Use
The situation is quite different across the Atlantic. The Loop, a drug testing and counseling service based in Britain, recognized that drugs would make it into any concert despite zero-tolerance policies. With professional drug counselors and a tent placed in a festival, people can anonymously submit drugs for testing. Later, after the drug counselor analyzes the drugs, people can find out exactly what’s in them.
A magazine article by The Independent reviewed The Loop’s process at a festival in Hampshire, England. Dr. Henry Fisher, policy director at the drug-reform think tank Volteface, went through The Loop’s process.
“It clearly shows people just don’t know what is in their drugs,” he says.
By providing evidence about drug-related emergencies during EDM parties and festivals, experts hope to educate people about the problem here in the U.S. Being educated about the drugs and the risks involved in them is a good way to lower the number of future drug-related emergencies. NYU’s Palmar urges the importance of evidence-based education.
“Individuals in this scene need to be targeted with evidence-based information regarding the risks of using adulterated drugs so they can make the most informed decisions possible regarding their use.”
Another alternative to preventing drug emergencies is staying sober throughout the concert and festivals. It may seem like drugs are half the fun when attending, but safety should come first. By staying sober and aware of your surroundings, the chances of any emergency are little to none.
The electronic dance music party scene has proven to be a dangerous place for people who take substances. Drug-related emergencies are beginning to rise every year and at its epicenter is EDM festivals. At EDM concerts and parties, Ecstasy is the most common drug, even though it’s one of the most dangerous.
Ecstasy, when offered at an event, can be laced with toxic chemicals that are harmful to your body. Fortunately, people can go online and buy kits with antioxidants and supplements that can help keep themselves safe. Meanwhile, experts continue to push for programs to educate people about the dangers of drugs found at EDM parties.
By Brock Erekson