The dark side of music festivals


As ravers prepare for EDM festivals-to-come like the Electric Daisy Carnival and TomorrowWorld, some very real threats in the form of drug abuse has begun to threaten the future of these weekend-long dance parties.

According to this article from The New York Times on last year’s fest season, “at least seven young people attending dance events around the country have died after exhibiting symptoms consistent with overdoses from MDMA and other so-called party drugs, often called ecstasy or molly.”

Although one key focus of the issue may be in stopping the apparent drug abuse found at many music festivals in general, these deaths take a toll on the health of the festival itself by driving away possible investors. Sponsorship and advertising bring the potential for a fest to draw a huge crowd with a big-name star, but these become harder to secure if a company is too afraid of drawing a negative image to sign on.

Even so, some suggest that other factors, or other drugs, may have more to do with the mortality rate. In an opinion piece for the Huffington Post, Meghan Ralston points to other common issues that often plague fest-goers, like heat exhaustion coupled with alcohol consumption, as playing a part that festival organizers have not been quick to acknowledge. “The potentially harmful consequences of alcohol and other drug use aren’t going to change until and unless festival organizers start doing some very basic things. But many won’t — because the fear of being perceived as ‘helping’ people who use drugs at their events is so great,” Ralston said.

Experiencing a fest for the first time is akin to a unique form of culture shock. As festivals force people to go off the grid, with cell phone reception (or power) usually dying by the second night of the event for those without a way to charge, it seems fair to assume that this can provoke a denial of the real-world pressures to be accountable or responsible for what one ingests.

Although it may be hard to ever ban drug abuse in a system that promotes the freedom it tends to provide those who pay to come, something must be done if this forms of artistic expression is meant to last.

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