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The Growth of Substance Use at Music Festivals and Associated Risks

The predominance of female respondents does not correspond with national data demonstrating that males typically consume more illicit drugs than females , potentially limiting the generalisability of this study. The high proportion of females surveyed (60.5%) may also skew the interpretation of the results, given the known differences in drug use prevalence between genders . Testing failed to show a difference in drug use prevalence between genders among our study participants, but other inherent differences may exist. Any interpretation of our results should bear in mind the potential for gender bias.

But first responders can’t be everywhere, and the fast-acting drug needs to be administered quickly. Emergency critical medical care requires further expert discussion to consider the management and preparedness for critical illness, toxidromes and hyperpyrexia at events. Policies and protocols need to be developed to consider medical responses, staff provision and the development of a risk matrix to inform decisions concerning resources deployed at events. Perhaps the most critical action in the immediate is to develop a robust public health policy and campaign ensuring those who use drugs will seek help when needed without consequence or retribution.

A study in Denmark looked at 44 urine samples taken at a music festival and found 77 different drugs. Researchers detected everything, including amphetamine, cocaine, MDMA, marijuana, ketamine, and synthetic cannabis. The use of substances is prohibited for a reason — they’re unsafe and can cause bodily harm. 59% of festival-goers experience some type of symptoms as a result of drug or alcohol use, the most common of which are dehydration (33%) and fatigue (28%). 76% have seen someone else experiencing a negative effect of use, and the most common is passing out (54%). We also wanted to see how spending compared for food, alcohol, and drugs.

  • Given the opportunity, such services can access new user populations that would otherwise not be in reach .
  • However, the purpose of this research was to determine whether drug users would utilise drug checking services at festivals, and as such, it is important that all drug users are considered, regardless of frequency of use.
  • Attendees of multiday concert festivals like Bonnaroo, held on an isolated farm in Coffee County, Tenn., don’t seem to have much trouble sneaking pills and powders past security.
  • If someone is experiencing an adverse event in main festival areas that are crowded, it may go unnoticed by festival staff, especially if no one reports the incident.
  • This is consistent with previous work in the area, such as a review of the Austrian CheckIt!
  • Eighty-two (22%) of participants who responded “yes” to using drugs also reported high-risk alcohol use.

However, medical response can be limited, and when medical emergencies are not attended to on time or in a sufficient manner then increased risk of morbidity and even mortality can occur. While lack of water can obviously lead to dehydration quickly, alcohol and drug use tend to further lead to dehydration, which is further compounded by the heat. Not only do many dehydrated people drink alcohol at festivals, but one informant mentioned that alcohol can actually be easier and cheaper to obtain than water at some festivals. With respect to drug use, psychostimulants in particular can cause dehydration. Therefore, using a drug like ecstasy/MDMA can be dehydrating within itself, but this combined with lack of water and/or use of alcohol in such hot conditions can lead to dangerous consequences.

So, while security and police presence are in fact much needed at festivals, this presence appears to increase the risk for anxiety and risky drug purchasing and use. The environmental conditions discussed thus far all appear to increase risk for adverse health effects, particularly among people high on psychostimulants. However, as we discuss below, this situation being extended for many hours or possibly multiple days in a row can be particularly dangerous. Many informants described the purchasing of drugs inside festivals as risky. In this context, they typically referred to “risky” as referring to accessing low-quality products—often adulterated with drugs potentially even more dangerous than the drug they intend to consume. For example, many of our drug checker informants have frequently detected adulterants such as synthetic cathinones in ecstasy or Molly they tested for attendees.

“The lethality of fentanyl has so changed the game, because it only takes a little bit to have someone stop breathing,” Olsen said. “If we have these very effective tools that we know can save people’s lives, I think that’s what we can rally around.” “We are showing up with it in huge quantities,” said Ingela Travers-Hayward, whose Ohio-based nonprofit This Must Be the Place is flooding festivals with Kloxxado, a nasal spray version of the lifesaving medicine. “We want to move around the campground and proactively hand this out.” Illustrates harm-reduction practices that respondents suggested they engaged in. Data was gathered via the online survey, which was promoted through social media platforms and outlets.

Using opioids produces feelings of reduced pain, relaxation, and extreme euphoria. Taking opioids outside of prescription guidelines is extremely dangerous and can lead to addiction. Opioids have some of the highest addiction potentials out of all substances. Unfortunately, many drug-related music festival deaths include opioid use.

Suboxone Effects on Eyesight

86.5% of them said that drug checking services could help individuals using drugs at festivals reduce harm. Attendees of multiday concert festivals like Bonnaroo, held on an isolated farm in Coffee County, Tenn., don’t seem to have much trouble sneaking pills and powders past security. And those drugs can be laced with fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and the reason why medics who work at these events carry the overdose reversal medication naloxone these days.

drug use at music festivals

This informant claims to have almost lost his life from such a situation. Indeed, nightclubs can be crowded—to or beyond legal capacity—but crowding at festivals can be a much different phenomenon. First, the alcohol allergy & alcohol intolerance sheer size of the crowd can be overwhelming as many festivals contain hundreds of thousands of attendees on the same day. Second, at festivals, attendees tend to form a dense crowd facing DJs as they perform.

As much as 75 percent of festival attendees say that they used some illicit drugs in the previous year. Next, we looked at how common it is for people to sneak drugs and alcohol into music festivals. Overall, 26% sneak drugs in and 31% sneak alcohol in, alcohol tapering while 63% have seen someone else sneaking in drugs and/or alcohol. It’s most common for attendees of Firefly Music Festival in Delaware to sneak substances in, and understandably it’s also where individuals are most likely to see others try to do so.

Summer music festivals are filled with live music, crazy outfits, and generally a good time.

Using these substances in festival environments can be unpredictable, and you might end up in a dangerous situation as a result. Live music events are best enjoyed without the interference of drugs or alcohol. chronic heavy drinking leads to serious risk of dementia, study warns If you think your readers will agree, please share this project for non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you ensure a link back to this page so that our authors receive proper credit for their work.

drug use at music festivals

However, these claims are not corroborated by any scientific evidence available to date . A major strength of this study is that it is, to our knowledge, the first large survey performed at a music festival that measured attitudes and behaviours towards on-site drug checking services. Reducing harm from illicit drug use is a pertinent social issue, and our research provides valuable insight into the attitudes and behaviours of an at-risk population’s potential use of drug checking services. The data collection for this study was undertaken over 2 days at a major Australian popular music festival as part of an established sexual health promotion stall. Participants were recruited based on their estimated age being within the target range of 18–30 years.

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In-depth interviews were conducted with 35 key informants in North America who deemed themselves experts in new psychoactive substances, and identified as drug checkers, sellers, or experienced users. Interviews were coded in an inductive manner, and we conducted thematic analysis to identify relevant themes. Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health. Lights seem brighter, music sounds better, and crowds are easier to tolerate.

The Consequences of Getting Caught with Drugs at A Music Festival

It’s also possible that people using drugs at these festivals aren’t trying to hide the fact that they’re using, normalizing the experience of taking drugs in this setting. “Drug-checking is not an option anymore,” said Mitchell Gomez, executive director of DanceSafe, a nonprofit that offers drug checking and other public health education at nightclubs and party venues. But even though what’s known as harm reduction — the concept of minimizing the negative effects of illicit drug use without trying to stop it altogether — has gained acceptance, it’s far from embraced. Less accepted than naloxone among concert promoters is helping people test their drugs for fentanyl. They’re also navigating a legal gray area and battling public perceptions.

drug use at music festivals

Sixty percent or more of people attending heavy metal, alternative, indie, and reggae festivals said they’d also consumed either drugs or alcohol. In contrast, less than 40 percent of people going to pop or classical music shows said the same. The current cohort reported high levels of engagement with and knowledge of a variety of harm-reduction practices. Practices such as starting slowly with smaller amounts and incremental consumption have shown to be effective strategies to minimise health-related harms with similar populations . There is limited literature on the proportion of recreational drug users who engage in harm-reduction strategies and what they define as a harm-reduction strategy.

Substance abuse

A considerable proportion reported that the results of drug checking would influence their drug use behaviour. The findings of this study can contribute to the debate regarding whether drug checking services could potentially play a major role in harm reduction and health promotion programming for young people attending festivals. Several organisations in the USA and Europe offer anonymous drug checking services to the public . Countries such as France and Spain, which have a comparable legal stance on drug use to Australia, have active drug checking services available as a harm reduction intervention by communities and local governments .

As part of this launch, the survey was featured in mainstream media publications as well as niche publications such as Gay Community News. As part of the campaign promotion, the survey was discussed across media channels on the radio , print (The and The Irish Examiner) as well as on TV . It is anticipated that a diverse audience was captured through this method. An easy hyperlink was established so people could quickly the details at Prevalence was highest in the 20–29 years age group, of which 28.2% reported use in the last 12 months . A senior lecturer in addiction at Edith Cowan University, Dr Stephen Bright, said not all policing is the same.

Notwithstanding the illegality of consuming controlled substances at a music festival, the practice does continue. Music festivals are often held over weekends , in places where attendees might not live and work. This contributes to the sense of freedom and fun, which makes people more likely to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t — everything from uncharacteristic sexual behavior to drug consumption. Legal substances, like alcohol, are heavily promoted at music events. Manufacturers are often major sponsors, adding to the culture and environment of consumption.

A large proportion of participants believed ‘somewhat’ or ‘a lot’ that drug checking services could help users seek help to reduce harm (86.5%) and that drug checking services should be combined with harm reduction advice (84.9%). However, two thirds of the participants agreed ‘somewhat’ or ‘a lot’ that drug sellers may use this service as a quality control mechanism (68.6%). Approximately half (54.4%) indicated they would be highly likely and a third (32.7%) would be somewhat likely to utilise free drug checking services should they be available at music festivals. Over a third of drug users in the sample had never attempted to find out about the content and purity of their drugs. A number of reasons were cited for responders not seeking further information, the most common being limited access and knowledge regarding availability of drug checking services.

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