Drug Overdose Deaths at Raves: What Can We Do?

Drug Overdose Deaths at Raves: What Can We Do?

Raves and music festivals are becoming increasingly more synonymous with drug overdose deaths, leaving many people and organizations at a loss for a solution. With Overdose Prevention Day coming up at the end of the month, there is no better time than the present to start talking about what we can do about it.

3 deaths were reported at the Hard Summer rave that was held at the Auto Club Speedway near Fontana, CA, and has fueled the ongoing discussion of what should be done about this issue. Drug overdoses have been a problem for raves and festivals, such as EDC, for years. Not counting the deaths from this past weekend, there have been at least 24 confirmed drug overdose deaths in Southern California and Las Vegas combined since 2006. Despite these deaths, these festivals have continued to see record attendance.

While their successful attendance rates contribute to major boosts to the local economy, many major venues have decided to forgo hosting rave events, simply because of the number of deaths that occur each year. Hard Summer was moved from the Los Angeles Fair Grounds in Pomona, where it was hosted last year, to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Cow Palace in San Fransisco has also stopped hosting raves due to the drug problems.

We know the rates of drug overdoses can’t simply be attributed to something as menial as location. Rave events will continue to be hosted in other cities around the country.

“We’ve seen this all around the nation … in L.A., it popped up in Chicago, in San Francisco, in New York,” sai Dr. Marc Futernick, emergency services medical director at Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center. “There’s something about these events that leads to this rampant drug abuse … and young adults are really getting hurt and paying the price.”

Drug Overdose Deaths at Raves: What Can We Do?

Doctors have even called for a ban on large raves. This, of course, has stirred a major debate among music lovers and festival attendees.

“I think that rave promoters, or promoters of music festivals in general, are always very hesitant to approach the subject of drug usage at festivals,” Maren Steiner, Insomniac’s director of health and safety, told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “Every music festival that I know of across the world is struggling with drug use. I think it’s important to talk about it and stop trying to pretend it’s not an issue.”

So, What Can We Do About Drug Overdose Deaths?

First, we must understand why this is happening.

Emergency room doctors have a good idea of what could be the problem. One of the reasons that people who use ecstasy at these events will experience severe illness, coma, or even death is because the synthetic drug can cause body temps to rise up to 109 degrees. Pair that up with some of the hottest temperatures we’ve had (100+ in some areas) and the obvious alcohol consumption and that is essentially a recipe for disaster.

Second, education about these club drugs or rave drugs is vital for the people (or kids) attending these events. Many try drugs like molly, mushrooms, or marijuana for the first time at these events as part of the festival experience and don’t understand what it is they are taking or the dangers associated with it. Sadly, they pay the ultimate price.

And lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that our country is in the midst of a drug epidemic. Drugs are more available, especially for kids and teens than ever before. Educational resources, drug testing kits, and various other forms of harm reduction should be made available onsite as well as increased security measures.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.

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