Written By: Mica Cruz
The bass is pumping, and your crew are hyped–it’s festival season.
Festivals have been a part of human culture for millennia, but some would argue that the counterculture of massive music festivals was introduced to popular culture and mainstream consciousness during New York State’s Woodstock festival in 1969. Thirty-two acts performed on stage for three days, promoting peace, love and music. Although what that counterculture promoted was beautiful and full of hope, one can’t deny that drugs have always been a big part of the music festival movement, and that’s something that we still carry with us in today’s music festivals.
For years, illegal substances have been smuggled into these events in creative ways. The prohibition of these substances has created a dark cloud, resulting in a lack of understanding and safe practices. Because substances like MDMA or LSD are illegal, festival-goers are less likely to ask for help when they are in danger, for fear of going to jail. This fear and lack of information result in more cases of deadly overdoses, which are reported at different music festivals all over the globe.
Whether the government likes it or not, people are taking drugs at music festivals. And due to the string of overdose cases at music festivals around the world, some groups are fighting for pill testing, which would allow festival-goers to test the contents or even the potency of the drugs they are planning on taking. While some say that pill testing promotes drug use, advocates argue that they will only be testing drugs that festival-goers have already smuggled in and are already planning on using. So, if they’re already 100 percent sure they’ll be taking the drug, pill testing is the last line of defense, giving festival-goers the opportunity to find out what’s in their drug and make an informed decision whether or not they will still take it, or choose to dispose of it if they find out that it’s not what they’re expecting. One study showed that one out of five users utilized the drug-disposal services at drug-testing tents at a UK festival in July 2016, after they learned that something was not what they had expected. This resource is significant because that kind of informed decision-making impacts the number of highly dangerous drugs on festival grounds. If these dangerous drugs were sold on-site, the pill-testing organizations can move with urgency and work with law enforcement to remove the drugs from the site.
Drugs like MDMA and cocaine are often adulterated with materials like sugar, cement or baking soda, just to name a few, but there are more dangerous mixes out there. One of the most dangerous adulterants on the uptrend is Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50-to-100 times more potent. Some people adulterate party drugs with Fentanyl because it’s a cheap way to add a boost to the drug they’re selling, misleading people to think that the drug is stronger or even purer. But Fentanyl use is currently a nationwide epidemic, causing deaths and overdoses every day in the U.S. The epidemic is so severe, in fact, that the Pentagon is considering classifying it as a weapon of mass destruction.
Another thing to consider is the potency of a drug. Even if your pill passes for 100 percent MDMA, problems are now arising with regard to the increasing potency of the drug. Manufacturers are producing more and more potent pills, hoping to attract buyers. Some pills have been shown to contain around 200 mg of MDMA, but the average dose of an ecstasy pill should only be around 50 to 60 mg. Pill-testing centers issue warnings about pills containing 120 mg of MDMA and above as being in the overdose range. These extremely high doses of MDMA are becoming increasingly common and often can be bought right inside the festival grounds.
Several groups like The Bunk Police, Dance Safe, and The Loop have taken on a mission of safeguarding the festival-going public by offering free pill-testing services at festival sites, but law enforcement officials argue that this will only promote the use of illegal drugs. Some of these organizations have been banned from festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival and the Mad Decent Block Party, and thus forcing the pill-testing groups to operate illegally.
What can you do to be safe while partying? Well, first and foremost, don’t use illegal drugs, especially if you do not know what they really are. But if you are going to do that, remember these few pointers:
Get your pills tested. You can buy pill-testing kits from sites like The Bunk Police, or if you want a more specific test that shows purity and other compounds, you can get it touch with Energy Control International.
Know your source. Do not purchase drugs from someone you do not know or trust. Drugs sold at festivals are twice as likely to be adulterated or to be not what sellers say they are, according to a study.
Look after each other. If your friend or anyone on the ground seems to be having a hard time, immediately ask for help from any of the festival crew or medical team standing by. Also be aware of the signs of heat stroke or serotonin syndrome. Be on the lookout for suspicious or dangerous behavior. Use a buddy system.
Don’t mix it. Mixing multiple substances and alcohol is a recipe for disaster. Make sure you’re not taking any party drugs that may interact negatively with prescription medication. Drink enough water as alcohol can make you more dehydrated. But do not drink too much, as drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia, a dangerous condition that causes low levels of sodium in the blood.