Summer is synonymous with music festivals. People flock to hear their favorite musicians play outside, often traveling from out of town and paying steep prices in order to ensure they make the festival rounds. Most attendees indulge in drugs and alcohol at these shows.
While most venues sell alcohol, many festival-goers sneak in their own, which makes it harder to regulate and enforce consumption policies. Drug use at festivals is also extremely common, resulting in injuries and even death. In 2013, at New York’s Electric Zoo, drug-related deaths forced the event to be shut down due to serious heat.
Drug usage has become so prevalent, in fact, that drug testing kits are now often readily available to ensure that attendees are not consuming drugs with deadly and unknown additives. But does music festival drug testing really make festivals safer? Here’s everything you need to know:
Why Are Drugs at Music Festivals Dangerous?
While substance abuse always poses serious health and safety risks, drug use is especially dangerous at music festivals. Here are a few reasons why:
Risk of Fake Pills
One reason why substance abuse is particularly dangerous at music festivals is the risk of taking a fake pill. Many attendees buy and sell pills at music festivals; however, these pills are often not what they claim to be. Most pills for sale at music festivals are not “pure”, meaning they are cut with additional substances, some of which are very harmful to your health and safety. For example, many fake pills contain substances such as fentanyl and bath salts, which are dangerous to ingest and can result in lasting health complications.
Dehydration is another dangerous risk of using drugs at music festivals. Many drugs cause dehydration, stripping the body of needed liquids. Additionally, most music festivals occur outdoors during the summertime, and participants face the risk of dehydration even without using drugs. Combined with large crowds and a lack of sufficient fluids, it’s common for attendees to become dehydrated, which can result in dizziness, fatigue, or even heat stroke. If left untreated, these side effects can cause long-lasting health complications.
Permanent Health Complications
Another risk of using drugs at music festivals is that many drugs have dangerous side effects, some of which can cause health problems you’ll have to manage for the rest of your life. Some examples include kidney failure, seizures, tremors, rapid heartbeat, nausea, impaired mental capacity, extreme paranoia, and more.
How Drugs Are Tested
There are two ways that drug testing typically takes place at music festivals. Here’s a quick look at each:
Testing at Entry
The first approach involves testing participants when they arrive at the festival. The goal of this approach is to prevent drugs from entering the festival at all. However, this approach isn’t foolproof. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to keep the premises secure enough to prevent festival-goers from sneaking in in other ways.
Testing During the Festival
Alternatively, event supervisors can choose to test drugs during the festival. Rather than prohibiting drugs from entering, this approach assumes that the drugs are already there and is designed to detect substances that are too dangerous to be taken. In this approach, the event supervisors set up tents as “safe zones”, where festival attendees can bring drugs for testing without fear of arrest or other retribution.
Inside the tents, festival volunteers use laboratory equipment to quickly test the drugs to determine whether or not they are contaminated with a dangerous substance or if they are what they claim to be.
Safety Benefits of Drug Testing
Data has shown that there are proven safety benefits of drug testing. According to research conducted by The Loop and Liverpool University, 61% of participants disposed of drugs if they were not sure of what they contained. The study also showed that of seven events that had on-site drug testing, not a single drug-related death was recorded.
Additionally, a report from the BBC showed a mother of an 18-year-old who died taking MDMA at a festival in Portsmouth, England, stating that she believed testing would have saved her daughter’s life.
Additional drug testing pilots have also taken place across the globe, including in Australia and Europe. These programs have been shown to reduce both the volume and severity of drugs at festivals.
Fear of Drug Testing at Music Festivals
Although drug testing at musical festivals has clear benefits, there are potential drawbacks. Many people have concerns about privacy and safety that could prevent them from participating in drug testing even at music festivals where it is available. Although most drug testing occurs anonymously, many festival-goers still fear they will be faced with retribution if they are caught with illegal drugs.
However, these concerns are the source of misinformation. Drug testing occurs anonymously and without the presence of police, and attendees face no risk of arrest or other consequences.
Benefits of Music Festival Drug Testing for Addicts
Another benefit of drug testing at music festivals is that it provides protection for drug addicts. Unfortunately, festivals often present a dangerous environment for recovered drug users to relapse. Between the social pressure and the sheer quantity of drugs, it’s a very difficult environment for an addict to experience without relapsing. Drug testing could serve as a deterrent for former drug users, protecting them from a relapse.
Is Drug Testing Harmful or Helpful?
Many people doubt that drug testing at festivals is helpful at all. The fear of being caught with drugs, or the fear of having to throw away drugs that cost lots of money, means many festival attendees would still choose not to participate in drug testing at music festivals.
However, there are many positive examples of drug testing at music festivals being used across the globe. For example, it was found that on-site testing during the 2016 Secret Garden Party festival in Cambridgeshire, England, played a role in reducing potential risks. By testing illicit substances onsite, testers found that 1 in 5 substances sold was not what the vendor claimed they were.
As a result of the drug testing, hospitalizations at the 2016 Secret Garden Party Festival declined by 95% from the year before. Only one person was admitted to the hospital, compared to 19 hospitalizations in 2015.
What To Do if You Need Help
Finally, if you or someone you know is suffering from the effects of substance abuse, you don’t have to struggle alone. It’s important to understand that there are resources and support available to you. Addiction professionals at North Jersey Recovery can provide you with the tools you need to help you find hope, healing, and recovery. Our team of addiction specialists, recovery coaches, and mental health professionals will help you create a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs. Reach out to us today to begin your journey toward recovery.