Drugs at Music Festivals: Is Shutting Them Down the Answer?

Anyone who has followed the news in Los Angeles over the last week has heard of the two young women who lost their lives at HARD Summer from apparent drug overdoses. In the wake of this event, the subject of shutting down music festivals such as HARD Summer has once again arisen. But is this truly the answer to the problem?

Drugs at Music Festivals

Drugs have been available at festivals ever since they became popular over 40 years ago. The setting is nothing new, but the climate has changed. Drugs are now not only cheaper and easier to get ahold of, but much more dangerous. Instead of buying a joint off of another festivalgoer, teens are purchasing hard narcotics and stimulants such as ecstasy and methamphetamine in greater abundance than ever before.

This creates a climate where teens are not concerned so much about whom they are purchasing their drugs from or how dangerous they may be, just that they are ready and available. Oftentimes party drugs are unstable to begin with, but when purchased in an environment such as a rave or festival the risk of not knowing what you are really getting is extrapolated.

Drug Overdose and Death at Music Festivals

In recent years, drug security for festivals has escalated in light of the amount of deaths and overdoses that occur. Just this past June, Nicolas Austin of San Francisco passed away from an apparent MDMA overdose at the Electric Daisy Carnival. EDC is the nations largest electronic music festival of the year, and has seen one death per year over the last five years.

In fact, the Electric Daisy Carnival moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas because of an overdose that occurred at the publicly-ran LA Coliseum. The 15-year old girl who passed away from MDMA intoxication sparked a political uproar about the security and safety of concertgoers at raves, making their call for ban nothing new. So how is it exactly that banning them from particular venues or locations can be helpful?

The reality is, it can’t.

Putting a Band-Aid on the Problem

In order to quell the outrage in light of the events from the weekend of July 31, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis says she’ll propose a temporary ban on raves at county-run venues such as the Pomona Fairplex, which hosted the 65,000-capacity HARD Summer Festival. Here’s what she said last week:

“My prayers are with the family and friends of the two young women whose lives were tragically lost this past weekend. I am deeply troubled by the fact that this is the third such death to happen in my district in the last year and a half. I will be introducing a motion at tomorrow’s Board meeting to explore prohibiting these kinds of events on County-owned land until we conduct a full investigation into this issue.”

Prohibiting events will not stop them from happening. So what is it that needs to be changed?

Education about Drugs at Music Festivals

I cannot tell you what that would look like. Tougher security scans mean people take their drugs in the parking lot. Banning locations mean the festival gets moved somewhere else. Prohibiting public county-ran security means the price for tickets rises for private security. Regardless of what action takes place, the show will go on.

The trick is education. If concert and festivalgoers knew the exact risks of what they were doing in the first place, these tragic numbers of death and overdose would inevitably lower. Whatever that looks like, whether it be something as simple as flyers with warnings or some way to test drugs on the spot that was cost effective, if young adults knew what they were taking before they took it, they may think twice.

What ways do you think this crisis can be dealt with?

Last Updated on February 21, 2024


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