The Crimson White

Drug culture popular among music festivals

Photo+courtesy+of+Miranda+Wisell
Photo courtesy of Miranda Wisell

Photo courtesy of Miranda Wisell

Photo courtesy of Miranda Wisell

Megan Friend, contributing writer

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This isn’t a new craze – the relationship between music festivals and drug use goes back decades and spans the world, from the infamous 1969 New York festival, Woodstock, to Belgium’s wild and vibrant Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival, Tomorrowland.

Aiden Mould, cultural historian and professor of the American Studies class “Drug Use in Popular Culture,” said this relationship continues to stand the test of time because of drugs’ power to enhance everything.

“A weekend away, immersed in the sounds and smells of an alternative reality, quite literally fenced off from the rest of society, creates an environment of expression and excess,” Mould said. “Especially at EDM festivals, I think drug use has become so popular because of the notion of enhancement. It is not enough to watch an electronic act that may sound that same through your headphones as it does in the audience, so people want an experience of feeling as well as listening, making drug use all the more appealing for some.”

For some college students, Mould’s notion is an agreed-upon statement. Olivia Daidone, a junior majoring in psychology, said it’s normal to be surrounded by people doing drugs at festivals, to the point where she didn’t even acknowledge it at her most recent experience at Voodoo.

“I didn’t really notice the drug use this time at all I never even paid attention maybe because I’m just used to it but the past years I’ve been it definitely seemed like a lot of people were on acid and there were a lot of people smoking weed,” Daidone said.

Another student said in addition to enhancing the music, the drugs serve as a bonding experience with fellow concertgoers, forging a sense of friendship and unity at the event.

“It brings the people you’re doing it with closer together, because everyone is just chilling and vibing to the music,” the student said.

Outside of the subjective enjoyment, there’s a dark side to festival drug use. Drug-related festival fatalities, though few in comparison to the tens of millions of attendees at music festivals each year, have recently been on the rise according to Billboard.com. These deaths are largely attributed to overheating and dehydration brought on by the use of MDMA, or molly. This is in addition to extremely hot summer settings and the constant risk of unexpected negative reactions to new or falsely packaged drugs.

According to recovery.org in a study between 2010-2015, MDMA was only present in a little more than half of the samples sold as molly or ecstasy at festivals.

With festivals worldwide trying to crack down on drug-related issues at their events, Mould said not only are festivals actually one of the safest places for them to use psychedelics, but attempting to ban drugs altogether won’t lead to positive results.

“Stopping drug use is futile, for every new way to crack down on people sneaking them in, these same people come up with another method,” Mould said. “That said, there are things the government can do. Offering testing kits, which is becoming all the more common in the UK, allows people who have doubts about their substances to test before they ingest. I do not believe this condones drug use, but does create a safer environment at a music festival.”

It seems clear that the association between drug use and music festivals isn’t going anywhere any time soon. With new music festivals constantly popping up around the world – including Tuscaloosa’s first festival, premiering this summer – it is evident in the rising death toll that while methods like testing kits are finding success, preventative safety measures still have much room to improve, in order to become more commonplace at festivals worldwide and to reach as many attendees as possible.

As music festivals rage on around the globe, regardless of how fun and easy-going they may be, Mould said the most immediate preventative measure is to be cautious of what you’re getting a hold of and putting in your system, even if it seems harmless or predictable.

“If you find an ominous-looking bag of powder on the floor of a portable toilet, maybe don’t take it,” Mould said.

 

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Drug culture popular among music festivals