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Getting Real About Illicit Drug Use at EDM Festivals

The electronic dance music (EDM) business, propelled by large scale music festivals, has grown to an estimated worth of $4.5 billion, yet a fast-rising yearly rate of drug-related deaths has highlighted the risks not only to festival goers, but also to the event promoters.

Future Music Festival is one of Australasia’s largest ongoing electronic/dance music festivals, selling out in Sydney nearly every year. The annual event started back in 2008, and is now held throughout five Australian cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. Many will not deny that the Future Entertainment Company organises a spectacular day each year, boasting the best Australian and international musical acts and DJs. The festival always features top audio and visual technology – festival goers can expect neon colours, bright lights and laser shows to accompany the sounds of their favourite acts.

Although Future Music festival is mostly a fun day out for people who are there to appreciate the music and have a good time, the drug scene has grown dramatically over the years since the beginnings of the festival. This year, police have arrested 140 patrons for drug offences and 164 people were ejected from the event. Four also suffered “serious” medical conditions, which police have attributed to drug overdoses – and this was only at the Sydney event. Day 3 of Future Music Festival Asia was cancelled due to six drug related deaths and numerous overdoses.

‘Molly’, the street name for MDMA, might be the most popular drug in the dance music scene right now. “Have you seen  Molly?” is a line used in a number of EDM tracks, characterised as a line to pick up drugs discreetly at gigs, concerts and festivals. The drug is being taken in a powdered form, and is easy for patrons to smuggle into festivals. But contrary to the common belief that Molly is safer than other drugs because it is a ‘pure’ form of ecstasy, Molly is not a safe drug.

Side effects of Molly/MDMA include, but are not limited to: paranoia and delusions, confusion and depression, severe anxiety, psychotic episodes, uncontrollable shaking and teeth grinding, sleep problems, ongoing drug cravings and uncontrollable fits.

Other popular drugs at music festivals include LSD, Cannabis and Methamphetamine.

This year, Future Entertainment Company attempted to take precautions and prevent as much drug use and selling as possible, but it seems no matter how many safety precautions the event promoters employ, there is really little they can do to stop drug abuse from happening at the festival if the punters really want to get it inside. Young people are looking for a grand-scale, otherworldly experience when attending these festivals, and it isn’t difficult for many of them to conceal drugs when entering the event.

Festival goer Ryan Joseph, 20 years of age, says, “drinks cost twelve dollars, and they are only half strength. I don’t know what the promoters are thinking, but this is one of the main reasons I use drugs at events. You take a bit of MDMA and it keeps you going all night and saves you $200. If the promoters lowered the drink process maybe the amount of drug abuse would lower also.”

“I have seen heaps of people puking and collapsing and laying on the ground, it’s really scary,” says Sandra, 18 years of age, after attending Future Music Festival in Sydney.

Event promoters will continue to do everything within their power to keep their attendees safe, but it is unrealistic to think that drug use at festivals can be ruled out completely. Perhaps more efficient drug education, and the presence of a sufficient amount of experienced medics could ensure that if someone makes a mistake during the day, it won’t mean that they won’t get home safely at night.

Elysia Roberts

Check out the video Future Music Festival posted, highlighting its first weekend in Brisbane this year.

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