Substance-Free Areas at Music Festivals

With Coachella and The Governors Ball music festivals already behind us, we’re now currently in the middle of what many refer to as “festival season” — a time where hundreds of thousands of people travel to various locations across the country during the summer to see the bands they love. While these festivals are considered an enjoyable experience that combines live music, food, merchandise, performance art and social activities, they can also have a dark side of drug and alcohol abuse.

Ever since their inception in the 60s, music festivals have had a strong correlation with drugs and alcohol. Researchers at the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education polled and comprised data from 145 people who went to the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Florida and discovered that 72 percent admitted to using molly, ecstasy, marijuana or cocaine at some point during the festival.

The Dark Side of Music Festivals

Despite their prevalence, many festival attendees are unaware of the destruction that drugs and alcohol can bring, especially in the high temperatures of summer. In August 2013 while attending New York City’s Electric Zoo festival, 23-year-old Jeffrey Russ and 20-year-old Olivia Rotondo both passed away after ingesting and overdosing on molly.

Molly, the name given to the powder or crystal form of MDMA, is the chemical used in ecstasy. Because ecstasy has the potential to be laced with others substance such as caffeine or methamphetamine, molly is often thought of as the “pure” form of MDMA. However, there’s no definite way to know that molly is 100 percent pure. It’s still an extremely dangerous drug that can cause a multitude of negative consequences such as:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Distorted thought process which can cause a person to not recognize their rising body temperature or fading stamina as they continue to party
  • Dehydration and exhaustion
  • Hyperthermia
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac episodes
  • Coma

Music Festival “Safe Zones”

Grace McClellan first stopped using drugs and alcohol three years ago. While she knew she might run into temptation and substance abuse, she didn’t want to stop attending Bonnaroo. Attending the festival had become a tradition for her for over a decade, so after 30 days in recovery she went with her old drinking buddies. While she nearly relapsed and had a drink the first night, she found help from a group of fellow attendees known as Soberoo, other people who were also in recovery and formed an onsite support group for each other. Soberoo is just one of the many sober groups that have started integrating themselves into festivals in order to provide substance-free areas for attendees who are in recovery or simply want to avoid alcohol and drugs.

This substance-free movement has its roots in the 80s when a group of Grateful Dead followers got together in solidarity to still enjoy the music while avoiding their old addiction vices. For Grace McClellan and the many others in recovery, these groups provide essential support and a “safe zone” to go to during the festival, allowing them to enjoy the festival and still maintain their sobriety. These substance-free festival groups also help promote the important message that you don’t need alcohol and drugs to enjoy the music.

By Jenna Mitchell

Posted on June 2nd, 2016
Posted in Recovery

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