EDM Festivals in Dire Need of Advanced Emergency Care

According to an article in The New York Times, EDM is a $6.2 billion industry. The number of EDM festivals and attendees is at an all-time high despite the many well-publicized hospitalizations and deaths occurring at these events. Dr. Brian Johnston was one of many doctors that criticized a decision made by L.A. County Supervisors that allowed another EDM festivals to occur right after two young woman died at an EDM event from suspected drug overdoses.

Dr. Johnston said that he has seen 16 to 18-year-old kids with heart attacks or serious brain damage due to taking drugs especially MDMA at EDM events. The kids with brain damage or kidney loss don’t make the headlines because they’re not dead, but if someone doesn’t see to increased safety measures soon, the injuries will only continue to get worse

A relatively new field of medical study known as Mass Gathering Medicine (MGM) is growing due to the increasing number of fatalities at EDM events. The study is important for emergency physicians and perhaps will even create a new career, event medical director. Incident action plans (IAPs) should be developed for EDM events and tailored to the location, duration, spectator profile, size, and approximate heat index of the event. In order to enhance safety, producers and emergency personnel should also coordinate and collaborate on the following:

  1. Make Multiple EMS Access Points to allow for reliable and quick entry points in order to decrease the time it takes for medical intervention and transport.
  2. Have Drug Amnesty Bins to help reduce illegal drug use without attendees fearing prosecution. 
  3. Enforce Strict Security Measures to prevent illegal substances from entering event grounds such as drug sniffing dogs or thorough searches at the point of entry.
  4. Identify Medical Personnel to search the crowd for people who appear in distress and transport them back to medical tents.
  5. Develop Pre-Event Education on the location and safety of medical tents as “amnesty zones,” which also will help reduce the fear that may prevent critically ill patients from seeking help.
  6. Allow for Harm Reduction Organizations such as DanceSafe, Bunk Police, or EZ Test to provide added assistance in increasing awareness and preventing critical or fatal conditions.

    The venues are to blame and the fact that local government is, “working with the promoters and generating revenue from these events is grotesque," says Dr. Johnston. It is clear that illegal substances will continue to enter EDM festivals and will continue to cause significant injury. However, if emergency physicians adequately prepare and producers implement better safety protocols, the harm that comes to so many attendees can be reduced and even altogether prevented.