Who is Really to Blame for Recent Drug-Related Fatalities at EDM Concerts?

Two teenage girls died recently at the HARD Summer music festival in Ponoma, California, reportedly from "suspected drug overdoses." This is only the latest in a number of drug-related fatalities linked to Electronic Dance Music (EDM) concerts in recent years as a result of the increased use of MDMA, widely known as ecstasy or Molly.

As a result, harm reduction groups have been working even more diligently to promote health and safety at these EDM events. Two of the most productive of those groups are DanceSafe, a drug-education organization focused on checking the true composition of drugs, and the Zendo Project, an initiative that provides safe spaces for people undergoing unpleasant experiences from MDMA use. While DanceSafe and Zendo are growing, EDM festival producers still have a lot of work to do to ensure the safety of attendees.

In Europe and Canada, harm reduction has become more mainstream and accepted by event producers. One obstacle to enforcing this model in the U.S. is the Illicit Drugs Anti-Proliferation Act, which imposes harsh fines on event producers who allow or encourage drug use on event grounds. 

A representative from Madison House Presents, the production company that makes many EDM events possible, oddly ordered DanceSafe to shut down their operations at this year's Electric Forest event. DanceSafe operated a booth at Electric Forest for the last 4 years while following every rule and request of the producers, yet not one producer would explain why they were shut down this year.

The fear that these harm reduction services would be grounds for prosecution under the Illicit Drugs Anti-Proliferation Act are theoretical. The injuries and deaths caused by the lack of safety at these events are not theoretical, they are very real and are occurring far more often than they should. It is clear that these problems need a solution fast, maybe even with the increased help of the medical community, in order to prevent fatalities and thwart injuries that are occurring with such increased prevalence at EDM events.

Check back this weekend as we dive into how physicians can help curb this problem.