Should music festival drugs be tested to prevent deaths?

People buying wrong drugs at concerts. (Oct. 21, 2016)

'Just say no.'

The term was coined by Nancy Reagan during her 1980s advertising campaign as part of the U.S. 'War on Drugs'

Former president Ronald Reagan's wife urged the American people to say no to drugs during a 1986 address.

But the reality is, many choose to say yes to drugs. 

An estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older—9.4 percent of the population—had used an illicit drug in the past month in 2013, according to the most recent data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse

It's no secret there's drug use at music festivals. Many concert-goers will engage in drugs even if they're not allowed at venues. Some take drugs before arriving to the scene while others find ways to do drugs while at a show.

Unfortunately, the combination of a high-risk activity like drug use, and the environment of a music festival can result in death.

In May, there were two deaths at a Sunset Music Festival in Tampa, Florida due to ecstasy overdoses.

Over the summer, three people died while attending Hard Summer rave in Southern California as a result of a drug use. 

These are just a few of many cases, and won't be the last.

Most music festival deaths are due to drug overdoses and heat stroke. But another common and often overlooked danger comes in the actual purchase of drugs.

'What's In Your Baggie?'

It's not just a question, it's a documentary created in 2014 by a group trying to figure out what drugs people were actually purchasing when buying at music festivals. The practice of cutting drugs, or mixing them with other substances, isn't new. Dealers have used baking soda or caffeine tablets in the past to cut drugs, which save them costs. These substances generally aren't dangerous. 

The major problem is, drugs at music festivals are being cut with much more damaging substances.

The crew went to numerous music festivals and used drug kits to test concert-goers' drugs, according to DrugAbuse.com.

What they found was almost every single test done on the popular music festival drug 'Molly'- or MDMA- found it was actually bath salts, a synthetic drug. 

The documentary explains, no matter how much a person may think they know a drug, there's no real way of knowing what's in your drugs without testing it. 

The crew was inspired to create the film after encountering the Bunk Police, an organization that provides drug test kits at music festivals to prevent people from ingesting an unknown substance. The Bunk Police realized drug-related deaths at music festivals was an issue and started handing out free drug tests at events, according to DrugAbuse.com.

In 2003 the RAVE Act was passed. Introduced by then U.S. Senator Joe Biden and later renamed the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, the law allows business owners and event promoters to be federally prosecuted for letting on or promoting drug use on their premises.

Violators face a $250,000 fine or paying twice their gross receipts from the event.

The RAVE Act aimed to crack down on raves and drug parties and it did- but currently the law poses new issues.

Many music festival organizers don't provide safety measures to prevent drug-related deaths in fear of it being perceived as supporting drugs at their events, even though it's common knowledge drugs are present.

This means, organizations like the Bunk Police aren't allowed at many venues anymore. Many events also don't provide water or 'cool down' rooms to prevent heat stroke. Nonprofit groups such as DanceSafe.org work to provide services to help reduce the harm of drugs.

But the RAVE Act keeps festival organizers from letting DanceSafe.org into their events to give out free water, information about drug effects and other services like safe-sex tools.

While these groups don't encourage drug use, they aim to ensure the safety of those who choose to take drugs.

Amend the Rave Act (ATRA) is a campaign aiming to make changes to the current RAVE Act to allow harm reduction strategies to be used by event organizers without having to face federal penalties. This means music festivals would have the right medical personnel, free water and air-conditioned or cool areas for concert-goers.

It would also allow groups like the Bunk Police and DanceSafe to be present at festivals to help without promoters fearing being shut down.

Concert-goers would avoid unknowingly taking bath salts instead of Molly with amendments to the RAVE Act.

Copyright 2016 KXTV


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