THE BLOG

Music Festivals: Are Attendees Safe?

03/19/2015 02:40 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2015
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I don't think anyone expects to attend a music festival and end up in the hospital later that night or have one of his or her friends end up with an even more tragic end. As the warmer weather approaches, music festivals such as Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival, Bonnaroo, Electric Zoo and Lollapalooza are all descending on major cities across the country and they bring with them a host of fun and also sometimes dangerous activities associated with festival culture -- specifically drugs. To keep these festivals a fun and exciting day for attendees there has to be safety measures to keep drugs out of these venues.

Arguably, the main culprit that is sending kids to the hospital at music festivals is molly. This clever nickname for MDMA, or as it was known in the raves of the 1990s, Ecstasy, gives users a lasting high that emulates a feeling of closeness with fellow concertgoers. Molly seems innocent enough, a cute little pill or chalky white powder that is passed around in the crowd to entice kids to keep on dancing and their energy up, what could go wrong? As described by National Institute for Drug Abuse, the dangers of molly are that it dehydrates its users and can prevent the body from regulating its temperature, which can result in overheating and in some cases, seizures and death.

There's no doubt molly's popularity has increased in recent years. In fact, a recent study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that emergency room visits due to the drug had increased by 128 percent between 2005 and 2011. Alcohol was also a factor because it is often taken with molly to increase euphoria. A few years ago at Electric Zoo in New York City, two teens died from taking lethal doses of molly prompting the cancellation of the third day of the festival. This is the incident that introduced most of the public to molly. A month later, one teen girl died and two young adults were hospitalized from taking molly during a concert at The House of Blues in Boston. More recently, we saw molly creep into college campuses with the almost a dozen students at Wesleyan University getting sick from the substance.

So how do we put an end to molly? Clearly more education is needed so that teens and adults can understand the fatal consequences of using it. However, its pop culture relevance isn't helping. Artists many teens look up to like Kayne West and Miley Cyrus are touting its usage in their songs. Music festivals, particularly in the spring and summer, have become a hot bed for molly and because of that there needs to be strict enforcement from both the concert and venue to further prohibit the use of this drug and help those who may be under the influence before they are the subjects of another newspaper article. Festivals like Bonnaroo have unveiled comprehensive safety guidelines for attendees. The Electric Daisy Festival has also instituted a drug policy, hydration stations and increased safety officers (dubbed "Ground Control") policing the festival.

These are all huge leaps and bounds from where we were in previous years in terms of festival safety, but more needs to be done to really make people have a gut reaction to say no to molly. I would argue that it is accepted that people use molly or other Ecstasy type drugs at high intensity music concerts. It is part of the culture of "enjoying the music" and that's wrong. Drugs like molly shouldn't be a conventional part of attending a concert or festival. The music should be enough. Strict rules need to be put in place that all festivals abide to, not just a few. There needs to be zero tolerance towards drug use and towards anyone entering the venue with drugs on their person. Also, guests should be able to recognize the signs their friends or other attendees might be in trouble after taking a drug. These rules could potentially save lives and allow concerts to be a fun, safe environment for fans to enjoy.

Unfortunately after molly use is curbed, another drug will appear on the scene. This is why we need to be vigilant in educating kids the dangers of drugs. Yet, it just doesn't stop at the kids. Parents need to also pay attention. Who are your kids hanging out with? Where are they going? By being more aware of whom your kid's friends are and their behavior, a lot of poor decisions can be avoided