Something deadly is in the Kool-Aid at music festivals within the past few years, and it is not your typical vodka Red Bull.
There is a recent pattern of tragic headlines following concerts, specifically EDM shows, and the culprit is over-partying, typically with some form of an amphetamine.
The latest music fest casualties include those that occurred on June 25, 2014 at Avicii's show at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, where at least 50 people were treated and evaluated at the scene and 36 people were transported to hospitals.
This scene is reminiscent of the August 27, 2013, DJ Zedd concert at which a 19-year-old died from a suspected drug overdose.
Again, a similar situation came into the spotlight last summer when the third and final day of the three-day New York City musical festival, Electric Zoo, was canceled after two attendees died and four were hospitalized.
There's one thing these concerts have in common: The injuries suffered by attendees has been attributed to drug overdoses, specially the drug MDMA, which has a chemical composition similar to methamphetamine, also known as “molly” in its powder or crystal form.
Frighteningly enough, an EDM concert doesn’t seem over until after least a few attendees, typically ranging in ages 16 to 25, have either been hospitalized or have died. This may lead us to ask, why does Generation-Y seem to be partying to the point of no return?
Why is it that a concert like Woodstock, where nearly half a million people attended, is remembered for its peace-loving flower children, while many concerts today, with generally far smaller numbers (typically ranging in the hundred thousands), are remembered for the overdoses of a handful of its attendees.
Some may argue that there are always a few people who overdo it at concerts and parties, but that logic is hard to mesh with dozens of people being rushed to the hospital at the Avicii concert.
The reasoning behind this phenomenon is twofold: To many people, molly seems like a relatively harmless drug, and we also want to feel invincible.
We're the generation of iPads and instant news feed updates. There are over 50 different brands of medicine to cure any one symptom in the drug store. We live in a country and culture that generally fusses about the details, not life or death. What harm will a few pills at a concert do?
Hypothetically, a 19-year-old about to head out with friends might be faced with the decision about whether to join in and take some molly. He or she might rationalize using it by thinking, “It’s not as if it’s heroin or even cocaine. Everyone takes this and it’s not a big deal.”
Sure, in a world where we hear news reports of increases in heroin use and people turning into cannibals after snorting bath salts, using a bit of MDMA would seem innocent. Molly even sounds innocent; I have a cat named Molly.
While MDMA certainly isn’t the only drug used at concerts, it is the most prevalent and infamously used among many who have been injured or who have overdosed at recent music festivals.
The fact is, the use of molly isn’t even a well-kept secret, but rather is publicly praised at the very concerts where attendees are being carried out on stretchers to the ER.
At the 2012 Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Florida, Madonna, who introduced Avicii, asked the audience: “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?” At the 2013 Electric Zoo festival, concert-goers proudly wore t-shirts decorated with the word and other references.
Celebration of this upper (six doses of which killed 20-year-old, Olivia Rotondo, at Electric Zoo in 2013) leads users to mistakenly believe that this drug isn’t really dangerous.
Perhaps these t-shirts should read instead how the use of molly in the hot, crowded conditions at a concert can lead to hyperthermia, dehydration and kidney or heart failure among many other health risks.
Many users rarely even know what's going into their body when they take molly, which can be a combination of many substances in addition to MDMA, such as methamphetamine, the stimulant ephedrine and ketamine (an anesthetic used by veterinarians, also used as a horse tranquilizer).
The second part of this equation is a general sense of invincibility Generation-Y seems to have. While, as always, exceptions do apply, many people in their late teens, 20s and early 30s today are caught up in a confidence that comes from living in a country that’s largely free from turmoil.
We are also living in a time where we have access to technological innovations in health, science and social media that give us the ability to connect to each other right down to using a specific emoticon to describe how we’re feeling in a Facebook status update.
While people of our generation certainly know that we are not free from risk or fear, our feeling of invincibility can largely be pointed to the fortunate position many people in this country are in.
We already have our necessities and instead we're plagued by first-world problems of whether or not our latté was skim or that our plane landed an hour behind schedule.
Those paying over $300 dollars for a weekend-long EDM concert probably aren’t among the poverty-stricken.
While many in this country do face horrible situations, for the 20-something heading off to Coachella or Ultra Music Festival, life is pretty good and taking a few pills could only make it better. Except, of course, when that person collapses and is carried to the hospital by EMT workers on a stretcher.
So what can we do about this? We do not have to feel less confident; we can feel good about being fortunate enough to live in a world where we can quibble over what restaurant to go to tonight or “who wore it better” on the runway.
But we must remember we're not invincible.
Instead, we can be more cautious and aware, and use the technology we have at our fingertips to do some research on what MDMA is made of and its potential for harm. I enjoy concerts as much as the next person, but I plan on taking a car or train home, not an ambulance.
If you are that person in the crowd of a concert and you’re offered a pill or some other substance, just consider how you are probably having a good time already, and you don't need to be on the road to blacking out to have a good time.
Try to remember those haunting headlines and the fact that you don’t want to be one of them. Look out for yourself and one another and only let the curtain close on the band (or DJ) tonight.
Photo Courtesy: Tumblr