Festivals still face drug-related issues

Stephanie Espaillat / Asst. News Director

As Miami’s most popular fair approaches, Ultra Music Festival brings a significant amount of attendees each year, showcasing Miami with the popular electronic music performances. Hosted at the usual location of Bayfront Park in Miami, the event is scheduled for this month, March 18, 19 and 20.

Though many of the festival’s attendees will be there for the music and experience, some Ultra goers might attend for a more common element that has been growing in popularity throughout the music festival’s existence, as well as music festivals in general around the country.

Drugs have been a popular component to the Miami music festival scene. Unfortunately drug overdoses have been a major problem at these events, where use of the illegal drug Ecstasy and similar substances are closely tied to the rave experience.

On Ultra Music Festival’s website reads a “zero-tolerance drug policy.”

The website also says that “the possession, sale and/or use of any illegal or illicit drugs at the event will not be tolerated anywhere inside or outside the Ultra Music Festival 2016.”

It was also suggested that “undercover police officers will be staffed to enforce all drug violations. Event organizers will provide an amnesty box at the entrance of the Event and we encourage all attendees to ‘turn in, no questions asked’ any illegal or illicit drugs and/or substances prior to entering the event.”

These alternatives have been introduced in some locations throughout the nation for festivals including the installation of “amnesty boxes” for patrons to discard illegal drugs, which have already been established for raves throughout nationwide fairgrounds, and halting alcohol sales at least an hour before the end of the last music performance.

However, even with presenting these actions, it has been hard to implement compliance throughout the nation for related events. There have now been at least 21 confirmed drug-related deaths among people who went to raves nationwide by Los Angeles-area companies since 2006. Ten have died in Southern California and five in the Las Vegas area.

Tracy Nguyen, of West Covina, was about to enter her second year at UCLA when she died from an overdose at a Los Angeles rave Aug. 1.

A second woman also died after attending the event: Katie Dix, 19, a Cal State Channel Islands student. Her death is suspected to be related to a drug overdose but a final cause of death has not been released by the coroner.

“Using drugs is part of the culture, and young people are injured and some even die,” said Judy St. John, 69, a retired teacher who has opposed raves at California’s Fairplex since they first began in 2014. “There were two deaths. That should not be allowed to happen again. And the only way to stop it is to stop having raves.”

She called the enhanced array of first-aid stations and the existence of amnesty boxes a tacit acknowledgment that drug use is expected. “The problem is the drugs, and they can’t keep the drugs out.”

Ecstasy can cause fatalities because it can trigger a sharp increase in body temperature of up to 109 degrees – high enough to cause organ failure. Festival goers are often told to drink plenty of water, but some drink too much, which can cause sodium levels to crash and trigger a seizure that makes it hard to breathe, leaving some people to fall into fatal comas. The drug can also cause the breakdown of muscle into a chemical that damages the kidneys, which can be deadly.

This growing issue could be a possibility at the Ultra Music Festival and the festival may try to overcome it this year.

Additional Reporting by TNS Staff

[Image from Flickr]

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