Music festivals are a wonderful way to enjoy great music with friends and community, especially outdoors when the weather is great. They can also be an opportunity for people to try to enhance their experience with drugs and/or alcohol. One festival’s tragic experience motivated a great response…that could be even better with some public health tactics.
The Tragedy and Response
In 2013, two young adults took fatal doses of MDMA, the euphoria-producing drug sold on the street in pill form as “ecstasy” and in powered form as “molly,” and died at the Electric Zoo festival in New York City. As an immediate result, organizers cancelled the third day of that 2013 electronic dance music festival.
As a longer term result, this year, Electric Zoo’s organizers are requiring ticket buyers to watch a two-minute video about MDMA called “The Molly.” Participants won’t be admitted to the 2014 Labor Day weekend festival unless they have watched the video.
- “NYC Music Festival to Require Anti-Drug Video“, AP, 8-8-14
- “Overdoes of ‘Molly’ Led to Electric Zoo Deaths,” ArtsBeat, 9-12-13
Electric Zoo’s Video (Campaign)
To help prevent similar future tragedies, Electric Zoo’s organizers created a campaign called “Come to Life.” The campaign includes “The Molly” film (See the link on their website.), information on their website about how to enjoy the festival and be safe, a crew of medical students who will be offering help on site and advice on staying hydrated, etc.
“The Molly” was created, written and produced by “Dexter” creator/writer James Manos, Jr. and his teenage daughter Ellie Manos. While this film is short and well placed for certain types of health messages, it doesn’t make the most of best of health communication tactics. For example, the video at least one critical piece of information: sources for more information or available support (at the event or later).
Foundation for a Drug-Free World’ Video (Campaign)
In “The Truth about Ecstasy,” you can hear real stories from real young adults in about 10 minutes. They talk about how they started taking it (e.g., at parties or raves) and long-term consequences. Though, this video is much more detailed, it can be off putting because of its serious tone and even just the name of the sponsoring organization. Young adults wanting to have a good time or who are already taking drugs probably may not be the best audience for this type of “Truth About Drugs” campaign.
Next Step Remix
A mix of the entertainment expertise of a producer like James Manos, Jr., a highly successful series of events such as Electric Zoo and the expertise of a health communications expert such as those connected to the American Public Health Association could result in a real and ongoing difference in the tragic use of MDMA at these types of events. Perhaps an innovative approach combined with what we know works to change health behaviors can help ensure that these festivals only leave a positive mark on all participants.
DanceSafe: Promotiing Health and Safety Within the Electronic Music Community
(includes home testing kits and health and safety information)
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
(mission: to reduce teen substance abuse and support families impacted by addiction)
“MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse” in Research Report Series by National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2006
(describes the science, including what it does to the brain, and the information on prevention and treatment)
MDMA is an illegal drug that acts as both a stimulant and psychedelic, producing energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from tactile experiences.
“Ecstasy-Related Emergency Department Visits by Young People Increased between 2005 and 2011; Alcohol Involvement Remains a Concern” in The DAWN Report, December 3, 2013 (SAMHSA)
“DrugFacts: MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)” on the National Institute for on Drug Abuse website, Revised September 2013
(also links to information about other so called club drugs)
One of the biggest dangers with taking MDMA is not knowing what else is mixed in. Even products labeled as pure can be mixed (intentionally and unintentionally) with cocaine, GHB, methamphetamine, ketamine, etc.