Pop culture trivializes dangers of party drugs

I am a fanatic for music festivals, and I attend Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas, nearly every year. I also plan on attending the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival next year.

Although these music festivals differ in many ways from electronic dance music festivals, such as TomorrowWorld or Electric Zoo, they do have they two things in common — the presence of drugs and alcohol.

Having attended Austin City Limits for the past two years, I have seen my fair share of alcohol and drug-related incidents. Although I hate to admit it, party drugs and alcohol are accepted as part of the festival landscape.

The bass starts and the music pulses through your body, sending an amazing feeling up your spine and then the music takes over. That very moment is the moment where many will go in for a shot of alcohol or hope to increase the feeling by taking MDMA (also known as Ecstasy or Molly).

That moment is also when things can go very wrong, which can result in someone’s name being in the newspaper the next day for overdosing on drugs or alcohol, or both.

TomorrowWorld Festival, a dance and music festival known for being the “bigger, better party” began Sept. 27 and ended on Sept. 29 in Atlanta. The festival hosted more than 100,000 concertgoers in search of a fun and memorable time.

Because of the increasing number of overdoses at high-profile festivals across the nation this past summer, including the Paradiso Festival, Electric Zoo or the Zedd concert in Boston, organizers of TomorrowWorld have taken extra measures to prevent such tragedies at their own festival.

Dance-Safe, a nonprofit drug education group that offers drug and alcohol information, was called in to help with the prevention efforts. The festival already had a strict no-drug policy in place and security personnel searched cars and concertgoers alike, but organizers felt they needed more enforcement.

We live in an extremely conservative culture in which we prefer to ignore or deny the destructive behaviors seen in the younger generations, rather than confront the problem on its head. Organizations such as Dance-Safe could never completely prevent concertgoers from participating in drug-related activities — it would be entirely unrealistic. It is, however, a great place to start.

MDMA is plaguing festivals across the nation and is taking its toll. It has quite the reputation within pop culture: Various rappers, Madonna and even Miley Cyrus have all made references to the drug in their music, whether those references were implicit or explicit.

It is time for us to take “Molly” more seriously. It's not just another lyric, but rather an increasing problem hurting many people and even taking their lives.

Although concertgoers seemed to have made it out of TomorrowWorld, as well as Austin City Limits, successfully without any serious injuries or deaths, we still must recognize the crisis posed by party drugs and alcohol and take greater action to prevent tragic deaths.

Reach the columnist at bsramos@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @brookesramos

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