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Drugs, Love, & Dance Music

For as long as people have gathered in a single place to listen to music, drugs have been a pervasive part of the culture. Go back to the very first Woodstock and you can’t move without tripping over someone on mushrooms. Today we have a drug culture that’s evolved with the times. The music is bigger, the festivals are reaching a scale never before seen, and the electronic music movement is almost fully mainstreamed.

Understandably, with that mainstream adoption comes increased scrutiny. The entire world is standing up and paying attention to EDM, and the only question left is where they will direct their attention. Suddenly, headlines regarding drug-related deaths at concerts and festivals are popping up left and right and people are beginning to take notice.

There were upwards of 100 hospitalizations and a death at Paradiso. Zedd recently cancelled a performance after an overdose-related death at the first show of his ‘Moment of Clarity’ tour. Electric Zoo, one of the biggest dance music festivals in the country, completely shut down their final day following two more fatalities. It’s difficult not to view this as an epidemic, but to call it that would be ignoring the nuance of an incredibly complex issue.

These deaths and serious injuries were nothing short of tragic and our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of all the victims. But it’s important that these issues are addressed in a responsible and informative way. Since the drugs being used are 100 percent illegal, large-scale news organizations have been reticent to address the safety issues in a way other than the “drugs are bad” angle. One of the more egregious instances of knee-jerk scare-mongering came in the wake of Paradiso last summer.

The use of absolutist language is all too present in sensationalist coverage like this, describing Molly as “lethal,” while failing to research what exactly a lethal dose entails or to compare its toxicity to other drugs. This supposed exposé is one of many that have been popping up after each tragedy, and serves only to paint the rave culture in a negative light while providing nothing in terms of realistic, actionable information.

The whole world is watching, and because of this it’s imperative to realize that the onus of responsibility shifts to us as a collective. Drugs are actively banned from venues, which generally have a pat-down policy at the door.  The solution isn’t further criminalization or full cavity searches. A widespread cultural shift is needed if EDM is to exist beyond the drugs used to enhance the experience of a concert or festival. Here are some of the core values that need to be adopted.


Remember why you’re here. Drugs are a supplementary experience, not the main event. First and foremost be there for the music and the people. Make sure you’re in it for the right reasons, and if you’re not maybe it’s time to reevaluate your priorities. There’s nothing wrong with being able to enjoy yourself sober and it’s important not to forget that.


Be informed. If you plan on partaking in extracurriculars, know what you’re taking, what its effects are, and most importantly trust the person you’re getting it from. We can’t stress this enough, buying anything from strangers at shows is dangerous. Just don’t do it.

On the other end of the education aspect, many festivals are starting to feature drug-testing tents. Drug and harm reduction organizations are the best way to make sure what you have is as-advertised. Push for these at your local shows and keep everyone safe.


Know your limits. The Disco Fries made an excellent point regarding the recent stigma surrounding this:

Paradiso 2013 Day 1

Unity and love at Paradiso 2013


Take care of each other. If you’re at a show with a group of friends, look out for them. If someone looks like they need to sit down and hydrate, drop what you’re doing and help. Listen to Bassnectar.

Even if it’s a stranger that’s struggling, hand them some water and ask them if they’re OK. If they’re not, find someone qualified to help them. There are medical tents everywhere and it’s easy to take a couple minutes out of your night to find one if their friends haven’t already. You don’t need to babysit 30,000 people, but if everyone looks out for each other, everyone gets taken care of.

Artists are doing what they can to address to issue. Following Electric Zoo, we’ve seen an overwhelmingly supportive outpouring. Within hours of the incident, there was a flood of good vibes to remind us that the people who create the music are just as invested in this as we are.

Keeping all of this in mind is tantamount to changing the way the outside world views us as a culture. In order to make sure death and drugs aren’t the main association people have with EDM, we need to change the way we think and act. We can make sure no family is forced to go through this kind of tragedy again, and in the process show the world what we’re all about. It begins with us, so let’s make it happen together.

To get educated and bring drug and harm reduction tents to your city’s next event, here are a few places you can go for more information:

In addition, /r/drugs has a helpful FAQ about everything MDMA/ecstasy-related.  You can find it by clicking here


Important things happen in Pacific Northwest nightlife, and DMNW will send you alerts!

Written By

Pop culture junkie, dinosaur enthusiast, and proud Managing Editor. While an avowed basshead, has been known to be ever-so-slightly trance-curious under the right circumstances.



  1. Lisa

    September 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Amen! When you can’t dance your butt off sober to your favorite DJ then it’s time to rethink your priorities. AND WATER. ALL THE WATER.

  2. Le Liu

    September 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I’m working with DanceSafe on this upcoming film about how Los Angeles handled their EDC controversy in 2010. Hopefully, NY can take some lessons from L.A…

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Important things happen in Pacific Northwest nightlife, and DMNW will send you alerts!

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Important things happen in Pacific Northwest nightlife, and DMNW will send you alerts!