Artwork courtesy of Sophia Lepore
Governor’s Ball, a popular music festival on Randall’s Island, was held just last weekend. Tons of Mamaroneck High School students and people from all over the tristate area attended this lively festival. Over the years, the music festival industry has become increasingly popular. Teens and young adults are enticed by its energetic vibe and the popular artists and DJs that perform at the giant concerts. In 2015, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) had a whopping global revenue of $6.9 billion, with Calvin Harris, a famous EDM DJ, netting $66 million alone. According to International Music Summit, “nearly 85 percent of EDM income in North America is generated from festivals and clubs.” Although these music festivals have a great sensory of lights, music, energy and dancing, they are also notorious for the crowds’ use of drugs.
Since 2004, the number of emergency room visits due to overdoses at music festivals of MDMA (also known as molly) has more than doubled according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Festival-goers claim that molly makes the music sound better, the lights brighter and the whole experience more vibrant. However, this drug is illegal and life-threatening.
Molly is probably the most popular drug at these music festivals. In a recent CNN interview, Stephanie, a 26-year old who attended Coachella last year said, “Molly makes you so incredibly aware of happiness. It heightens my sense of touch to a level that›s almost meditative.” Molly may have improved Stephanie’s festival experience, but she is bound to face a number of health consequences. The lab-created chemicals used in molly can cause euphoric highs, rapid heartbeat, blood vessel constriction, high blood pressure and prevent the body from controlling temperature.
Not having a stable blood temperature is extremely dangerous at these music festivals as most of them take place in the summer or in warm areas. In 2013, Shelley Goldsmith, a student at the University of Virginia, died of heat stroke caused by consuming molly in a hot and humid climate. Molly has very threatening longterm consequence as well. After the chemicals of the drug wear off, they can cause devastating depression and even death. To get that euphoric-feeling again, users persistently take molly and often become addicted.
So what’s in molly? The answer is no one really knows. The reason why it’s so dangerous is because it’s often a mix of unknown chemicals made in China. Joseph Moses, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Administration says, “These drugs are produced in labs in China, never meant for human consumption, and mislabeled as industrial solvent or rust inhibitor to be smuggled into the U.S.” At Mysteryland, another popular music festival, last year, 11 students from Wesleyan University were rushed to the emergency room after taking what they believed to be molly. However, the drugs were actually laced with AB-Fubinaca, a synthetic cannabinoid with psychoactive properties, and 6-MAPB, a psychedelic “research chemical.” Luckily, all of the students survived. However, one had to be revived after his heart stopped beating. According to Moses, “You hear about hospitalizations and people say, ‘That was just a bad batch of MDMA,’” he says. “There is no such thing as a good batch of MDMA.”
This terrible experience the Wesleyan students had parallels those of a number of previous festival-goers’; people buying molly often have no clue what it consists of. Fortunately, some organizations such as DanceSafe have been established to help prevent scary situations like those of the Wesleyan kids at EDM festivals. They encourage festival goers to stay away from the drugs because so many of them are laced with who-knows-what. Music festivals should be a fun and memorable experience, not a visit to the emergency room.
By Lindsey Randall