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Music Festivals and Substance Use

Substance use and music events have a long and interrelated history. Music festivals are often outdoor events where participants are free from the responsibilities of everyday life. In such situations, substances can be a temptation. In fact, since festivals such as Woodstock in the 1960s, drugs have been openly used at many events. In this post, we share popular festival drugs, reasons for using substances at festivals, and why you should attend concerts without taking part in music festival substance abuse culture.

Popular Substances Used at Festivals

One study found that at outdoor electronic dance music festival (EDMF) events, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also known as molly or ecstasy, is one of the most popular drugs used. A 2018 survey of music festival attendees found 73.4% of attendees had reported substance use in the past year. The most common drugs used were cannabis (with 63.9% of study participants reporting use in the past 12 months of festivals), ecstasy (with 59.8% of polled festivalgoers reporting use) and cocaine (34.1%).

In addition to these, other substances used at festivals include:

  • Cocaine and crack
  • Alcohol
  • LSD and other hallucinogens
  • Mushrooms
  • Opioids
  • Adderall

Reasons for Using Alcohol or Substances at Festivals

There are many reasons festivalgoers may choose to use substances at these events:

  • Drugs are widely available, with sellers targeting these venues
  • Peer pressure
  • There is a perception that some substances may enhance the sensory experiences of a concert
  • Security cannot prevent all drug use at such large events
  • Some substances, such as alcohol, are promoted and even heavily advertised at these events since manufacturers are major sponsors
  • Participants often want to embrace a sense of freedom and sellers may incorrectly promote drug use as part of that
  • Festivalgoers may want to stay awake to take part in the festival’s activities, leading them to turn to stimulants
  • Festivalgoers may self-medicate to relieve any social pressures or anxieties
  • Drugs are often referenced in music, which can make use seem more normalized
  • Drug use at music festivals can be semi-open, making it seem like part of the experience

In these uncontrolled environments, there is also the possibility of pills and drugs being sold with misleading labels, potentially leading to incorrect doses or unintended use.

Attending Concerts Without Taking Part in Music Festival Substance Use Culture

Festival drugs are not only dangerous because they can lead to reliance. The heat of summer festivals combined with the potential for dehydration and fatigue inherent to these often outdoor events can greatly increase the possibility of an overdose. Worse, these circumstances combine to make an overdose more likely to be deadly by exacerbating the effects. Overdoses and serious illnesses due to drug use are commonly reported at festivals.

You don’t have to give up music if you want to be sober. If you or a loved one are reliant on drug use in the music scene, contact Gateway or call us at 877.381.6538. Our life-changing care includes caring staff and more than 50 years of experience and success stories in the Illinois area. We offer a range of science-backed therapies and recovery treatment options tailored to your individual needs. Our alumni program also gives you ongoing support so you can reclaim your life.

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