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The Dangers of Drug Use at Music Festivals

How Do Drugs and Music Play Into Each Other?

Drug use at music festivals is not a new concept. However, festival drugs and festival culture have grown in popularity in recent years. Drugs like LSD and MDMA have a history of being paired with music festivals and other events involving music. Using festival drugs comes with risks, so it’s essential to understand drug use at music festivals and their effects. 

Each year, many people overdose at music festivals. Many of these deaths could have been prevented had the proper precautions been taken. Music festivals are meant to be an exciting, fun time, but understanding the relationship between music festivals and drugs could help make festivals a safer environment.

Growing Popularity of Music Festivals

Music festivals are the perfect place for people to see and celebrate their favorite musicians. The music festival experience does not only involve music, but it also offers camping, food, and art in many forms. Music festivals are a place to enjoy time with friends, meet new people, and dance. 

Many music festivals have seen rapid growth in electronic dance music (EDM). This genre of music generates billions of dollars in revenue each year. Substances referred to as EDM drugs are popular at events such as Ultra Music Festival and Coachella. EDM drugs usually refer to MDMA, ketamine, and LSD.

Music Festival Statistics

According to a 2016 study, more people than ever are attending music festivals. Billboard reported that 32 million people go to at least one music festival in the United States each year. As mentioned, EDM is an increasingly popular market, generating massive amounts of revenue and fans each year. 

In terms of drug use at music festivals, a survey found that, on average, almost 75% of attendees reported substance use in the past year. The report showed cannabis being the most popular at 63.9%, ecstasy (59.8%), and cocaine (34.1%). 

Common Festival Drugs

drugs at music festivals

Drug use at music festivals can be traced back to legendary events such as Woodstock in 1969. Festival drugs continue to be prevalent even decades later. For some people, music festivals are places to experiment, party, and use substances to intensify their experience. This likely occurs because festivals are meant to be a sensory experience for everyone involved. Therefore, it makes it a great place to use drugs for some. Common festival drugs include: 


Alcohol is common at most public events. It can help people relax and lower their inhibitions. Drinking at a music festival may help people socialize, dance, and lighten up. The risks of alcohol are often underplayed, and its dangers seem far fetched. Most festivals are all-day events, and to keep safe, it is crucial to understand your limits and stay hydrated. Overdrinking can lead to severe health consequences. 


Molly is another name for MDMA. Molly is a synthetic psychoactive drug that enhances sensory perception, distorts time, and increases energy. Molly is often referred to as an EDM drug because of its popularity at EDM festivals. Many people use MDMA to experience a feeling of connectedness with those around them, as it can also increase emotional warmth.

Ecstasy is often considered more dangerous than MDMA since it contains many other substances. Ecstasy typically contains MDMA as well as several other substances, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, or bath salts. In large doses, both MDMA and ecstasy can cause severe consequences for users. 


Marijuana, also known as pot, cannabis, or weed, is a plant that can be ingested or smoked in various ways. Marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is known to cause euphoria, relaxation, and in some people, paranoia and anxiety. It’s not uncommon for users to experience memory issues, distorted sense of time, or difficulty solving problems while high on marijuana. Marijuana is potentially the most common substance used at music festivals besides alcohol. 


Both cocaine and crack are stimulant drugs that have a large number of side effects. Using cocaine or crack can cause extreme feelings of happiness or energy and hypersensitivity to sensory input. Many users also experience paranoia or other undesirable effects. Cocaine use, especially at music festivals, often requires re-dosing to avoid its crashing effect. These stimulating effects can have short- and long-term health consequences.  


Opioids refer to many prescription painkiller medications, as well as heroin. Using opioids produces feelings of reduced pain, relaxation, and extreme euphoria. Taking opioids outside of prescription guidelines is extremely dangerous and can lead to addiction. Opioids have some of the highest addiction potentials out of all substances. Unfortunately, many drug-related music festival deaths include opioid use.


LSD, commonly referred to as acid, is a hallucinogenic drug that causes users to feel, see, and even hear things that aren’t real. High doses of LSD can lead to users losing touch with reality, which can be dangerous in some situations. It is not uncommon for LSD users to experience rapid mood swings as well. 


Mushrooms, sometimes called magic mushrooms or shrooms, are another popular drug at music festivals. Mushroom’s primary psychoactive compound is called psilocybin, which produces mood-altering and hallucinations effects. Ingesting mushrooms can lead to extreme paranoia and anxiousness. 


Adderall is an amphetamine typically used in treating symptoms of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). Some individuals at music festivals use substances like Adderall to allow them to continue partying through the night. Adderall can cause severe health issues, especially if taken in large doses. 

Risks of Drug Use at Music Festivals

Festival drugs bring about several risks for a number of reasons. Common adverse effects seen in drug users at music festivals include:

  • Hyperthermia
  • Heatstroke
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Poor judgment
  • Risk of accidents
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Overhydration

Many of the mentioned health conditions have to do with the festival environment. These complications can be alleviated by taking precautions and making positive health decisions. Unfortunately, drugs can mask the symptoms people may have if they are experiencing a health issue. For instance, while intoxicated, it is more difficult to understand how dehydrated you may be. This goes for other substances as well. Festival drugs can exacerbate these issues and even make them harder to see coming. 

Harm Reduction: Drug Use at Music Festivals

Music festivals implement various harm reduction practices to keep people as safe as possible. It is essential for festival-goers to take advantage of these practices, especially if they’re considering experimenting with substances. Some harm reduction services include:

  • Free water and hydration stations
  • On-site medical services
  • Limited alcohol sales to reduce potential alcohol poisoning
  • Amnesty boxes where people can discard illegal drugs without being arrested
  • Reduced hours to avoid overexertion
  • Increased security and staff to help limit dangerous situations
  • Substance use education 
  • Kiosks that provide free condoms, earplugs, and other drug information flyers

Pill Testing

Pill testing is another form of risk reduction offered at most music festivals. Testing sites offer free chemical tests to ensure that the substances they plan on ingesting do not have any surprise substances present. Pill testing sites are a no-questions-asked service and are intended to keep people as safe as possible. 

It is not uncommon for people to find that the molly they planned on taking has traces of bath salts within it. This could cause more severe consequences than just taking molly alone. Some believe that pill testing encourages drug use. However, since some people will most likely use festival drugs regardless, it makes sense to provide a service that makes it even slightly safer. 

Staying Safe Around Festival Drugs

Some additional practices to make drug use at music festivals safer include: 

  • Use the buddy system. Look out for your friends and decide on meeting spots in case the group gets separated.
  • Become familiar with the layout of the venue. Take note of where medical stations are in case you or a friend needs help. 
  • Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water and replenish electrolytes throughout the day. Take advantage of free water stations. 
  • Give your body a break every now and then. Make sure to eat and drink water when necessary. Heat and exertion can cause many medical issues. 
  • Do not be too cool for drug education. Ensure that you and your friends know what signs and symptoms of health issues look like. 

Recognizing an Overdose or Emergency

Most drugs have similar warning signs when it comes to overdose. Knowing what these signs look like could save a life at a music festival. Common symptoms of overdose include:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Teeth grinding
  • Racing pulse
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Sweating
  • Seizures 
  • Extreme paranoia

If you see any of these signs or symptoms, get medical help immediately. For a stimulant overdose, help the individual stay calm while putting them into a lying position. Protect their head and clear their airway. If someone is experiencing an opioid overdose, it’s best to administer Narcan or find someone who can. In the meantime, rub their sternum with your knuckles and begin rescue breathing. Plug their nose and give one breath into their mouth every five to seven seconds until help arrives. 

Get Help If You Have an Issue With Festival Drugs

Bad drug experiences are often inevitable. To avoid a bad drug experience, it’s best to avoid drugs as a whole. Long-term drug use can cause severe mental and physical health issues. If you or a loved one are struggling with drug use, please reach out and give us a call.