MusicSocial Issues

Keeping the ‘M’ But Removing the ‘DMA’ From Music Festivals

Molly. Ecstasy. Love Drug. All of these are street names for the synthetic drug MDMA, which is short for 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine – and no, I can’t say that out loud. As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of electronic dance music (EDM), I have been to my fair share of club nights featuring a local up-and-coming DJ, concerts with semi-known artists trying to make a name for themselves and a few major events featuring the big wigs. And a common denominator amongst these vastly different experiences is — unfortunately enough — the pressure to take the psychoactive drug MDMA. 

And while the effects of the drug would suggest heightening one’s experience at one of these events (by producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, distorted sensory and time perception) they are certainly not worth the risks. These risks include confusion, depression, sleep problems, anxiety, paranoia, muscle tension, involuntary teeth-clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness and chills or sweating. In some cases, use may even lead to overdosing and death. 

Keeping the ‘M’ But Removing the ‘DMA’ From Music Festivals

A few months ago, an old friend of mine experienced the death of a friend, who overdosed on MDMA at an all ages nightclub in Toronto. She was just 19 years old and as far as her friends knew, it was her first time using the drug. While erratic side effects are common and expected, no one in the club expected their friend to die that night, and so they weren’t aware of the severity of the situation as it unfolded. Perhaps even more concerning is that she and her friends had their bags searched upon arrival and so any drugs could have been found and confiscated. 

They weren’t though, and the question to why the drugs weren’t found must be asked and considered. Is it because so many DJs use drugs recreationally that we don’t see an issue with it at these events? Is it because bag searches are not thorough enough at the door? Or perhaps it wasn’t caught because it was an underage club and therefore wasn’t policed properly? These are all strong possibilities, due to the fact that bouncers aren’t explicitly allowed to rummage through people’s bags, so unless the drugs are clearly visible they are not removed. Likewise, these underage clubs are not policed as heavily as regular clubs because there is a false sense of security that is felt when the club is “underage” — there is the idea that young people are there just for the good music and company, and so we become lax in our policing of these clubs. 

We may never know the correct answer to questions such as these, despite how problematic and pressing they are. Perhaps if we were able to answer them, we could limit these sorts of overdoses that can lead to death. The only thing that does matter – regardless of rules a bouncer is or isn’t limited by – is that the drugs were not found during the routine bag check and a teenager died because of it. So perhaps that routine bag check needs to be revisited, because there is clearly great issue with them as they currently are.

Keeping the ‘M’ But Removing the ‘DMA’ From Music Festivals

Image Source: Secure Force

Another issue I cannot get past is that her friends neglected to realize something was wrong with their friend. When they noticed “she was just staring up at the ceiling and wasn’t there mentally,” they continued to dance and party because they too were feeling the effects of the drug. They say it was only when they got the call from the police that they realized their friend had been in serious trouble — and that it was too late to help her. And it isn’t surprising that they weren’t able to think clearly enough to help; we know that this is because of the drug. However, another unanswered question I have is: why did no one else in the club notice? Other patrons, security working there, servers at the (dry)bar — no one noticed as a girl suffered an overdose, and this is something that cannot be ignored. Perhaps the concept of an underage club is too dangerous a concept for society to truly support, with all these obvious issues.

So let’s take a step back, because this drug isn’t new to music festivals. When you think of drugs and music, what’s the big thing that pops into your head? I certainly hope it’s Woodstock, where over 400,000 people turned up to hear good music, love each other and do a whole lot of drugs. But unlike today’s music festivals that seem to have more violent activities and overdoses – Woodstock had none of this.

Keeping the ‘M’ But Removing the ‘DMA’ From Music Festivals

Image Source: Woodstock

So while the drugs aren’t new, the negative happenings that come with them are. While I am no scientist, I think that this has something to do with the chemicals involved in the creation of MDMA; whoever made the tablet could have added any chemical they wanted to it without the user’s knowledge. 

And honestly, I don’t understand it. Going out dancing and listening to great, upbeat music with my friends is one of my favourite things. And I don’t need drugs — especially chemical ones with questionable compositions — to have that fun. Why can we not go to a music festival and enjoy the hypnotic beats that pound through the floor and into your feet as you dance along, without the presence and pressure of drugs everywhere we turn? 

Keeping the ‘M’ But Removing the ‘DMA’ From Music Festivals

How do we keep the M in Music festivals, but get rid of that dangerous DMA? Because again, as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of music festivals, I really don’t want them to continue down this path — this path that is killing youth and ruining the idea of just going out to enjoy music and like-minded people.


  • Alexia Miron

    Carleton student completing two programs at once. Honours developmental psychology minor in disability studies and honours child studies.

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