When it comes to EDM “Electronic Dance Music” party-goers, it’s not the kind of social outing that a person can hang on the fence about. Either you’re in or you’re not. That’s because it isn’t really about the dance, though EDMs will tell you it is, but more about the culture. And the culture includes hefty drug use based on ritual and free-spirited experimentation. Music inspires drug use.

Raves are more than a large-scale dance event. Inhibitions seldom exist, as sex-pectation is present at every turn. For attendees with any doubts about the antics that could take place, there’s a bevy of drug choices nearby to wash personal integrity away. Is it the way the primitive, rhythmic beat beckons pulsating body moves or the escapism it promises? No matter the reason raves continue to entice adolescents and adults but at what price?

Why Designer Drugs Seem Sexy But at a Cost to Human Life

Even with the national public outcry for change in how pharmaceutical narcotics are prescribed and administered, EDMs have a misperception in how the opioid crisis relates to them. In part, it could be due to the younger age of rave participants and the belief that immortality is alive and well in their circle of friends.

Somewhere between a mentality of agelessness and timelessness is where rave culture exists. Troubled by a world divided, these pleasure seekers rave as an outlet to leave their rage behind and connect with other like-hazed people and live in chemically-dependent nirvana – until the darkness fades and the light of day gleans personal truth.

Psychedelic substances flow with designer drugs. This sense of heightened feeling brings the essence of free love. EDMs are more likely to have sex with strangers, yes multiple, at these parties – but there’s more. It’s this openness that bears an additional danger through widespread sharing of drugs.

Then Along Came Molly

Why designer drugs seem sexy has a lot to do with how they make the user feel. MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is the active ingredient in Ecstasy. It’s commonly referred to as “X” or Molly and is the standard fare in electronica parties. Originally meant to ease the symptoms of anxiety in patients with mental health issues, the drug made its way to recreational use in the dance clubs of Europe, eventually migrating to the United States.

From a psychological standpoint, its popularity is a no-brainer. Molly, when taken, brings about feelings of euphoria, heightened happiness, bursts of energy and a general sense that everything is wonderful. Until you come down.

Side Effects of Molly

  • Intense lower back pain
  • Excessive thirst
  • Memory loss or confusion

These side effects are worsened when taken during a rave or other party where health and safety conditions aren’t monitored. Electronica dance events are usually overcrowded, which can increase the temperature in the venue. Because Molly is a strong drug, putting stress on the kidneys and liver, the body gets dehydrated very quickly, coupled with excessive sweating from dancing for hours on end. The imbalance in the body increases a person’s thirst, usually leading to heavy water consumption. The result is mental fog, minimal or no recall of time, convulsions, seizure or death.

NYU Study Shows Link to Increased Opioid Misuse at Raves

Designer drugs are a constant at these types of gatherings but researchers at the Meyers College of Nursing wanted to see how the opioid crisis plays a role. Of concern to the lead author of the study, Joseph Palamar, PhD, MPH, is in the sharing of drugs in all forms as it contributes to the recent increase in HIV and Hepatitis C cases.

Participants in the study were from a cross-section of EDMs in the New York area during the summer of 2017. They were interviewed as they were entering a rave and comprised people ages 18 to 40.

Study participants were asked the following:

  • Do you use opioids for non-medical use? – 24% said Yes
  • Of those who used opioids, how many did in the last year? – 10%
  • Of those who used opioids, how many injected or snorted? – 11%-15%
  • Of those who used opioids in the last year, how many would again? – 74%

Many opioids were mentioned, the most prevalent included OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, fentanyl, and heroin. What was also alarming to the researchers is the instances of comingling drugs. Rave-goers in this group use designer drugs, opioids and benzodiazepines (Xanax), increasing the risk for overdose.

Does Electronica Trigger Drug Desire?

The question may seem trivial but science indicates there might be some merit to the consideration. Researchers in Belgium reviewed the preferences of 775 participants who attended either EDM raves, pubs, rock concerts or rock festivals. Their findings indicate “an association between substance use and alternative music styles in the electronic music scene: respondents were more likely to consume MDMA” (Molly/ecstasy) compared to those who preferred rock music. What was also concerning here was the higher rate of mixing many drugs (stimulants, depressants, cannabis and alcohol) compared to the general population.

Are Raves a No-Go If You Want to Feel Safe?

Given the drug culture of EDM events, looking for safety in this environment is more like finding bliss in ignorance. With all the unknowns associated with Molly and the other drugs free-flowing on these dancefloors, abstinence is the only sure way to keep a handle on yourself, if you choose to attend.

For those who insist on capturing the full rave experience, a movement within this community called DanceSafe sets up booths at EDM events to “pill test” drugs before they are taken. Their website also provides best practices to attend dance parties with some decorum of safety.

With the upcoming summer season, proms and graduation parties, your friends might be trustworthy when it comes to sharing secrets but they don’t know what’s in the drugs they’re willing to experience with you – unless they manufactured them. They didn’t.

Don’t Make the Next Dance Your Last, Find Help Here


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