The importance of providing harm reduction information and services within the music scene has been gaining prominence in the wake of two drug-related deaths at the Electric Zoo dance festival in New York last month. Though common practice in Europe, U.S. music festivals have only recently begun embracing harm reduction as a strategy to keep people safe and prevent overdose deaths. This involves providing educational materials about drug effects, distributing kits for substance testing, engaging in counseling, and other methods. The primary intention is to minimize the harmful effects that drugs can have on people who use them, particularly those who are uneducated about the substances they consume.
DanceSafe – a nonprofit harm reduction organization established in 1998 – was commissioned to provide safety information to attendees at the TomorrowWorld music festival last weekend. This marks the first time a major festival promoter has actively sought out a harm reduction group and fully integrated them into the onsite experience of the event. “Of the over 10,000 visitors to DanceSafe’s booth, a huge number of them expressed gratitude for what we were doing – providing drug information and free water, condoms and earplugs, not to mention a lounge area for people to take a break,” said Stefanie Jones, Drug Policy Alliance’s Events Manager who was on hand to support DanceSafe. “So many people told us, ‘You guys are awesome, you should be at every event.’”
To highlight the importance of providing harm reduction at music festivals, the Drug Policy Alliance is urging supporters to sign a thank you pledge to show their appreciation for the organizers of TomorrowWorld. The hope is that the organizers will invite DanceSafe back, and other promoters will follow their lead.
Also following the Electric Zoo deaths, a YouTube video was released featuring several top DJs – Kaskade, A-Trak, Steve Aoki and Tommie Sunshine, among others – urging music fans to abstain from drug use but also providing important harm reduction guidelines for those that choose to use. Just two years ago this video was deemed too controversial to be made public, but its release now and increasing popularity shows how acceptance for the harm reduction messages about drug use has grown.
The provision of harm reduction assistance at electronic music festivals is more commonplace at such events in Europe, and the inclusion of DanceSafe within TomorrowWorld’s safety measures is indicative of a welcome new change in the attitude towards U.S. drug use. More details of DanceSafe’s operations have been outlined in an article in the New York Times.
“The Drug Policy Alliance praises DanceSafe, supportive DJs and artists, and other festival organizers promoting harm reduction for their efforts to prioritize the safety of attendees, and their leadership in enacting practical changes for the wellbeing of those in the music scene,” said Stefanie Jones.