After a summer plagued by overdose incidents at dance-music festivals, TomorrowWorld in Atlanta will try a new approach to keeping festival-goers safe by providing information to patrons about the risks of drug abuse and offering tips on how to use so-called party drugs more safely.
The festival has partnered with DanceSafe, a non-profit drug education group that will have about 20 volunteers at TomorrowWorld this weekend, The New York Times reports, distributing fliers to the crowd about how to avoid overdoses and staffing an air-conditioned “cool-down” lounge where they will offer information on drugs and alcohol to festival-goers who duck inside. Although the group also offers testing kits online, DanceSafe will not be testing drugs for purity at TomorrowWorld.
The move comes after two attendees died, and at least four others were hospitalized, from overdoses of molly, a powdered form of MDMA, at Electric Zoo in New York over Labor Day weekend. Other overdose deaths have been reported this year at festivals in Boston, Miami, Seattle and Washington D.C., and at least 20 people have died in the U.K. after taking Ecstasy pills laced with PMA, a more toxic drug that mimics the effects of MDMA.
TomorrowWorld’s decision to include DanceSafe is not without detractors: Steve Pasierb, the president of the Partnership at Drugfree.org, called the organization’s approach to drug awareness “a series of half-measures.” “We would like to see a whole lot more education about why it’s not safe to use at all, rather than a wink and a nod,” Pasierb said.
TomorrowWorld organizers say that although they have a strict no-drugs policy and will have security guards with dogs searching cars and pedestrians, among other measures, it’s unrealistic to expect that concert promoters can completely prevent drug use at their events. Missi Woolridge, president of the DanceSafe board, said educating concert-goers about the risks of Ecstasy and other drugs, and offering information on how to more safely use them, can save lives. “Right now, our drug policy is not shaped so we can openly talk about it, and whether or not we say drugs are bad and have criminal sanctions, they are still being used,” she said.
Diplo said much the same thing earlier this month in an interview with Rolling Stone. “We’re such a conservative culture that we’d rather not talk about the things kids want to do, even though they’re going to do them anyway,” Diplo said. “We’d rather ignore it to solve the problem. In Florida, where I’m from, drugs have been a part of club culture since day one. Kids have always been going to raves in the woods. Twenty years ago, Orlando was one of the first places to have rave culture, and we learned how to do drugs. It’s going to happen; you can’t control it. Persecuting a festival is not going to help it because kids are going to do them regardless.”
TomorrowWorld will take place Friday-Sunday at a horse farm in Chattahoochee Hills outside Atlanta. Headliners include Steve Aoki, Tiësto, David Guetta, A-Trak, Benny Benassi, Calvin Harris and more.