Electric Zoo Drug Deaths Spur More Drug-Screening Measures (Report)

Last year's Electric Zoo Festival.
Last year's Electric Zoo Festival.
 Getty Images

After last year’s Electric Zoo festival was marred by drug overdoses, leading organizers to cancel the final day of the Randall’s Island electronic-music event, festivals are amping up drug-screening procedures this summer.

This year’s Electric Zoo festival will feature especially robust screening measures including drug searches and amnesty bins so that drugs can be discarded anonymously, organizers told Reuters, noting that the festival has always had a zero-tolerance policy.

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"We are redoubling our efforts at the gate," Dr. Andrew Bazos, medical supervisor for show organizer SFX Entertainment, told Reuters.

In 2013, two Electric Zoo concertgoers died after overdosing on ecstasy, a mashup of MDMA and unregulated synthetic stimulants, and several other attendees became ill or were hospitalized due to apparent drug use.

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Deaths due to ecstasy and MDMA — often referred to as "Molly" — were also recorded in Washington, D.C., and Boston, but Electric Zoo served as a particularly strong wake-up call to the rave and electronic-music communities.

"How to be healthy has unfortunately been related to what happened at Zoo last year," Bazos told Reuters.

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A robust medical presence is expected at this summer’s concerts, with doctors warning that club drugs become more potent when combined with warm temperatures, dehydration and exertion at all-day concerts. Medical tents, doctors, nurses and EMTs are expected to be on hand at summer festivals, and concertgoers are encouraged to report anyone suffering from an overdose, exhaustion or other health issue.

L.A.-based rave advocate Amy Raves has also started a Facebook community to provide tips for safer raving, acknowledging that its unrealistic to expect total abstinence.

"I teach them the warning signs. What to look out for. To stay hydrated, to not overheat," Raves told Reuters. "These kids love Molly, they love Ecstasy. So I tell them to go get a test kit and shave a little off and make sure that's really what it is," she said.

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