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Alcohol VS Drug Use at Festivals


The recipe for a good Techno rave is pretty simple. At least it should be. The only "ingredients" you need are great music and a good mood, right? However, we can all agree that sometimes some extra boost may be needed, and it usually comes in the shape of alcohol or a party drug. For some, these substances really work like magic, but they can be a sure road to misery for others. 

And we all know that music festivals, alcohol, and drugs share a long history. Alcohol and illegal substances are almost inescapable at live music events, they are easily accessible, and the atmosphere itself is what usually makes them even more irresistible and tempting. 


The most popular substances used at music festivals

According to a study published by Gateway Foundation, cannabis and MDMA (also known as molly or ecstasy) are some of the most popular drugs used at Electronic Dance Music festivals. In addition to these, other substances used at festivals include cocaine and crack, alcohol, LSD and other hallucinogens, mushrooms, opioids, and Adderall.

The reasons why festival goers choose to use substances or alcohol at music festivals include: 

  • Drugs being widely available;

  • Alcohol brands are often promoted and heavily advertised or are even sponsoring the events;

  • The sense of freedom;

  • Peer pressure;

  • Security fails at large events;

  • Believing that some substances may enhance the sensory experiences;

  • Participants need stimulants to stay awake for a longer time;

  • Self-medicating to relieve any social pressures or anxieties.

Unfortunately, reckless use of alcohol or any of these substances comes with certain risks, like high body temperatures, dehydration, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, paranoia, heatstroke, nausea, fatigue, seizures, irrational behavior, visual and auditory hallucinations, overdose, and even death.

That being said, how does alcohol impact your raving experience versus the rest of the illicit drugs used at music events? Is one better than the other? Let's see what science and experience have to say.


What does alcohol do to your body and mood?

Alcohol can lower inhibitions and help people relax or help people feel more self-confident and comfortable socializing and dancing at live music events. Scientifically, it all boils down to how the ingestion of ethanol affects the body. Alcohol enters the system much faster than the liver can metabolize it (this organ constantly works to break it down into non-intoxicating parts), which explains the state of being and feeling drunk. 

"I like having a drink to loosen me up. I get anxiety at larger shows or festivals, so a beer or a shot can allow me to get my groove on faster. If I'm rolling that night, I like having some pot and a drink at the end of the show to help with the comedown", shares an anonymous person online, while another one says, "I sneak in lots of margaritas in every show/festival I go to for myself and my crew. A few dabs and some margs are all I need and prefer nowadays at shows."

What people usually experience first under the influence of alcohol is extreme emotions such as euphoria or acute sadness, but it usually doesn't stop there. People tend to keep drinking even when they already feel tipsy. Keeping in mind that drinking alcohol is normalized due to its licit status, the risks of alcohol use are often downplayed or overlooked. In some cases, alcohol is the only hydration festivalgoers are interested in or willing to pay for. 

Drinking alcohol combined with long hours of dancing or spending most of the days out in the sun (which already makes a person dehydrated) can have serious health consequences. One of the most common effects of alcohol, along with absent-mindedness, losing control of your judgment and decision-making skills, is the hangover, or veisalgia, which comes with nausea, headaches, drowsiness, and thirst.

But that's not even the worst part. When alcohol (a depressant) gets combined with stimulant drugs such as MDMA and amphetamines, it often leads to increased consumption and higher overdose risks. And keep in mind, alcohol poisoning may quickly turn deadly. Symptoms include severe confusion, vomiting, difficulty breathing, slow heart rate, clammy skin, trouble staying conscious, or extremely low body temperature.


What do drugs do to your body and mood?

Similarly to why people drink alcohol at festivals, people use drugs to relax, let loose and enhance the sensory experience. 

"Alcohol is a fun vibe, but hardly ever the right vibe for me at raves," says an anonymous festivalgoer online, "Weed (and ofc MDMA on special occasions) is much better for the vibe I want. Alcohol doesn't do anything to the music for me. If anything, it makes me appreciate it less. Weed, on the other hand, can make me feel music much more deeply and even notice details I normally don't hear."

Among the most used party drugs, MDMA is used to increase the presence of serotonin and dopamine, another vital neurotransmitter that affects moods. LSD, on the other hand, is most commonly taken by eating a square piece of paper that has been soaked in the drug, and during an LDS "trip" that can last for about 8-12 hours, a person experiences extremely vivid visual hallucinations. 

"Magic mushrooms" are also among the most used party drugs, and the most popular way of consuming them is to eat them. Just like LSD, they also immediately affect the central nervous system, induce visions of distorted reality, intensify emotions and enhance colors and sounds. 

However, drugs' effects go beyond hallucinations and enhanced sensory experiences. Increased blood pressure, rapid emotional shifts, dry mouth, excessive sweating, loss of appetite, quick mood swings, and tremors are other common effects people report after using LSD or mushrooms. At the same time, MDMA can trigger involuntary muscle clenching and teeth chattering, aggressiveness, sleep disturbances, high blood pressure, rise in body temperature, and blurred vision. 

Cocaine, however, grants a shorter high (25-30 minutes if snorted or 5-10 minutes if smoked), but it's shown to be more addictive, and large amounts of it can lead to irrational behavior, energy loss, loss of appetite and anxiety.

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, "the environment in which drugs are consumed can often dictate the impact that consumption will have on the individual and their behavior toward others. Studies have demonstrated that no matter the type of substance taken (including alcohol), violent, aggressive or anti-social behavior is more common in environments that do not promote cohesion."



Science aside, people often tend to lean on other people's experiences. And human experience is so diverse, no matter the kind. 

Some people don't like the dehydration that comes with alcohol. Some don't like the prices of alcohol either. Some people believe drugs are too risky. Some people want to drink during the day and do drugs at night. 

Just like with everything else in life, raving with alcohol or drugs, or neither is also something one needs to decide on their own. It ultimately depends on the person's current state, body, and health condition. Taking all the risks into account and doing your own research before making a decision is what will eventually grant you a better festival experience. And that is why we all like going to festivals, right?


Disclaimer: Techno 24/7 does not want to stimulate the use of drugs described in this format. If you’d happen to be addicted to any drugs described, please contact your local services for help.

Author: Techno 24/7

Pic: streetparade.com

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