With Coachella and Stagecoach in the past, I can’t help but look forward to the rest of a great festival season in 2015 with EDC and Outside Lands in the near future. I’m counting down the days until I’m back at the Coachella campgrounds, reminiscing with friends on past years while eagerly waiting to create new memories in the unique social experience that is Coachella. For many college students, festival season is a time of experimentation, and here at the UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program, we want to make sure you have an amazing experience while still taking precautionary measures if you do choose to experiment with drugs. In an effort to gain a better understanding of music festivals from an educational standpoint, I interviewed Edwin Feliciano, MD, psychiatrist at UCSB Student Health and UCSB’s Behavioral Health Director, about drug use at festivals and post-festival recuperation to provide students with the best and safest festival experience possible.
What are the most commonly used drugs you’re aware of that students take at music festivals?
The most commonly used drug at music festivals is ecstasy, or Molly. However, there are still a variety of other drugs used such as alcohol, cocaine, mushrooms and acid. People also combine drugs, such as psychedelic ’shrooms and ecstasy, commonly known as “hippie-flipping,” and LSD and ecstasy, commonly known as “candy-flipping.” Experimenting with alcohol and drugs is very risky; mixing drugs increases the risk even more. If you have all the information about the drugs and you are planning to use drugs anyway, don’t put yourself at risk: just choose one.
What types of supplies should students bring?
Bring plenty of water and snack food. Avoid energy drinks. You want to bring foods that are healthy for you and will keep you energized — in a natural way — throughout the day. Examples of good snack foods are protein bars you can easily and inexpensively buy in the grocery store, or even simpler: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
What safety measures should students be aware of while at the festival?
Know your drug: If you are going to be using illegal drugs or substances that are not prescribed to you, make sure you know the effects, including side effects and potential consequences.
It may seem like common sense to most people but sometimes in situations like music festivals our better judgement does not prevail. Always be cautious of what you’re putting in your body. If you are going to be taking drugs, do not buy them from random vendors. It is better to know someone who has experience with the exact batch of drug you are planning to take rather than purchasing it from a random dealer.
You should be drinking plenty of water while at the festival. A common problem with people attending music festivals is dehydration. It is important for people to drink plenty of water while experiencing the “euphoric” feeling of rolling, or even drinking water to replenish your thirst after drinking all day. Alcohol is incredibly dehydrating and people often don’t remember that while partying. Your body needs water and nutrients throughout the day. Drinking a large amount of water after you are under the influence of drugs will not help you stay hydrated. Be alert to signs and symptoms of dehydration such as dry or cotton-mouth, sleepiness or tiredness, headache, decreased sweat and urine output, dizziness or lightheadedness, and of course, feelings of thirst.
What are the most common symptoms of substance overdose?
The most common symptom seen from ecstasy/Molly overdose are seizures. Problems with vital signs (temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure) are possible and can be life threatening. “Downers” and alcohol could cause sleepiness, confusion and potentially a coma. These types of drugs could stop somebody’s breathing and affect reflexes. This could cause aspiration (vomit going into the lungs). Cocaine could cause chest pain and a heart attack. LSD and other psychedelics could cause psychosis (losing complete touch with reality). In a small percentage of cases, these medical issues could be permanent.
What are common substance withdrawal symptoms?
As the effect of the drugs wear off, the person may experience withdrawal symptoms: anxiety or jumpiness; shakiness or trembling; sweating, nausea and vomiting; insomnia; depression; irritability; fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a friend, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room as a safety precaution.
What advice do you have after the festival ends?
Drug use often causes a “comedown” period where your brain recovers and re-balances its chemical levels. If you are concerned about how you are feeling, please get evaluated by a physician to avoid any unnecessary risk.
Here are some tips to minimize the negative effects:
o Have a “cool down” session with friends.
o Process your experiences with a supportive group.
o Continue to drink plenty of water.
o Rest and relax your body and your mind.
o Avoid strenuous activities for a couple of days.
o Get lots of sleep during the week following the festival.
o Have things on hand that will comfort you like pillows, blankets, earplugs and eye masks.
o Replenish your nutrients; take vitamins and eat healthy foods.
Do you have anything else you would like to mention to help prepare students for the ultimate festival experience?
A few suggestions when attending music festivals:
o Give this a shot: Attend the music festival sober and enjoy the festival experiencing a natural high.
o Designate a friend each day as a Safety Officer and Nutrition Officer:
o These individuals will partake in the festival experience sober and aid those who may be in need. Safety Officers will make sure the group stays together and intervene when any unsafe situation arises.
o With drug use, it is common for meals to be skipped so individuals aren’t receiving the nutrients they need to keep them hydrated.
o The Nutrition Officer can be responsible for reminding their friends to drink water and eat, whether it is a meal or snacks brought into the venue.
UCSB’s Life of the Party is hosting a photo contest with our #Gauchofest campaign, which is aimed at providing festival safety information for students. WIN A PRIZE by uploading photos from Coachella (or another music festival you attended) with the Life of the Party hashtag: #Gauchofest. As a reminder, winning photos will be selected from three categories:
1. Festival Fever
2. Life of the Party
3. Outstanding Outfit
*Only public Instagram accounts are able to participate
Kevin Fitzpatrick is a fifth-year communication major with a minor in education and the Alec Torchon Memorial Intern with Life of the Party at the UCSB Alcohol and Drug Program.
Dr. Edwin Feliciano is a psychiatrist and Director of UCSB Behavioral Health Services at Student Health; studenthealth.sa.ucsb.edu