Editor: We've chosen to keep the author of this story anonymous to protect everyone involved from incrimination. The names below have also been changed.
I struggled with Lacey's pants. She didn't know what was going on, and she did not want me to take them off -- she resisted, clamping her legs together and pushing at my shoulders. I paused, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and then tried to make eye contact with her.
"Lacey," I said, in as soothing a voice I could muster. "Your pants are wet. I have dry ones right here for you. Let me help you change."
I lost track of the number of times I took Lacey to the bathroom to change. I'd been awake for about 36 hours and was exhausted, my head still buzzing with the drugs I'd ingested the previous evening. Definitely not my idea of a good way to come down. My roommate's sister had attended a rave with us the night before. I'd seen her throughout the party, smiling and dancing, pupils blown.
Something happened during the drive home, though -- when we arrived, Lacey couldn't speak; she made noises and seemed very agitated, but she was unable to express what was wrong in any articulate manner. She ground her teeth so hard I winced to hear it. And it wasn't too long before she also lost control of her bladder.
After hours of negotiation, Lacey was taken to the hospital. (I don't think any explanation was ever found for this strange little episode besides a nebulous "she took drugs" -- and that clearly was a factor. She recovered fully.)
I've done a lot of babysitting for people on drugs. That was one of the worst experiences on a physical level, but caring for people freaking out on a psychedelic drug is its own special kind of hell.
The "freak-out tent" at Woodstock was a space built into one of the first music festivals to accommodate some of the things that can go wrong when human beings get together en masse, listen to music and take drugs -- well, we don't have freak-out tents at musical events anymore, so it's up to the musical community to build our own.
When tragedy strikes at an event designed for entertainment purposes -- and particularly when it's music -- the scenesters and members of the musical industry tend to try to distance themselves from the disaster. There's always blanket condemnation of drug use and talk of increased security and decreased tolerance for drug use and abuse.
But the fact remains that humans seem to enjoy the simultaneous activities of taking drugs and listening to music. For me, the question becomes not what concert promoters and security companies can do to protect music-lovers from the dangers of drugs; the question becomes what music-lovers can do as a community to take some responsibility for each other and for the scene as a whole.
Personally, whenever I read another news story about someone who died as a result of drug use at a music festival, concert or party, my heart skips a beat at the tragedy of it all, first and foremost; that could easily have been me or someone I love.
And then I wonder about the circumstances that caused that death. Did the unfortunate who died purchase their drugs from someone they knew? Or a random dealer in the crowd? Did they understand what the effects would be? Were they taking more than one drug, and in what combinations, and did they know what the effect of that would be? Who came with them to the show? Where were they when the unthinkable happened? Did they have any reason to be worried about their friend?
I'm absolutely not attempting to shift blame for drug-related deaths at music events onto anybody. But I do think that, as humans, we have a collective responsibility to our fellow people -- even when (especially when) we're listening to music and taking drugs together. Responsibility in this realm, of course, does not equal a nanny state, at least not in my mind. But I think there are some simple guidelines we can all follow to help make our festival fields, concert spaces and dance floors a little bit safer.
1. Know your limits. Try not to be that person who gets too fucked up to function at a show. Believe me, it's not fun to be the babysitter when you were expecting to enjoy yourself.
2. On the flip side, if you do make a mistake and go overboard once, learn from that mistake and don't repeat it. If you've had more than one bad experience with a particular substance, acknowledge that it might be time to throw in the towel with that specific party enhancer. Again: KNOW YOUR LIMITS.
More advice is on the next page.
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