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It seems that every year the amount of people who OD at festivals gets a little higher. Is this because festivals are one of the only places where wearing four day old clothes, being shirtless in the rain, and hiding a bottle of vodka in your hair is totally acceptable? There has always been a certain aura around festivals that you can’t find anywhere else. Nothing is off limits or out of character. Drugs, dance and drink until dawn. At festivals, everyone gets to take a turn on the psychedelic merry go round.
It could be argued that mob mentality is the reason that you might take something at a festival that you usually wouldn’t. It’s being in the trenches with your best men, all comforts stripped, little judgement present. Anything goes.
There’s been talk about bringing drug purity tests into nightclubs in Ireland in an attempt to lower the amount of people taking unclean drugs, and minimise the deaths that come with it. If these kits were implemented at festivals, would people utilise them or is driving straight into the dark abyss what it is all about? Brooke doesn’t have much meas in drugs, but finds it difficult to distance herself from them.
“As someone who doesn’t take drugs, I can say that nowadays, you’re 100% in the minority if you don’t take them. Definitely. Like when we were 14 we thought we were mad yokes for sharing a can between 4 of us, and now it’s just like ‘drugs, drugs, drugs.’”
No one has ever forced or intimidated me into taking drugs. Peer pressure still exists, but drugs are quite on the expensive side, so if someone is willing to share with you, it tends to be viewed as a sign of inclusion – one that doesn’t just exist within ‘The Selfie Generation.’ People have been smoking blunts, taking speedballs, and growing coke nails since the 60s. Regina stands by drug use when done responsibly. “I’ve been lucky with my drug experiences, that I always knew good people who know how to get good, clean stuff and use it for its intended purpose,” she says, “which is to get the purest of highs. It’s the dirty stuff that will mess you up. Don’t buy off dodgy people.”
Of course, there’s the bad side to drugs. There are the truly dark, traumatising and revolting effects that we are all taught about in school. Ask anyone and they will no doubt be able to spout you some scary drug story they were told that kept them from experimenting. But unfortunately, there are very few things that don’t seem like a good idea when using substances, no matter the abundance of stories that keep you up at night worrying.
Brooke tells me of one instance. “One of the girls went missing,” she says. “I don’t know what she took, but it must have been some opiates of some kind. Her mom eventually found her wandering around her local village with burns all over her feet and legs (…) She had no pants or underwear on, and had blood all over her mouth from absolutely chewing her mouth up. Like a fucking horror scene. That was a few years ago but it stuck with me a lot, alright.”
What do you do when you’re on a bad trip? First off, taking psychedelics and being in a comfortable situation with people you feel comfortable with will go leaps and bounds from keeping you off a bad trip. Secondly, try to keep in mind that whatever you’ve taken will wear off eventually.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible for someone to get out of a bad trip easily. Greg recalls the time that drugs floored him. “Due to a bad mix of stuff, I experienced what I can best describe as a sensory overload in the middle of a crowd at a concert,” he says. “I went blind, I was claustrophobic, and felt that I might vomit. I had to get out of that situation and so I ran through the crowd with my hands out till I got to open space. I’d lost my friends but once I was out of the crowd I started to relax.”
People die at festivals. It’s tragic and it happens, often. There is no sugarcoating the fact that drugs can seriously fuck you up financially, mentally, and physically. People can take a bad dose and pay for it with their lives. Ramsey believes that “you’d want to be thick to say that no drugs are bad.” He says that the likes of heroin, morphine, opium, crystal meth and crack “give party drugs a bad name.”
The ability of these drugs to ruin lives is undeniable, but that’s not the way Regina believes it should be. She says that people should be able to enjoy drugs recreationally. “The worst thing is that people don’t actually know what they are taking, or why they are taking it,” she says. “It’s just so fucking dangerous, but unfortunately it’s the most common way people take drugs.”
Featured names (and pseudo names): Regina, Brooke, Ramsey, Banjo, Greg, Tasha, Eloise.
Featured festivals: Rock Werchter, Mushroom Valley, Indiependance, Life Festival, Dream Gathering, Body and Soul, Townlands, Ultra, Longitude, Oxegen, Stereosonic, Boomtown, Electric Picnic.