Recent Deaths at EDM Party Raise Alarm Over MDMA Abuse
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In the wake of two dead and 19 hospitalizations from the Mad Decent Block Party last Friday in Maryland, authorities are turning the blame on MDMA and EDM culture.
The autopsy results of the two men, ages 20 and 17, who died after the all-day EDM party—which featured Diplo, Flux Pavilion, and Dillon Francis—are pending. The police did not reveal the identity of the 17-year-old, but the family of the other man, Tyler Fox Viscardi of Raleigh, N.C., believed he suffered a toxic reaction to a drink handed to him by another attendee.
“He was the victim of a terrible mishap,” Viscardi’s family said in a statement to WJZ-TV. “According to his close college friend who was with him, the afternoon was hot and he drank water that was given to him by others who were in the area. We believe that this contained a substance, unbeknownst to him, to which he had a toxic reaction.”
The prevalence of MDMA, or Molly, in the electronic dance music culture has caught the attention of the mainstream media due to the deaths of EDM show attendees in recent years.
In 2010, a 15-year-old girl died from a suspected MDMA overdose at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Los Angeles, where a 24-year-old man overdosed on ecstasy in 2013. That same year, MDMA was blamed for the deaths of two people from the Electric Zoo festival in New York City, according to the authorities. And just last weekend, an attendee at the Hard Summer EDM festival in LA died of an “apparent drug overdose.”
As Baltimore prepares for the first-ever Moonrise Festival this weekend, which will feature EDM stars Kaskade and Bassnectar, authorities have been on heightened alert for the drug. “Over the past year or so, we’re seeing a significant increase in the use of ecstasy in the Baltimore area,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gary Tuggle of the Baltimore office. “It’s becoming an increasing public hazard. They don’t realize how dangerous this stuff is,” he said.
Though the high-profile deaths at EDM parties inevitably give off the impression that MDMA abuse is a problem with EDM culture, Dr. Matthew Johnson, associate professor of psychiatry and behavior sciences at Johns Hopkins University said that while EDM and MDMA are often linked, he would not blame the music genre for the drug’s rising popularity. And contrary to the claims of the authorities, Johnson pointed out that most people at these events are not using MDMA.
“I have no doubt that if electronic dance music didn’t exist that people would be using MDMA,” Johnson said. “Most people that are exposed to MDMA aren’t taking it to a rave or another dance music venue. They’ve gotten it from their friend. They’re trying it at home or somewhere else at a party,” he said.