Established in 1998 in Oakland, California, as a nonprofit organization, DanceSafe has two fundamental operating principles: harm reduction and peer-based, popular education. Combining these two principles has enabled the organization to create successful, peer-based educational programs to reduce drug misuse and empower young people to make healthy, informed lifestyle choices. DanceSafe neither condones nor condemns recreational drug use. Rather, they provide a non-judgmental perspective to help support people who use drugs in making informed decisions about their health and safety. DanceSafe volunteers staff harm reduction booths at music festivals, raves, nightclubs, and other electronic dance music (EDM) events to ensure positive experiences.
Today, EDM is the fastest growing youth culture, and the community DanceSafe serves stretches far and wide. Current programs and initiatives aim to provide safe spaces to engage in conversations about health, drug use, and personal safety; provide free water, electrolytes, safe sex tools, and ear plugs at EDM events; provide honest, fact-based, unbiased information on drug effects and potential harms; offer nonjudgmental first-point of contact to risky or challenging situations; offer drug checking services to prevent overdoes and death; and work with promoters and local stakeholders to advocate for safety first approaches.
Thus, DanceSafe has created a list of 10 Safety Tips to ensure you and your friends have fun, safe experiences at electronic music festivals:
1. The Buddy System
Always travel with a friend. Always share with your friend any potential substances you have taken and how much. Communicate if you are not feeling well or if you need a break.
2. Chill Out and Take a Break
Dancing and exhausting your body for several hours can result in dehydration or heat exhaustion, with or without the use of substances. Be sure to take a break and cool-down regularly.
3. Hydrate and Replenish Electrolytes
Dehydration and heatstroke are real issues. Most medical emergencies are a direct result of heatstroke and/or dehydration. Drink a bottle of water per hour and supplement with sports drinks such as Gatorade.
Extra Safety Tip: Bring a large jug or camelback to refill and share water with your friends and others around you who may be in need.
4. Know Your Dosage and Source
If you do choose to use a substance, know how much you are consuming and manage potential re-dosing. Remember – “Less is more!” Also, getting substances from strangers can be risky business! Make sure to know your source and drug contents.
5. Test it!
Take it one step further and test it! If you do choose to use a substance, you should know what you are choosing to put in your body to prevent any unintentional risk. Results from DanceSafe’s drug checking program (2011- 2013), show that about half of all powders or pills that users indicated were “Molly” contained no MDMA at all. Furthermore, in New York in 2013, results from the DEA indicate that only 9% of all chemical analysis of “Molly” samples exhibit MDMA. For instructions on how to test and to pick up your own personal kit, visit our testing kit instructions.
6. Be Cautious When Mixing Substances
Again, if you do choose to use a substance and choose to use multiple substances, be very careful with drug cocktails. When mixing substances, especially those with different effects on the central nervous system (i.e. depressant vs. stimulant), you increase your risk of unwanted health consequences or death. Subsequently, be cautious when mixing 2 or more depressants, as your heart and breathing may slow, and when mixing 2 or more stimulants, as your heart and breathing may rapidly increase.
7. Get Proper Sleep and Nutrition
This may be easier said than done, but remember – your body maintains homeostasis with the nutrients and vitamins it needs and a proper sleep schedule. We can still have fun without pushing our bodies too hard. Make sure to eat healthy meals and get appropriate sleep before and after the event. Make sure to eat well before heading to the festival and eat a sufficient meal after.
8. Protect Your Hearing
Sound levels at events can be as high as 115+ decibels, which can cause damage within a few seconds. The risk of hearing damage depends on: (1) How loud the music is; (2) How close you are to the speakers; (3) How long you are on the dance floor; and (4) Previous or a family history of hearing damage. Wear basic earplugs or, if you attend events regularly, invest in a reusable pair that do not distort the sound. Visit our website for more info or check out Cultivora’s Etymotic Music•PRO Earplugs review.
9. If You’re Sexually Active, Come Prepared with Protection
If you are sexually active, come prepared with an option for birth control and protection from sexually transmitted infections. We all know we are more likely to engage in sexual activity when out with our friends in a relaxed and social environment. It’s not pretentious to come prepared; it’s responsible and pragmatic. Safe is sexy!
Extra Safety Tip: Protect yourself from potential sexual assault by: (1) Be aware of predators looking for vulnerable targets; (2) Prepare an exit strategy; (3) Establish your comfortability in discussing healthy relationships and consent; (4) Understand the definition of consent. Rape includes having sex with someone who is too drunk or intoxicated to consent to the act.; (5) Have a travel buddy; and (6) Never take drinks or drugs from strangers.
10. Know Your Rights!
With our current prohibition culture, it is inevitable that you will have to interact with law enforcement and/or security while traveling to/from or entering the event. Thus, it is important to know your rights and how to engage with and speak to law enforcement. For more information and strategies, The Festival Lawyer, Drug Policy Alliance, and The AMPLIFY Project have additional resourceful information.