Happy group of friends enjoying festival and having fun

Coachella, Drug Use and Why It’s an Open Forum for Overdose

For music fans living in the Southwest, mid-April is the much-anticipated time of year where mosh meets mush in the desert. Nestled in the Polo Club grounds of Indio, California is where you’ll find them – hundreds of thousands of people searching for the next great adventure that will take them higher while hanging below sea level. And the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival delivers but for the unsuspecting and those quick to trust, it can be a terrifying experience. However, this event mirrors others across the country. Coachella drug use is representative of a larger problem but readily displayed on festival grounds.

Recreational Drug Use on Overload Is the Standard

Heading to a large music festival is much like choosing to join a community of strangers who will likely act unpredictably compared to those outside this community (statistically speaking). This isn’t because of the music they prefer, the clothes they wear or the way they ride into the festival. It’s about their drug of choice, aka drugs of choice.

Festival Owners Have the Advantage

Contrary to popular belief, Coachella and other music fests are not like Woodstock. Today’s open air multiple-day live band concerts are well-planned, strategically marketed, corporate events geared to gain maximum exposure through its attendees (thank you social media). In addition, festival organizers reign in sponsors and vendors who will pay a pretty penny to be there and in turn, charge the public exorbitant amounts of money for the bare necessities, because they can.

Coachella Concert Realities

  • You’re in the desert
  • The sun is hot
  • There aren’t enough water sources
  • There aren’t enough porta-potties
  • There isn’t much shade

The above bulleted list isn’t an exaggeration. It’s truth. Remember that many of the people there are on multiple substances including opioids, Molly or Ecstasy, mushrooms, cannabis and alcohol – just to name a few. Now, reread the bulleted list. Imagine trying to navigate your way through this crowd. For people who remain sober for the event, it can be scary. For those in altered states of consciousness, it can be scarier because they have lost the ability to make sound decisions, let alone know what the hell is going on moment to moment.

The difference between sober vs. spun out is the heightened level of vulnerability that comes with mind-altering experiences, increasing the risks for physical and sexual assault and other crimes against these concert attendees.

State of Mind Is Disconcerting in Concertgoers

It doesn’t take much to think about what could go wrong when attending Coachella or any other festival event. But I didn’t want to solely rely on my own experiences or those of friends and family members. So, I investigated what other people had to say about it and what they were willing to share publicly.

What I learned defines the purpose of these music festivals, at least for those planning on attending in a drug-induced state. And for it, here’s what you can expect:

  • Instances of getting lost
  • Complaints about getting sold bad drugs (is there a good drug?)
  • Waking up with strangers
  • Violently ill for the entire time
  • Missing the music altogether
  • Walking in a sea of shi* – literally
  • Visits to onsite medical tents (if there’s room for you)

Sounds like a good time, right? Not so much. This begs the question… is Coachella really about the music?

Attend Coachella in Survivalist-Mode Because It Is a Hot Mess

If security measures were a priority at Coachella, how could attendees indulge at the rate they do? If you go or have friends that are attending, consider having an action plan and memorize it, in case you need it.

People can get caught up in the moment of a shared musical experience and lose perspective. If you were with a bunch of strangers at a ballgame, would you willingly take a handful of pills without a second thought? Doubtful. But for some reason, people take liberties at these events. Coachella drug use is no different.

You Don’t Know What They Don’t Know and It Could Hurt You

Out of body experiences aren’t happenstance at weekend-long music fests, they are on purpose. As a variety of drugs are passed around or sold at the event and surrounding areas, can you be sure of what’s in it? A definitive “no”.  Just because the pill or powder looks a certain way or the scent of cannabis is familiar, doesn’t mean it’s friendly. Deception kills. Synthetic drugs are infused into drugs to increase the profits for dealers but present fatal flaws for the user. Festival attendees may think a quick vape or hit off a blunt is harmless but if it’s laced with heroin, speed or fentanyl – the ride can be deadly.

You’re the Only One that Matters

Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish: Attending Coachella is one of those times. Because you’ll be surrounded by people who may not be thinking clearly (maybe you’re one of them), follow this guideline to help maximize the festival experience and keep you safe;

  • Map out meeting points with friends at the event on paper
    • Backup plan in case you lose cell juice
  • Activate Coachella wristband via phone app
  • Set up phone notifications to check in with friends
    • In case you drift apart, touch base
  • Bring portable phone charger
  • Identify bathrooms and medical tents close to you
    • If your friend overdoes it, notify an EMT to stop potential overdose
  • Pack light, pack smart
    • Plastic water bottle, empty
    • Long sleeved shirt for night
    • Bandana or hat
    • Sunscreen crème
    • Sunglasses
    • Packaged cleansing wipes
    • Small, portable mister
    • Chewing gum
  • Drink water BEFORE you feel thirsty otherwise it’s too late
  • Wait in line for bathroom BEFORE you have to go, by the time it’s your turn, you’ll be ready

Coachella, like other music festivals, is the perfect environment for people who are skilled at taking advantage of others. The higher you are, the more vulnerable you are to theft and rape. Unfortunately, mental fog, deliriousness and blackouts are common with drug misuse. Victims of crime at these events often don’t even know they’re victims until they come down and have to try and put the pieces together on what happened.

Now that you know the risks, choose wisely.

Want to Come Clean After Coachella, We’re Here to Help