Often hailed as the cultural capital of South America, Buenos Aires is known for not only its European architecture, but the nightlife, entertainment and events that takes place amongst it all. Two weeks ago, reports broke that five people had died and a further five were hospitalised after suffering drug overdoses at one of those such events, the Time Warp festival. In response to the deaths, the Argentinian capital’s mayor has announced that the city will halt issuing permits for major electronic music festivals for the foreseeable future. Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, said the measure would remain in effect until a law to prevent drug abuse during such events is passed.
The festival, which originated in Germany and was taking place in Buenos Aires for the third year in a row, is just one of the latest events where suspected drug overdoses have resulted in hospitalisation and death. The event’s second day was cancelled following the deaths. Rightfully so, officials are frightened at the very real prospect of their citizens dying at raves and festivals, but a knee-jerk reaction like banning all electronic music festivals is unlikely to end well.
Closer to home, a 15-year-old was hospitalised over the weekend following a suspected overdose at Groovin The Moo‘s Maitland event. These incidents are growing in frequency and severity, with seven deaths in the past twelve months at Australian festivals alone. It all indicates that something needs to change, but a change that sees events banned prohibition-era style isn’t the kind that’s needed right now. What is needed is a greater access to education around drugs as well as the introduction of pill testing at festivals. A ban would no doubt have an outcome that is in direct contradiction to keeping people safe. There is no doubt in our minds that it would result in the electronic scene being forced back underground with less supervision and fewer safety measures around drugs and drug use.
Howl & Echoes is a major advocate for drug education and regulation. Drug testing at events like music festivals should be legally implemented as soon as possible to assist in avoiding future drug-related incidents and injuries. Harm reduction should be the top priority for all those in law enforcement and health services, and we will continue to do what we can to raise awareness and understanding of these issues.