An Examination of the nature of drug use as constructed in the rhetoric of music festivals

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An Examination of the nature of drug use as constructed in the rhetoric of music festivals
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Conference Papers


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Auraria Library
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Copyright Mary Patrice Ozanic. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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Good morning and thank you for joining us. My name is Mary Ozanic and I am a graduating senior in the communications department and have applied for grad school in social sciences on the community health track and plan to build a career in the behavioral health field, specifically working with those in recovery from chemical dependency. I am personally an active member of the recovery community and regularly attend 12 Step meetings myself. I am passionate about sharin g my experience, strength and hope for recovery with others who may be in need of help and have identified the power of music as a key influence in my own recovery.


The way in which drug use is constructed in popular culture is one factor that impacts the appeal of drugs to adolescents and young adults O ne significant influence that has been shown to 5 hours a day is noted as the number one non school activity among students. With 87% of te enagers listening to music and two thirds declaring it a hobby, the potential effect of music on the choice to use drugs is substantial. One form of popular music consumption that is particularly associated with drug use is the music festival The music festivals that are memorialized in popular film documentaries are often seen as major cultural happenings and represent historical records of the times This is the case with both the Woodstock Arts and Music Festival held in 1969 in upstate New York and the Electric Daisy Carnival featuring electronic dance music in 2014 in Las Vegas


Documentary films from these two festivals were re viewed to extract data for analysis about drug use. How drug use is depicted in t hese documentaries may have a significant impact on the choices that individuals make regarding recreational drug use Such c ultural influence will become increasingly more significant as more and more states legalize high potency marijuana. The intentio n of my research is to contribute to the body of literature investigating recreational drug use among young people and potential strategies for both harm reduction and prevention of abuse.


as The study is significant because c urrent models and methods of treatment used at rehab centers for recovery from chemical dependency have a high rate of relapse among clients after they are released from the program. The modalities and prevailing methods of therapy in drug treatment programs have changed little over the past decade and may not be adequately addressing the impact of cultural influences such as music festivals as they relate to drug u se.


Data analysis included the scrutiny of drug using scenes, as well as the nature of the music, the clothing, artifacts, paraphernalia, vocabulary, behaviors, emotional states, setting, geography, stated mission and vision that are all part of the drug culture. Relevant studies are concentrated in one of two areas: (1) Medically based research to define the effects and impact of drug use on festival participants in order to identify harm reduction strategies; and (2) Sociology based research that examines th e formation of solidarity within the framework of community building systems at festival sites; the use of music festivals as a form of socialization and festivals as a platform for personal and spiritual growth.


Data Analysis The music festival exp erience appears to inform a sense of self and helps to define for the individual participants their place in the world. The data analysis suggests that factors leading to continued recreational drug use depend on exposure to repeated drug messages, ease o f access to drugs, the social context in which drugs are used, the typology of peer groups, current peer social circles which impart significance to the drug use. depicted in the artifacts involves both the properties of the drug use as impacted on the mind, as well as the influence of the drug use on the physical body. A portion of the data further sug gests that the impact of the festival environment itself on the quality is substantial


Physical and Psychological Effe cts Analysis of the artifacts reveals several distinct areas of effect on the body and mind inclu ding physiological and behavioral changes lowered inhibitions with increased sexual activity, heightened visual and sensory response to stimuli and enhanced individual self expression. assents to drug use as a viable transformative tool for personal growth is accompanied by an element of expected uncertainty as to exactly how the effects of psychedelic drug use will unfold for each individual The unpredictable effects of LSD ap pear to be part of the attraction of psychedelic drug use.


P sychological effects are decidedly more pronounced in the artifacts because users are better able to articulate descriptions of their moods and emotions which include transient and altern ating feelings of excitement, exhaustion, exhilaration, intoxication, euphoria, power, anxiety, confusion, enlightenment, despair and then a spiritual release with a sense of redemption that is described by many users as religious in nature. Users describe achieving new perspectives about oneself with insights on self worth, recollections, redefinitions, acceptance and newfound interest in artistic, soci al and philosophical concerns along with a sense of unusual closeness and unity with others


Analysis of the data also reveals four distinct functions of are: (1) Solidarity as a sense of belonging to a group with emphasis on the importance of group decision making on the choice to use drugs; (2) As a mode of socialization; (3) As a catalyst for personal and spiritual growth and (4) To remedy boredom and routine ordinariness.


Disadvantages of Drug Use at Music Festivals However, a careful analysis of the data also reveals distinct disadvantages associated with the use of recreational drugs at is Recreational drug use requires the incorporation of harm reduction strategies to maintain safe levels of use and optimize effects.


Significance of Mentors Analysis of the data suggests that the musicians, disc jockeys and event staff have the opportunity to play an important role as mentors and role models in the introduction of harm reduction practices. Mentors fill four s ignificant roles: (1) as cultural role models ; (2) as advocates of legitimacy ; (3) as a means through which to communicate messages of support and warnings; and finally, as a model for adoption of harm reduction practices. Peer group members at Elec tric Daisy Carnival seem to be better educated about harm reduction practices than were their counterparts at Woodstock where one of the most famous depictions of a call for harm reduction awareness comes directly from the stage. There, the p.a. announcer informs the crowd,


Conclusion We can conclude that there is a growing faction among participants at music festivals who appear to be more educated and sophisticated about the need to practice harm reduction with recreational drug use in order to create a safe and supportive environment than in the past Young festival goers also appear to be open to re ceiving harm reduction messages from older more experienced peers and from influencers such as the musicians and disc jockeys. Based on these observations, m usic festivals have the potential to be fruitful and lucrative on site locations in which to prom ote and distribute information to recreational drug users about harm reduction strategies and practices that may help deter a percentage of young people from crossing the line into drug abuse and chemical dependency.


Further Studies In an attempt to offer potential remedies, the existing problem that requires research to address is that methods in drug treatment programs have remained virtually unchanged over the past decade, even though drug use in the United States is on the rise am ong young people 18 25 years of age. A more thorough understanding about the nature of the relationship between music and drug use will help align relapse prevention programs and harm reduction strategies with social trends and cultural evolution. # ###