Series Post 1: Festivals and Drug Use

Festivals. We’ve all seen archive footage from the Woodstock of 1969; images of free-loving hippies, tripping on acid and moving to the jams of the era. It was nothing but music, dancing, love and drugs. In fact, drugs played a large part at Woodstock and things might have played out a lot differently should they have been prohibited in accordance with the law.
Although over forty years have passed, you can still find these same scenes playing out at the festivals of today and ironically enough, you can even find the same drugs.
With that in mind, one might wonder, how drugs were first introduced to the festival culture and what it is about certain festivals that encourages people to so commonly use them. As a frequent festi-goer, I myself have even considered this from time to time. So, where does this story begin? Not surprisingly enough, it all begins back during the days of Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey.
According to an article by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, although festivals of many types, including popular music festivals, had been around since the 1950s, it was in the late 1960s that these developed into a focal point for psychedelic drug use. Advocates and frequent users themselves, Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey, helped bring drugs like LSD to the masses through their frequent “Acid Tests.” During this time, they had what they called “be-ins,” or gatherings in which all attendees would be given LSD in Kool-Aid. It was from these be-ins that the idea of festivals, like the one at Woodstock, were born.
What we are essentially saying is that festivals of this nature are a concept born from the use of LSD. What kinds of festivals are we talking about exactly? Were talking about festivals that are not only notorious for being free but also for bartering, self-reliance, self-expression, volunteerism, non-violence, love, etc.
It only seemed natural that LSD and other drugs continued to be used at such events. Other popular drugs at these festivals include; magic mushrooms, marijuana, alcohol and MDMA or ecstasy.
A recent study monitoring illicit drug use at music festivals in Australia, found that over 44% of young people between the ages of 16-29 had used illegal drugs at least once in the past month. Given that this study was done on a sample of only 5000 people this is still a fairly high number, and I would bet that if this study was done in the U.S., the results would turn out a lot higher. Most kids these days grow up being taught how harmful drugs are and how we should avoid them altogether. With such education, why is the number of users still so high?
This can be attributed to the fact, that at festivals drugs are not viewed as a bad thing. Sure, people recognize the harm that they can do to our bodies, but for the most part they are used to explore the mind and to have new and profound experiences. Most festival attendees use drugs like LSD, mushrooms and ecstasy to enhance their festival experience. There are arts displays, light visuals, and music; all of which can be significantly enhanced and much more appreciated by the use of these drugs. It doesn’t end there but they are also used to explore the inner depths of the mind, often times leading to intense conclusions about oneself and the world around us.
It is safe to say that for the most part drugs are used in a positive way at festivals; nonetheless there is always a negative side. There are always the people who use too much, people who develop habits, and there have likely been deaths attributed to over drug use. Good or bad, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that most of these drugs being used are illegal. If this is the case than how are these drugs so commonly used, and should something be done to reduce the amount of drug use? How might avid festival attendees react? Valid questions, all of which we will continue to explore. 


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. amberxrylie
    Dec 06, 2010 @ 06:49:06

    Great post! It’s interesting to read about how drug use at these festivals began and how festival goers “use drugs in a good way”. I can see how that statement could stir up controversy but it’s interesting to see the other perspective.


  2. kristyng18
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 20:27:55

    Very interesting post! I, too, have done a lot of research on this. Many movies today, such as “Taking Woodstock” show how drugs played such a huge role during the 60’s at festivals. I watched a show on VH1 as well that gave the history and background of LSD during that time and how Timothy Leary would help bring those drugs in. I feel as though that most of the time they are used in a good way. Like you said, many people today are continuing to experience with these drugs regardless of they’re good or bad.


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