When preparing for a festival, we put a heavy emphasis on the preemptive measures we ought to take before we do anything that may alter our minds - like educating ourselves on drugs and their effects, testing what we ingest, and staying hydrated.
But real harm reduction is about so much more than reducing the negative consequences associated with our own drug use.
It’s about the opportunity to combat ignorance with information by helping others make better, safer choices. And when that opportunity comes, we should take it.
I’d like to say that when it comes to my personal safety, I’ve always made the right decisions, but that simply isn’t true. At a festival I attended this summer with a fellow Drug Policy Alliance intern, I had a sobering experience that prompted me to write this piece.
We often sweat life's big decisions, but it's the little decisions that matter the most – the ones we deem inconsequential and can only appreciate in hindsight. At festivals and shows it is common to meet fellow music fans and instantly form bonds that transcend the traditional way friendships are formed.
So of course after the show was over we ran into a friend of a friend that offered us a ride home. In our tired state we didn’t think much of it and accepted the ride with gratitude.
What should have been a ten-minute ride home turned into a twenty-minute scary near-death experience. The driver hit a curb and we were momentarily suspended in the air. I’ve never really had a near-death experience, but it was right then and there that I realized I made a huge mistake. Everyone got home safe, but that experience resonated with me.
It would be easy to blame the driver for not being more aware of her own state before getting behind the wheel of a car and offering a ride. But I recognize my own naiveté in accepting a ride without asking pertinent questions like if the driver had taken drugs that day and the simplest question of all, “Are you ok to drive?”
When we make the decision to drink or use drugs we are having an experience that hinders our inhibitions and ability to make the best decisions. Therefore it’s important to look around you while you’re at the party – be aware not just of yourself but of your friends and the people around you.
It’s one thing to educate yourself and practice personal harm reduction, and another to actually put into practice that acronym that EDM culture claims, P.L.U.R - peace, love, unity, respect. No person is an island unto himself or herself and sometimes you can help someone make a better choice – like take a taxi instead of driving – and save not just them but the people around them too.
So if you’re going to EZoo, a good first step is to attend DanceSafe’s Zoo Survival Night on August 28. It’s free and it will be an evening of harm reduction education, gift bags, and a special presentation to demonstrate how to use a drug testing kit. Everyone who plans to use drugs, or knows someone that will, ought to stop by.
But at the party and afterward, I hope you’ll consider how you can help other people stay safe as well. You could save someone from making a poor decision like my friend and I made earlier this year.
You could save someone’s life.
Stephanie Izquieta is an intern for the Drug Policy Alliance.