There is growing concern among researchers that substance police tactics at music festivals are actually harming, rather than preventing, participants.
Researchers at the University of NSW's St. Vincent’s Clinical School investigated the phenomenon of "panic overdose" at music festivals – reactionary behavior that leads participants to consume large amounts of banned substances for fear of being arrested by law enforcement agencies.
The Guardian notes that the study began with a sample of 1,229 participants, 30% of whom admitted or had previously admitted to using drugs. The most common drug preference was MDMA.
About half of those who wanted to consume MDMA (48%) also stated that they resort to more risky consumer behavior in order not to be caught with the substances. This included consuming multiple doses of the drug before entering the festival in question.
The researchers concluded that this high-risk behavior was closely related to the police's observation of the event by the participants. This included patrolling police officers, the use of drug detection dogs and searches at entrances. According to reports, researchers hope that the policing climate at music festivals can be reformed to reduce the risk of panic overdoses in the future.
"I really hope we can have a conversation, not about completely removing the police, but possibly a different approach to police strategy that is not just about criminalizing drug users," said the University of NSW researcher, Dr. Jonathan Brett, on The Guardian wants people to be safer and healthier, so we need to discuss how best to do this. "