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Electronic music brings ‘club drug’ controversy

By Phungushead, Dec 1, 2012 | Updated: Dec 1, 2012 | |
  1. Phungushead
    Through Curry’s Self Over Substance program, Mike Frost, the interim director of Counseling and Psychological Services, has heard more about LSD (acid) within the last two years, as well as an increased use of MDMA (molly).

    SOS sees 500 to 700 students a year. While the majority of those students aren’t talking about club drugs, he said they are more frequently brought up because of an increase in raves and electronic music events throughout the state.

    “They use pot, they do hallucinogens and they drink,” he said. “Those have kind of been a top three. But different things go out of fashion.”

    Lt. Scott Brodie said police are looking for club drugs like MDMA, ketamine and ecstasy at parties. There were a few busts at Disco Bloodbath’s Halloween bash in October, most notably the arrest of football player Trevor Poole, but Brodie said that’s not out of the ordinary for such an event. Most busts for club drugs are at parties or specialized events.

    “We do encounter (club drugs) from time to time, but it’s not with the frequency that we encounter the regular illicit drugs,” he said.

    Illicit drugs like cocaine, meth and heroine are more commonly found in Missoula and are a larger problem, Brodie said. MDMA is a derivative of methamphetamine and therefore has similar effects. Brodie said. Because of this, and the specialized use of club drugs, Brodie speculates there is less of a demand for them. While he expects to see these drugs become more common as the population increases, Brodie said it’s average for a college town.

    “As the population of Missoula grows, we see more and more of (club drugs), but it’s still not near the problem that the regular illicit drugs are,” Brodie said. “It’s not something everyone uses everyday, typically. Some people probably do.”

    For “Ben,” an economics major, experimenting with molly grew out of two curiosities: His interest in the scene and molly as a form of treatment.

    “I just kind of got interested in rave drugs because of electronic dance music, like, stupidly enough,” he said.

    When Ben first tried molly in the fall at age 19, it wasn’t at a concert or rave. He’d been dealing with depression since his early teen years and heard that MDMA could help. He said while the $15 pill was a good experience, he no longer uses molly.

    “I’m pretty happy right now so, like, I don’t have any desire to use it again,” he said. “Even if I was in such low spirits as to merit another use, I would still consider as many other alternatives as I could.”

    Ben acknowledged drugs can be dangerous, but he said that like alcohol, drugs can also be used responsibly.

    “I believe people are free to do what they will with their bodies,” Ben said. “Personally, I think that used in moderation, when you’re very careful with its usage, I think it’s a fantastic drug and a fantastic experience for anyone, really.”

    Not knowing the substance is one of the biggest dangers with club drugs, said Sherrill Brown, an associate professor at the University of Montana’s pharmacy school. With a drug like ecstasy that’s cut with another substance such as heroine, Brown said the risks are increased. If mixed with alcohol, the effects of the drug are stronger, which adds another problem, she said.

    “There’s really no way to tell, if someone just hands you a capsule, what’s in it anyway,” she said. “So, that’s always a problem. You don’t really know what the person is selling you or handing you at the party.”

    The appeal of taking these drugs for specialized events, Brown said, is because of their energizing effects. MDMA also enhances perception and causes hallucinations and blurred vision. With serious use, it can cause liver and kidney problems or result in seizures and comas. Ketamine and LSD have similar effects.

    Jeff, a 20-year-old journalism major, describes the sensation as a paradox.

    “You’re content with everything in life,” he said. “It’s kind of a mix of an adrenaline rush with the calming mental sensation of doing yoga.”

    His experimentation with molly began in the music scene, but he has occasionally taken drugs outside of raves and parties. Jeff cut back last year after dropping acid for a week. He said seeing one of his friends go home because of a drug-induced psychosis put his life in perspective. Though Jeff still enjoys using molly, he primarily takes club drugs only at raves, parties or music festivals.

    Nineteen-year-old UM student Alex, one of Jeff’s friends, first experimented with acid a few days after her 18th birthday during a State Radio concert. She’s since used other drugs such as molly, mushrooms and opiates.

    One reason she uses acid, Alex said, is to help her face her problems. Though Alex would like to eventually do that sober, it helps for now. She does plan on quitting when she’s older.

    “I’ve noticed even in the past year anytime I do take drugs now, I take a lot more time to recover from it afterwards, just because I’m so physically and mentally exhausted,” she said. “I know I’ll simmer down in a little while, but it’s fun while I’m young.”

    While Alex has primarily seen the use of club drugs at raves, concerts and parties, she’s noticed more students using them recreationally this year.

    Growing up, Alex was against drugs. That changed after being emancipated from her Mormon household before turning 17. Alex moved from Whitefish to Polson and began spending more time in Missoula. She said she likes using club drugs at music events because it heightens her senses.

    “There’s a lot of energy and there’s a lot of love for the music, and so drugs like molly, or MDMA, primarily those drugs bring that out a lot,” Alex said. “They’re very emotional, and they’re very high-energy. It integrates into the art of it.”

    One of the creators of Disco Bloodbath, DJ Tim Heitman, said the drug stigma attached to electronic music isn’t unique.

    “I think a lot of the drug culture comes from music in general,” he said. “I don’t think it necessarily has to do with electronic music. But what’s happening in more recent years, I think, is the younger generation of kids — especially in a place like Montana where their isn’t a lot of exposure to outside culture other than what’s popular at the time — they go to these events and that’s their first exposure to any kind substance, and so that’s probably why there is such a stigma.”

    When Heitman moved from Minneapolis to Missoula in 2006, he said the electronic music scene was more of a small niche. Nationally, he said, the scene wasn’t very large when he moved to Montana.

    “Nobody was really playing that kind of stuff,” Heitman said. “We just wanted to strive to push boundaries and play popular UK music.”

    He and his fellow friends and performers wanted to create more of a scene in Missoula. Disco Bloodbath started in 2010. Heitman said they only expected a couple hundred people, but instead 1,500 showed before midnight. The next year, 3,500 tickets sold before 1 a.m. Once again, 3,500 partygoers attended in October.

    Though some people may see music festivals and parties as an opportunity to get high, Heitman said, his goal is to showcase music.

    “I don’t think these events are specifically about doing drugs and seeing what you can find and what you can do,” he said. “It’s always about the music, always about the production, and it’s more about the experience than anything.”

    Heitman would prefer if people attended sober so they could really take in the scene and the music.

    November 30, 2012

    Cassidy Belus


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