More than a week after two young adults died and 13 others were hospitalized, having ingested what Toronto police are calling “party drugs” at the VELD Music Festival, a debate on whom to blame rages on.
Should the organizers have had more security, or done more to limit the all too predictable drug use? Or does the responsibility fall squarely on the people who themselves bought and ingested drugs they knew little or nothing about?
The police have not yet been able to pinpoint what drugs were most used at VELD, but some festival-goers had taken more than 10 pills, and some had ingested pills they had picked off the ground – which suggests ignorance as well as recklessness.
The best way to prevent any similar tragedies is through education and dialogue.
It’s not enough to simply tell young people that drugs “are bad for you” and “may kill you.” Sensible and useful conversations can take place only if there are contexts in which young people can talk frankly about the effects of drugs, and about what they have experienced, or may experience.
Ontario’s Ministry of Education says that, by the end of their health and phys. ed. curriculum, “students are expected to demonstrate an understanding of factors that contribute to healthy development and demonstrate the ability to apply health knowledge and living skills to make reasoned decisions and take appropriate actions relating to their personal health and well-being.”
Some festival-goers had clearly not absorbed such knowledge.
Critics of the ministry’s policies say there is a need for more settings in which students can engage in an open dialogue with educators about the effects of drugs, and feel comfortable discussing scenarios that they’ve experienced or may experience.
But the responsibility for educating youth about the perils of drug use can’t be only up to schools. Parents, families and everyone else should be open to discussing drug use.
The fact of the matter is that party drugs such as MDMA at live music events – whether at festivals or concerts – is nothing new. No single set of measures could put a stop to the abuse of drugs. In the end, the reassertion of common sense – the reinforcement of the obvious – will save lives.