Nothing kills the vibes at an EDM festival like watching a drugged-up kid, sweating and exhausted, get wheeled out of a crowd with heat stroke. Cooling stations and bottled water are as much a part of festivals like Electric Zoo and EDC as the MDMA they’re meant to treat, but sometimes they’re not enough to deal with ecstasy-induced hyperthermia, a common and dangerous condition that requires controlled — and quick — treatment. Luckily for future ravers, a new drug meant to treat hyperthermia triggered by MDMA or meth is now on its way to becoming a music festival staple.
Ryanodex, an injectable drug developed by Eagle Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is meant to act like an ice pack for the brain, cooling it down when drug use goes awry. The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Drug Abuse just agreed to start preclinical tests on the drug’s ability to treat overheating induced by MDMA and meth, specifically.
Dropping MDMA (that includes its relatives, molly and ecstasy) or taking meth causes the temperature of the body — and, crucially, the brain — to skyrocket, which is what ultimately lands people in the emergency room. In 2011, the last time officials took count, brain hyperthermia landed 125,000 people in the emergency room after taking either drug. MDMA and meth have the unfortunate side effect of messing with the brain’s ability to regulate body temperature, which, when left unchecked, can cause the cells in the liver, kidney, and heart to burn out and die; in the worst cases, this can be fatal.
One emergency room director put it succinctly in the L.A. Times: The heat triggered by the drugs can reach “the kind of temperatures that there’s no other way to describe it other than it will melt your organs and do damage to your organs to the point you will die.”
This is especially dangerous in festival settings, where the combination of huge crowds, summer heat, and endless dancing so often culminate in a sweaty, dehydrated mess. Right now, the best medical personnel can do in these situations is to help cool people down with fans and mist; but, as the tragic molly-induced deaths at 2013’s Electric Zoo sadly illustrated, more effective treatments are desperately needed.
The tests on Ryanodex, beginning this summer, will use animal models, but with positive results, they could make the rapid transition to human clinical trials as soon as next year. Until it makes it into the medical tents, however, the onus is on music festival organizers to provide more cooling stations and medical personnel, especially as local government officials — L.A. County, specifically, has cracked down hard — move to ban EDM festivals altogether.