Malaysia is currently in an uproar over the death of six revelers who died at last year’s Future Music Festival in Kuala Lumpur. The reason for the sustained outrage is that The Livescape Group, which ran the festival, initially claimed that the attendees died because they took drugs, principally MDMA. Now, a prominent pathologist is claiming that the deceased had only an average level of the recreational drug in their system, indicating heatstroke as a more likely culprit and indicating at least some culpability on the part of Livescape.
It’s a sad story and one worth keeping in mind this festival season because the two different theories about the Malaysian six aren’t as contradictory as the initially seem. MDMA can exacerbate heatstroke. There are plenty of ways to die from doing drugs without dying from doing drugs.
And most of them are pretty avoidable.
MDMA, which you know affectionately as Molly, is the concert drug par excellence. It’s everywhere at almost every music festival (heavy metal, not so much). And for good reason: The drug induces something between extreme friendliness and euphoria and makes you want to dance. The problem the Malaysia scandal illustrates is that MDMA puts its fans at risk of hyperthermia by raising their core temperature. There are other side effects as well, but that’s the one to watch if you’re at a concert in the middle of a big shade-free field.
Granted, that concern is less pressing when you’re in a field in Tennessee than when you’re in a parking lot in one of the hottest cities on Earth, but the point stands.
Is the Malaysia scandal some sort of proof that drugs are bad? Absolutely not, and that country’s draconian sentencing for drug crime is an embarrassment. That said, having a little water handy is a damn good idea. And, even if you’re going to ignore your mother’s other pieces of advice, you can always wear a hat.