Students discuss safer drug use at concerts and festivals

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, known around campus as SSDP, hosted a discussion on “Sensible Drug Use at Shows and Festivals” on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The event, which took place in the gallery of the Memorial Union, featured speaker Sylvia Zelaya, the Director of the New England chapter of DanceSafe, an organization created to promote harm reduction and spread education about drugs and drug consumption.

Haley Cedarholm, President of SSDP, said that they were very eager to have this conversation. Cedarholm stated that SSDP “is a grass-roots, student led, organization with chapters all over the country and the world. SSDP works to end the war on drugs and adopt sensible drug policies that focus on science, health, racial justice and human rights.” She says that the club aspires to change policies on campus, in the local communities, statewide and nationally.

Zelaya’s presentation went over many topics related to safe drug consumption and the music setting. She gave information on certain types of drugs, such as depressants, stimulants, psychedelics and opioids, examples of them, their effects on the body, and the risks associated with consumption. She implored that everyone who uses drugs tests them first. The tests can’t tell you exactly what the substance is, but rather identifies the presence of a substance. DanceSafe recommends using one or more testing reagent to improve the results. Often times drugs can be laced and cut with other substances, which can be extremely dangerous. Zelaya also spoke about the importance of knowing the proper dosage and the reliability of the source in which you are buying from.

Both SSDP and DanceSafe neither condone nor condemn drug consumption, but recognize that many people do engage in useage and that they “want them to be as safe and healthy as possible.”

The discussion had about twenty people in attendance. When Zelaya was finished with her presentation, she opened it up to a Q&A. Following the presentation, audience member, Kayla MacEachern, reflected on the event, saying, “the information provided to us was extremely useful, and I believe a lot more people at [the University of Rhode Island] could use this kind of information. I see way too many people doing all kinds of questionable things to their bodies and spreading valuable, unbiased harm reduction information would most certainly affect this campus in a positive way.

Another student in attendance, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “I learned a lot tonight about the drug industry and drug consumption. I’ve used drugs on occasion, but didn’t realize some of the dangers surrounding some of my actions, like not testing the drugs before I consume them, or mixing certain drugs, like Xanax, with drinking [alcohol].”

The discussion wasn’t just targeted toward people who partake in drug use. Zelaya spoke about ways to help other people around you who might be having a bad time on drugs. Many college-aged kids go to concerts and music festivals, and whether you personally engage in drugs or not, it is still important to be educated in order to be a helpful bystander. Zelaya gave tips on recognizing signs that someone needs assistance, whether it be that they need friendly support or medical attention.

DanceSafe does not only promote drug education. They also urge concert and festival goers to protect their hearing, stay hydrated, practice safe sex and know their rights. They often have tables at local concerts and festivals to spread awareness about their organization and the causes they stand for, and hand out pamphlets, water, and overall provide a safe resource for people who may need it.

This was by no means an event put on to encourage people to do drugs. Zelaya spent a portion of time speaking about overdoses and deaths from unsafe drug consumption. As unfortunate as these deaths were, she said that many could have been prevented if users had been more educated about drug use. The evening was eye opening and informative, and contained information that has the potential to prevent a lot of harm in the future.

For more information, visit: facebook.com/URIssdp &

facebook.com/dancesafe.newengland