HomeWorld NewsFentanyl raises drug overdose risk at Electric Daisy Carnival – Orlando Sentinel
Fentanyl raises drug overdose risk at Electric Daisy Carnival – Orlando Sentinel
November 8, 2023
The Electric Daisy Carnival is this weekend, and festival organizers are trying to ensure attendees party smartly.
The festival, which features electronic dance music, live DJs spinning and carnival acts, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people to Tinker Field on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Attendance over the past couple years has been around 300,000.
With large gatherings, however, comes the opportunity for stampede, dehydration, exhaustion and drug overdoses.
Insomniac, the festival’s organizer, states on its website that it enforces a zero-tolerance drug policy at its events, while an Orlando police spokesperson said security in and around the event is a “top priority.” But it’s an open secret that patrons sneak drugs past security into festivals like these.
“The festival is a microcosm of the challenges we face right now,” said Andrae Bailey, founder and CEO of Orlando-based nonprofit Project Opioid.
Unfortunately, overdoses are becoming more and more common, driven by fentanyl, a drug up to 50 times stronger than heroin that cartels have started mixing with other drugs like MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine and pills because it’s cheaper. Fentanyl overdoses are now the top cause of death among U.S. residents ages 18-45, according to an analysis of federal data by opioid awareness organization Families Against Fentanyl.
In many cases people don’t realize they’re even taking fentanyl, said Bailey.
“People often are like, ‘I would never do cocaine or heroin.’ Yeah, but you might do a Percocet. You might do what you think is Molly, you might do MDMA,” Bailey said. “Young people are in environments where they may be doing fentanyl without even knowing it. We need to make sure that one bad choice doesn’t equal their death.”
Insomniac and local nonprofits like Project Opioid are working to ensure overdoses aren’t a part of the festival.
Project Opioid will be outside the festival distributing over 1,000 units of Kloxxado, a nasal spray double the strength of traditional Narcan. Festivals and raves are increasingly making this life-saving drug available and allowing it inside their gates following documented drug-related deaths in recent years of attendees at events like Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Burning Man and EDC Las Vegas.
Insomniac has been in partnership with End Overdose since 2022, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing drug-related death through education, medical intervention, and public awareness. End Overdose will be inside the festival providing the opioid overdose reversal nasal spray naloxone (Narcan) along with naloxone certification. Festival staff are equipped with and trained in naloxone administration, a spokesperson said.
The drug was also recently approved for sale over the counter at major retailers including CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.
“We are facing a deadly drug epidemic that is growing at exponential rates every single day. Dangerous levels of fentanyl are being found in many forms of powder and pill-pressed substances, and oftentimes laced in other lower-risk drugs. Accidental deaths from opioids and fentanyl are happening in our schools, in our homes, at festivals & in our communities,” said Pasquale Rotella, founder and CEO of Insomniac, in a press release announcing the End Overdose partnership in 2022.
Narcan is completely safe and there’s no harm in administering it even if it turns out someone wasn’t overdosing on opioids. It will not reverse overdoses of any other drug, however, a Food and Drug Administration news release reads.
Bailey also encourages attendees to bring Fentanyl test strips, which take just minutes to work and can detect fentanyl the vast majority of the time. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bipartisan bill decriminalizing the strips in July. They were previously considered drug paraphernalia.
In 2021, the first year EDC returned after it was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orlando Fire Department said 461 people were treated and 36 were taken to the hospital. The numbers do not specify for what conditions they were treated. The numbers, reported by WTSP in Tampa Bay, marked a 25% decrease in medical calls compared to the 2019 festival.
An OFD spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking similar data from last year.
A statement from Orlando Police Department said the safety and security of everyone, including attendees to large-sale events, is a top priority. Police declined to discuss specific security measures.
“We always assess the needs of the event to make any necessary security modifications in order to provide proper public safety,” an unsigned statement read in part. “The Orlando Police Department wants to remind our community to always call 9-1-1 or flag down an officer working the event if they see anything suspicious.”
The OPD statement said four arrests related to theft were made in connection with the festival.
EDC’s website advises festival-goers to seek medical attention at one of its four marked first aid stations or to find an event staff member if they suspect someone is suffering from a medical issue or overdose.
Staff should be notified if someone is losing consciousness, exhibits weak or no breathing, choking or gurgling sounds, a limp body, vomiting, and cold, clammy or discolored skin, the website shares.
If you suspect someone is overdosing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises calling 911, administering Narcan, trying to keep them awake and laying them on their side to prevent them from choking.
In many cases, the effects of fentanyl are so powerful that a single dose of Narcan won’t work. If there’s no change after two to three minutes, MayoClinic’s website advises giving another dose.