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Drug Deaths: Rock Stars and Electronic Music Festivals

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Drug Deaths: Rock Stars and Electronic Music Festivals

At what age are famous musicians at most risk of dying, the dangers of drug use at electronic music festivals?


When Rock Musicians are Most at Risk of Dying

You learn something every day. Until recently, I had never heard about the commonly held theory, or perception, that rock stars involved in drug use are at most risk of dying at age 27 (“The 27 Club”).  guitarist illustration.jpgThere’s a roster of big names that bears that out: Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, and Kurt Cobain, among others. But a study reported in The Wall Street Journal finds that’s not true. An Australian researcher found that “the average male musician dies in his late 50s, compared with 75 for men outside the industry during the period.” Female musicians fare better, lasting until their early 60’s, which is still younger than the average age that women die—80.

The author also says that touring takes it toll on musicians, and that fatal accidents occur twice as often in the music industry and suicides occur at three times the rate in the general population. The study purports to be the largest ever done on this topic.

It’s not as if this creative group is turning a blind eye.  I’ve posted previously about Music Cares, the non-profit that supports musicians with drug problems. But it’s always difficult when we’re talking about drug use. Critics are still saying the industry isn’t doing enough to address the situation, and that there’s a lack of support for young people entering the industry.

Still, numerous celebrities are helping the cause, and some of them are truly inspiring. Two who come to mind are Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi’s band. Tyler is simply eloquent about his struggles on the talk shows he’s appeared on, and Sambora is the face of treatment and recovery up and down New Jersey where he is speaking out in a number of communities laid low by heroin. Then there are the young role models like Taylor Swift, sometimes hard to find in all the hubub about those traveling the wrong path.

Update on Electronic Dance Music Festivals

Since I’m talking about dying from drug use, perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on last summer’s electronic music festivals, where members of the audience have died from Molly (aka Ecstacy or MDMA). Call it what you will, it’s safe to say that a number of people (at least treatment and recovery professionals) were hoping that things would be different this summer. Here’s an article in which two festival organizers were interviewed and indicated that they had rallied and taken numerous steps to stop concertgoers from using Molly, which would mean the end of the overdoses. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

That’s what these events are all about, to paraphrase some of the comments people wrote in after reading that article. “Electronic Dance Music would not be so popular without Ecstacy,” and the organizers painting a rosy picture know that, said Martin, from Brooklyn. Steve, from the Bay area, blamed the drug use on the availability of MDMA. And then there’s the comment from a person in Peru: “There is just so much that [the organizers] can do… Unfortunately, the irresponsible, the reckless, and the clueless will always find a way to harm themselves.”

Around the same time, a journalist interviewed a 22-year-old DJ of this type of music and asked him if he was bothered by the drug culture at electronic dance music festivals. His answer is priceless: “I don’t smoke, and I’ve never rolled [taken MDMA…]. “ But he admits to drinking “a lot of caffeine.”

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