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Molly injuries point to need for better drug education, training

The crowd at the Avicii concert at Brooklyn's Barclay's was similar to the one in Boston where dozens were hospitalized.

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

The crowd at the Avicii concert at Brooklyn's Barclay's was similar to the one in Boston where dozens were hospitalized.

Several factors led to what city officials termed a “mass casualty incident” last week during an electronic dance music concert at TD Garden where more than 80 young people became ill, with nearly half requiring treatment at local hospitals. The most important of those factors reflect the failure of some concert goers to recognize the inherent dangers of illicit drugs and the failure of venue managers to recognize the potential dangers of hosting so-called rave parties.

Boston Police believe that ingestion of a powerful form of the drug ecstasy, known as Molly, contributed to the medical emergency. Health officials warn that the combination of high doses of Molly, frenetic dancing, alcohol use, high temperatures, and dehydration can be especially dangerous. Last August, a 19-year-old woman died of an apparent Molly overdose at the House of Blues in Boston.

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The electronic dance music scene follows its own particular beat of attitudes, intoxicants, and behavior. Calls to ban the concerts exaggerate the problems associated with this form of entertainment. Police, as a rule, don’t worry about the potential for violence at EDM concerts. They concentrate their efforts on drug sales outside the concert venues. But many patrons are already under the influence when they arrive. The danger comes largely in the form of self-harm. Solutions, therefore, should be sought in the area of health education as well as law enforcement.

“There are no safe illicit drugs,” said Barbara Ferrer, Boston’s public health commissioner. “You’re leaving yourself wide open for a terrible outcome.”

The tendency of young people to throw caution aside is all the more reason why managers of entertainment venues need to be more vigilant. Police subsequently cited TD Garden for having intoxicated minors at the concert by Swedish DJ Avicii. But the rush of ambulances was sufficient evidence that some TD Garden employees fell down on the job. Upcoming meetings between city officials and TD Garden managers must determine if event staff are sufficiently trained to identify intoxicated young people. Normal precautions for hosting such concerts also require frequent sweeps of bathrooms for injuries or illicit activities, removing any barriers that might limit the ability of staffers to monitor the crowd, and providing plenty of water, preferably at little or no cost.

The Boston Public Health Commission already has provided extensive training to staffers at the city’s nightclubs on ways to prevent the kinds of injuries seen at last week’s concert. The Commission is overdue for an appearance at TD Garden.

More coverage:

1/26/14: Molly: How a supposedly safe party drug turned lethal

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