Stop the drugs, not the party

Stop the drugs, not the party
Concert-goers at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the venue for Future Music Festival Asia. The three-day music festival was abruptly cancelled on its final night on 15 March 2014 following six drug-related deaths.

You can almost hear the anger rumbling on the social media networks after news broke out that an upcoming electronic dance concert, "Life in Colour", was cancelled.

Its promoters explained that this was due to the death of six young revellers, suspected of synthetic drug overdose, at the Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) last week.

But as one unhappy raver above points out, cancelling the event will not stop young people from taking and dying from drugs.

Sadly, he is right.

Malaysia has had a party drug problem for years. And as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned last November, the problem is growing.

Aggravating the problem is that users have no way of knowing if what they are getting is real.

According to the Chemistry Department, since 2000, Ecstasy pills that traditionally used to contain up to 40 per cent of its active ingredient MDMA are now being infused with high doses of the more dangerous ketamine (an animal anaesthetic) and methamphetamine. This does not include the possible adulterants like rat poison and other chemicals not fit for human consumption.

It is easy to blame an event for attracting drug pushers and users but it is only a symptom of the actual disease afflicting society, says Sepang International Circuit Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali.

"What is alarming is that it takes these kinds of concerts to see how many of our young people are using drugs or are susceptible to drug abuse.

"Before we had these kinds of dance parties, young people were abusing drugs at parties elsewhere. These big events only congregate them in one place, and when six people die, it is too glaring to ignore. For all we know, one young person has been dying every other day taking party drugs somewhere else."

Razlan believes this is something that the police and other anti-drug enforcement agencies need to address instead of putting the blame solely on music events and concerts.

"The question is, are you closing one eye and sweeping everything under the carpet?"

He urges the police to use these events to try and catch the drug pushers, not wait until something bad happens.

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