Music News

Happy International Day of Drug Checking! Are Your Drugs Laced?

DanceSafe educates the electronic-music community about safer drug use.
DanceSafe educates the electronic-music community about safer drug use. DanceSafe
Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" ads didn't stop drug use. Nor did D.A.R.E. campaigns. Nor does endless moralizing about sobriety. People use drugs for myriad reasons, and there is no point pretending otherwise.

"People are going to continue using drugs," says Madalyn McElwain, deputy director of the Denver-based Dance Safe. "Human beings engage in inherently risky behaviors all the time."

But health matters. And, sure, it can be fun to take a risk, but sometimes those risks can lead to a nasty trip — or even kill you — especially if you don't do drugs sensibly.

That's what DanceSafe is all about: reducing harm in club culture, from making drug use and anonymous hookups safer to protecting ear drums from pounding beats. The organization has declared today, March 31, International Day of Drug Checking, a holiday to promote drug-checking kits that identify adulterants in various drugs.

Buy LSD, Special K, molly or cocaine, and there's a good chance it's going to have some adulterant cut into it, says McElwain. To stretch out supplies, profit-hungry dealers cut pure drugs with everything from Fentanyl to shoe polish. And, of course, dealers don't usually disclose this.

DanceSafe sells kits to help electronic-music fans and club kids test what surprising substance a drug has been laced with.

Those kits are prohibited by law in several states, including Colorado, because they are classified as drug paraphernalia, says McElwain. While some music promoters allow the organization to have a table at their events and hand out drug-checking kits across the United States, promoters in Colorado don't.

Nevertheless, the organization aims to educate people about the kits, how to use drugs safely, and the importance of hydration and electrolytes when using certain substances. The group also provides a safe, non-judgmental space for people having a "difficult time," the organization's code word for "bad trip."

For more information about drug checking and to find out how to purchase a kit of your own, go to the DanceSafe website.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris