Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

The problem of drink and drugs goes beyond dance culture

Drugs and drink warnings aren't being heard by young people, says Chris Jones

Easy availability and use of  illegal drugs at teen concerts  has sparked huge debate among parents
Easy availability and use of illegal drugs at teen concerts has sparked huge debate among parents

The fallout from last week's DJ Hardwell concert has left many parents understandably concerned about what their children are up to, but that's not to say that dance music events themselves are the problem.

Yes, Thursday's show was chaotic, but that was as much a result of the Dutch DJ's teenage demographic being let off the leash and kids not knowing their limits with alcohol and what could have been inadequate emergency provision.

In an interview, John McPoland of the Ambulance Service said that "too much alcohol" was the problem.

Fourteen and 15-year-olds were passed out drunk (where did they get their booze from?).

Most of us will suffer if we drink too much, but especially teenagers whose bodies aren't yet fully developed, and who aren't as aware of their limits.

The huge 10,000 capacity of the gig undoubtedly ramped up the excitement levels and brought legions of drunk kids in close proximity to one another, so it's not surprising that there were problems.

I have been going to dance events on-and-off for about 10 years and I've been clubbing regularly for about the past five years.

In that time I have never seen anything approaching the madness of last Thursday night.

Normally what you find in a club is happy punters with a bottle of beer or a glass of vodka and Coke in their hand, dancing and having a good time.

It will surprise no one to learn that drugs are often present at dance music events, and there are those that use and abuse them. Equally, there are the majority who stick to alcohol.

At dance clubs drug use is rarely, if ever, overt and my suspicion is that it is now much less of an issue than it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s .

Just do a search on YouTube for '1990s rave' and you will see what I mean – the glassy eyed, clammy gargoyles of clubbing lore.

Those videos have done the rounds again recently, met mostly with bemusement and mirth by fellow clubbers because it looks so alien now.

However, if people want to use drugs they will go looking for them and they will probably be able to find them.

It's up to parents and teachers to educate young people about drugs in a dispassionate, realistic way, and for gig-goers of all ages to take responsibility for what they put in their bodies.

Dance events certainly do not have a monopoly on bad behaviour.

We need to admit that as a society we have an alcohol problem, and I have seen the effects of alcohol abuse in pubs and clubs, at rock gigs and festivals, in big cities and small villages.

There is no use demonising dance music for what happened on Thursday.

Once the hysteria of Thursday night had died down it became clear that booze, not illegal drugs, was the catalyst for the chaos.

If the last week has taught us anything it's that the message about both isn't getting through to many of our young people.

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