To Spot MDMA Users, Festivals May Soon Roll Out Thermal Cameras
Festival organizers claim that thermal cameras may help them find MDMA users who are dangerously overheating, but surveillance in the name of safety is often used against us.
Published on July 30, 2019

A music festival is considering the use of thermal cameras to identify MDMA users. The announcement comes after the recent death of a festival-goer who overdosed on MDMA.

The FOMO Festival, based in Sydney, Australia, could implement “thermal and other non-obtrusive imaging and technology” by the next event in 2020, said the event’s manager, Holly Gazal, during an inquest last Thursday.

“The promoter is very open and willing to find solutions to address” MDMA misuse and overdoses on FOMO’s festival grounds, she added.

In January, Alex Ross-King, 19, died at FOMO after ingesting three MDMA capsules along with alcohol. When festival staff found her unconscious, they tried to keep her cool with ice packs, but she eventually suffered cardiac arrest while at the hospital.

MDMA causes hyperthermia, or high body heat. When combined with heavy physical activity — like dancing — and dehydration, overheating can become lethal. Thermal cameras work by picking up infrared waves generated by body heat, so this technology could potentially spot partiers who’ve consumed MDMA.

Related — A Short History of Musicians and MDMA:

Ironically, safety measures designed to protect festival goers from themselves may have contributed to Ross-King’s death. According to witnesses and text messages, police brought drug-sniffing dogs to the January festival to catch people in possession of illicit substances. Ross-King, paranoid that she may get caught, took an additional two pills after her first to avoid the dogs.

And that’s usually how it goes with the War on Drugs. In its supposed efforts to protect drug users, the justice system often does more harm than good. While FOMO’s organizers are planning on other non-Predator methods to combat bad reactions to MDMA, such as including more fans in the “cool out” areas and offering more ice-chilled water, surveillance technology will likely be used to make far more arrests than medical interventions.

Play safe, party smart, and decriminalize everything already so people can receive honest, life-saving education regarding drug use. Prohibition doesn’t work, and it never has.

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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