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New Study Finds 13% of Festival Deaths Worldwide Caused by Alcohol and Drugs

Looking at fatalities between 1999 and 2014, the report recommends organizers make drug-testing kits more widely available.
Shambhala 2016 photo by

Blake Jorgenson Photography

A new Canadian study released this week found that alcohol and drugs were a factor in 13% of all reported music festival deaths between 1999 and 2014, and the majority of all non-traumatic deaths.

Looking at 722 fatalities globally, researchers at UBC and the University of Victoria determined the bulk were caused by trampling, motor-vehicle-related deaths, and structural collapses. Non-traumatic deaths included drug and alcohol use (which accounted for 75%), environmental causes, natural causes, and unknown/not reported. The study advised more reporting on music festival deaths and health incidents is needed, in order to help authorities plan and prepare for permitting, by-laws, and coordination.

"Because data are not systematically collected and publicly reported post-event, the actual number of deaths related to music festival attendance is difficult to determine, but the number of incidents causing fatalities appears to be rising," said the study's authors, whose research was published in the journal Prehospital and Disaster Medicine.

In light of Canada's ongoing opioid crisis, the report also recommended that festival organizers provide drug-testing equipment to concert-goers to help prevent overdose and unwanted health impacts of drug use.

Max Mertens is on Twitter.