Water, Hyponatremia, MDMA & Heat Stroke: How Not to Die

 

By Terry Gotham

Now that the summer festival season is in full swing and we’ve all been dripping with sweat once at least once, it’s time to have a little chat. If you’re one of the people who hasn’t pissed clear at a festival since Dubya was president, this is 100% for you. If you’re the person in your circle that hounds everyone else to stay hydrated and eat salty snacks Wednesday morning on playa, this is also 100% for you. For this edition of Do No Harm, I spoke to Dr. Daniel E. Rusyniak, Professor of Emergency Medicine & Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology/Toxicology and Neurology at the IU School of Medicine. He dropped a pile of knowledge, so I’m going to be able to walk you through what happens to your body when you roll your face off. Down to the hormonal level, putting yourself at risk for heatstroke & hyponatremia. And of course, also illustrate how to NOT do that.

In your body, there’s this antidiuretic hormone called Vasopressin, also known as ADH. ADH’s job is to ensure your body retains water (hence it being known as an antidiuretic), and to constrict blood vessels. By increasing the water pemeability of the kidneys, it plays a key role in keeping your fool ass hydrated. When it’s heavily secreted, your kidneys get the signal to fast track water reabsorption & pissing yellow. This happens in a few complicated ways you can read about here. Guess what MDMA happens to affect?MDMA, along with many of the novel psychoactive substances taken at festivals, regional burns, and EDM shows can be grouped in the term “amphetamines and stimulants.” Which have the much desired effect of decreasing fatigue, especially fatigue you generate from exertion. You know, that thing you’re actively taking drugs to ignore?  Kind of like missing red flags on date 3 & 4, ignoring warning signs from your cardiovascular systems can have disastrous effects on your health.

Fatigue is crucial in preventing heat stroke. The reason this signal is being sent, is to keep your temperature from spiking too high. The thing that everyone forgets about amphetamine use is that it doesn’t actually give you super powers. The fact that you’re getting tired more quickly in hot environments is a warning/break point signal to your body/mind that you’re being fatigued.  When sober, mammals reach a point of exertional fatigue and maximum temperature, at which point you begin to tap out.  Guess what amphetamines & stimulants do?

By allowing you to push past your operational limits, stimulants turn you from a person who will collapse before overheating into a person with a non-trivial risk of doing the exact opposite of that. The perfect storm Dr. Rusyniak described could be used for most, if not all of the MDMA death at festivals in recent years, especially the ones at New York City’s Electric Zoo.

The summer outdoor dance party is therefore the perfect condition for exertional heat stroke to occur. Warm environment (decreasing heat dissipation), increased exertion (dancing), use of drugs that blunt normal protective responses to exertional heat stroke.
~Daniel E. Rusyniak, MD (Medical Director of the Indiana Poison Center)

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most usual methods for rapidly cooling MDMA users may not be applicable. That person sweating their face off/rolling so hard you can see them chewing the inside of their mouth off from 15 feet away, is probably not giving up his spot in the crowd to get water. Even if he did, especially on day 2 or 3 of the festival, hyponatremia becomes a real risk. Exertion when you’ve not had zero calories, zero sleep and a cocktail of uppers and downers amplifies this risk . This is the reason why smart festivals hand out Gatorade & salty snacks after day 1. This stuff isn’t rocket science, but it does need to be planned ahead and there are plenty of ways to mess it up if you’re not careful.

There are two other wildcards to the MDMA experience. At higher doses (you know who you are), MDMA has been seen to cause cutaneous vasoconstriction. This vasoconstriction increases your blood pressure and can hamper heat release at the same time it raises your temperature. You’ll feel exceptionally hot, and then drink a ton of water, amplifying your risk for hyponatremia. It’s very hard to troubleshoot what’s going on in your cardiovascular system when you’re running a 101 degree temperature in the middle of the dance floor during a Steve Aoki set.

The idea that you can actually overheat is real, verified science, and we need to stop pretending is a myth. It can happen and when you go hard, it’s much more likely. Take breaks, don’t party in direct sunlight for 15 hours a day (you know who you are), and try to be as consistent as you can with water. On playa, Piss Clear is well known, but I think Piss Clear Regularly, should become as important. Drink water consistently, starting early in the day, before you start feeling faint. This way, you’re not fucked up thinking you have to drink a gallon of water when your anxiety spikes and you start telling your friends you feel like you’re dying.

It’s important to build good habits that don’t involve your limits, because when you’re on stimulants of whatever that shady dealer is peddling as the purest molly this week, you might just forget they exist. Additionally, you’re not a varsity or high performance athlete. While it’s been shown that marathon runners and athletes can be cooled from temperatures exceeding 107 degrees, let’s not pretend that any festival will ever have the capacity for you to consider that a way to justify being irresponsible. If you’re LeBron, you can expect a cold water bath and sodium testing on game day; you better expect an hour wait for water and impure drugs. If you’re not LeBron, please follow these simple tips:

  • If a festival or party allows Camelbaks, BPA-free reusable water bottles or any form of BYOW, take advantage of it.
  • Know where the free water stations are at any festival. If you’re at a festival or party that doesn’t have free water, berate them on social media until they have them. Don’t pay for parties that don’t have readily accessible water.
  • If you’re one of those people who use repetitive motions when rolling to de-stress, attempt to build a habit of reaching for your Camelbak nib and taking water as one. That’s way less damaging than finding people to date or smoking cigarettes in response to the jagged energy.
  • Salty snacks and food with savory tastes are your friend, especially after day 1 of events.
  • Alcohol + MDMA = Dehydration Bonanza. Pick one. Seriously, that’s the express train to FailVille, population you.
  • If you feel like a sweaty mess, believe yourself and go get some water. If you don’t feel like a sweaty mess and you’ve been on the dance floor for an hour in direct sunlight, GO GET SOME WATER.
  • If you’re drinking, try to have at least 8-12oz serving of water for every 2-3 drinks. If you’re drinking and dancing, make that ratio as close to 1:1 as you’re able to.
  • Don’t be embarrassed if you need to slow down, take breaks, ask for help or flag down emergency services. That’s what the staff & EMTs are there for. If you try to shrug off serious symptoms of heat stroke, you’ll still need to see EMTs…you’ll be out of commission for much much longer.
  • Taking breaks earlier on are much more rejuvenating. Giving yourself breaks every couple of hours at a multi-day event can make day 2 & 3 a lot easier than forced crashing for 4hrs because you can’t handle it anymore.

Don’t try to be a super hero y’all. The summer is long, and Dr. Rusyniak & I want to make sure every single one of you see Fall 2017 as well as your favorite DJs over the summer.

Radical Inclusion Party Foul

A guest post by Mayor of the Techno Ghetto Terbo Ted TerboLizard, the founder of doof at Burning Man. Ever wonder why there are thousands of massively popular raves in the world, and yet the Cacophony Society didn’t really grow beyond a few groups of a couple of hundred weirdos? In 2017 They are still promoting the idea that we should glorify the Cock’o’phonies while demonizing the ravers, which shows how out of touch the Burning Man Organization has become from the community that creates the $40 million cash cow/ party arts festival for them for free every year. It’s tax-free for them, but Burners still pay a 9% tax on their tickets. And bring the food, the bars, the music, the DJs, the art cars, and so on.

How many people at Burning Man like the music coming from the art cars and big camps? Half? More than half? Personally I would say 95%+, YMMV. If you didn’t like that sort of music, Burning Man would be an oddly uncomfortable place to spend a week’s vacation time.

Count the crowds, and look where they are. A lot of crowds, all over the Playa, almost always around music, they always make sure to use the best speakers, you can get more Info about them on soundmoz.com. It is clear that electronic music is what made Burning Man so popular, and if the Ten Principles mean anything at all, it means we should welcome people who come to enjoy that aspect of Burner culture at least as much as we welcome anyone else. Not try to shun and shame those who made Burning Man what it is, out of some weird ideal of “what a Burner should be” – presumably some sort of submissive, compliant, social justice virtue signalling volunteer freak. Burning Man was HUGE before the Ten Principles were thought up.

BURNERBITCH

Image: Leila Moussaoui, The Bold Italic


Burning Man: Radical Inclusion Party Foul

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Anyone who follows Burningman culture year-round probably stumbled across a recent article titled “Burning Man’s Culture Is In Danger – Tales from the Global Leadership Conference.” The wildly popular article at burn.life prominently featured a picture of ne’er do well young party bros in unfortunate festival attire, with the caption “Ultimately, the worst case scenario is that we end up with an event dominated by idiots like this (not sure where this was taken or who took it, but it’s not at BM….yet.) they all used Houston limo service  or other Luxury bus transportation to get to the party”

photo from www.burn.life
Before I get into any more details, I am going to both embarrass myself and brag a little bit… here is a picture of me, as a young man in my early twenties, out on the playa in 1992, right after I played THE first DJ set EVER at Burning Man.

Terbo Ted at Burning Man, 1992, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
That’s what I wore for my set. Note the visual similarities in how myself and the four young men are dressed; literally, I could stand next to these fellas being portrayed as ‘bad guys’ 25 years into the future and fit right in.
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But let’s look at the history of Burningman. When the collectives I associated with brought rave culture out there- electronic dance music- whatever you want to call it, many of the early burners treated us like pariahs. ‘Ravers’ were blamed for just about anything that went wrong in early 90s burns, and some of it was deserved, and some of it wasn’t. But there were three key BM organizers in the early years on the playa who were the glue that made Burningman stick. Larry Harvey, Michael Mikel (aka Danger Ranger) and John Law were all very supportive of our efforts to bring a new facet of culture into the Burningman experience. Those three understood the concept of radical inclusion well before that was even a stated principle of the event. The written ten principles came to the playa much later than the DJ sound systems. Today there are all kinds of arguments going back and forth regarding the virtues or failures of the music culture at Burningman, that’s another discussion for another time.
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Let’s look at the attire everyone is so scared of. When I was in my early 20s I was living on something like $500 a month or less in San Francisco. That is impossible now but it wasn’t really possible then either. I had no money for fancy clothes. The neon hat I had was a free giveaway from the liquor store, it had a cigarette brand sponsor. I used to smoke cigarettes back then. I used to go over to Larry’s house for coffee and talk about plans for the upcoming MAN year-round. At times I would take two packs of cigarettes (buy-one-get-one free quality you understand) and give one of the packs to Larry, who also was living on next to nothing as far as money goes. The shirt I had on in this picture was something you’d get out of a free pile somewhere outside of a thrift store, or for a dollar at a garage sale (they used to have those in the Mission, believe it or not). That was how we lived. If you had told me back then that people would be expected to wear elaborately hand made outfits that cost thousands of dollars to the burn I would not have believed you, now people wear all kind of stuff and buy their outfits in stores as sheepskintown.com. If I had any costume at all for Burningman back then, it was because I got it for free somehow.
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Let’s apply that to the ‘party goons’ in this picture. I was able to easily find those garments they’re wearing online. The neon green RAGE hats are $10, you can buy them online here. The shirts with garish slogans are also in the $10-$20 range. The point I’m getting to is that young people don’t have lots of excess money, and you’re going to see these sorts of fun and low-cost things being worn. The young kids don’t have $800 for a handmade steampunk top hat with hand distressed goggles sewn in, and the entire outfit that goes with it, do you understand?
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And let’s decode the messaging in their attire:
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RAGE. Hey, it’s kinda close to BURN. Party on.
ALL I DO IS FUCK & PARTY. I think many people at least fantasize that’s what their burn is going to be about, if not in fact acting it out for real. I know that I do those things out there (when not busy MOOPing of course). I’m hoping you get to do those things out there as well, if you choose to.
SHOW ME YOUR TITS. This is absolutely perfect male attire on Thursday afternoon for Critical Tits Bike Ride. I am going to order one for myself this year. Easy to find online in multiple colors and fonts and at low cost!
PARTY WITH SLUTS & ME GUSTA WHORES Burningman does take place in Nevada. Not Berkeley. Prostitution is legal in Nevada.
LET’S GET FUCKING WEIRD. Heck, this could be an official theme for one of the coming Burns for all I care. I approve.
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After twenty-five years of watching Burningman grow from less than 1000 people to selling out tens of thousands of tickets in half an hour, I’ve seen it go through many growing pains and phases, some of which were gut wrenchingly awful, some of which were transformative in a beautiful way.
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When we were first going out there, I remember Larry explaining to me that when you put yourself into that void out there on the playa, whatever it is that is you- your inner self- is going to emerge because there’s nothing else there as a reference point. Everything you do out there is your inner self projecting itself into the world. The experience there is real. Something like that. The concept of Radical Self Expression undoubtably rose out of these beliefs.
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Today, I can’t help but cringe at all of the Burner fashion conformity that happens. You can find websites in China selling ‘Burner’ style goggles now. And you know the look I’m talking about, the ‘Mad Max Muppet Pirate Clown on Acid’ get-up or whatever it is you see tens of thousands of times out there. We didn’t have a dress code at early Burningmans (although that’s not true, there were cocktail parties and theme parties with dress codes out there as early as I can remember). It’s great that the culture has developed some sort of visual ontology- maybe- but that we’ve seen that culture start to move toward exclusion of chosen costumes is a step in the wrong direction, a step away from inclusion, away from expression, it’s a push toward conformity and rule following. Early Burningmans were populated and created by pranksters, they pushed the boundaries of what was socially acceptable, comfortable, or- in many instances- lawful. They weren’t conforming to anything. Unlike today’s Burner culture. Shame on you people.
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After the burn.life article was getting heavily forwarded around social media I had started making light hearted and favorable comments about the photo with the party bros on the Facebook group called ‘Official Unofficial Burning Man Page’ or whatever it is. I posted links where you could buy RAGE hats or some of the shirts in the comment threads, jokingly (and not for profit or anything like that, not as a commodity) as a commentary. And one of the admins banned me from the Facebook group. Shame on you people.
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And let’s pretend those four party bros are out there this year in their chosen attire everyone wants to make fun of. Neon RAGE party hats and all. Having them time of their lives. Maybe they’ll even have some Whip-Its™ to share at sunrise, and you could do some with them and teach them about MOOP in the process. Remember, virgins are very welcome at Burningman. And once virgins get exposed to the culture, they can’t be unexposed to it. Who knows what great new and heretofore unthunk inspirations from the playa might transform those young bros’ lives. Hopefully they wouldn’t instead get forced down a path of derisive hierarchical conformity from the experience of going out there. The default world does that well enough, thank you.
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About the storyteller:
Terbo Ted first visited the Black Rock Desert in 1992 when there was no gate, no perimeter, no road, no trash fence and you could drive your car as fast as you wanted in any direction. Terbo was the first DJ to play in Black Rock City, with no one there to hear his set on a dusty Friday afternoon. Later, in the early years he was the only one ever to be called “Mayor of the Techno Ghetto.” His playa self and default world self can be remarkably similar these days.

The Man Behind The Music

Image: IRDeep via Spin

Image: IRDeep via Spin

Spin magazine has an interview with Opulent Temple founder Syd Gris. Some highlights:

The organizers behind Burning Man deny any affiliations of being a “music festival,” but, for all intents and purposes, this is the wildest music festival in the world.

The denial of their identity as a music festival lets Burning Man rely heavily on crowdsourcing the 24-hour, over-the-top productions, visuals, DJ booths, sound equipment, and world-class music performances to ticket holders…

Attendees being responsible for their own entertainment is exactly what separates Burning Man from any other music festival. You bought the ticket, and have to do all the work. 

Gris is the co-founder, lineup curator, and overall production director for more than 13 years with the sound camp known as Opulent Temple. 

CREDIT: Photo by IRDeep

Opulent’s major objective is twofold: to provide a platform for spiritual dance expression and for DJs to explore the more artistic (and perhaps unacknowledged at other commercial festivals) side of their craft…

 This year, Opulent Temple took a step away from their typical stage build for their popular Wednesday night “White Party.” Instead, they provided attendees a truly magical alternative that captured the true essence of Burning Man by forming a commutative stage consisting of multiple art cars from other camps. The Opulent team set up their DJ stand on top of an art car, outfitted with large speakers, to drive deeper into the open center area of Burning Man. Various cars from other camps outfitted with large speakers met them at a specific location and linked up wirelessly through RF technology to form a makeshift half circle dance floor. While each car was synced directly to the Opulent DJ performance, additional art cars unaffiliated with the camp would drive in and the Opulent workers would link them up to join the party as well.

What was the sound camp scene like when you arrived at your very first Burning Man?
Back in 2001, there were certainly less of them and most every scale of production was downsized compared to current standards of Burning Man sound camps, especially the scale of sound systems. I say that mostly because camps such as “Lush” in 2004 and “Sol System” that same year (fondly known as Sol Henge) were even by today’s sound camp’s standards massive productions, but those were definitely outliers and seemingly burned both crews out because neither ever came back after that year.

Is it true that you fought for the rights of sound camps at Burning Man?
Yes, I organized a bunch of camps in 2008 including representatives from camps like El Circo, the Deep End, Green Gorilla, and others to approach the Burning Man organizers to request some changes and support. The premise was basically that collectively we’ve felt like we give a lot to the event. Which, of course, is fine; it’s why we started creating such camps in the first place. But we hoped we might get more support and resources from the organizers to do what we do since it is our perception the role of the Large Scale Sound & Art Camps had evolved to be an integral part of a large number of attendees experience and reason for coming. What we asked for and what we got for our efforts were different. Spoiler alert: not much!

Did artists like Tiesto find it unique having to purchase their own ticket?
Yes. We are a volunteer and fundraising camp. All the equipment, food, shelter, and electricity comes out of our own pockets, while we all have day jobs outside of Burning Man. He provided a donation to our camp debt after he played for us in 2005, he said, “It’s the only time I’ve paid someone to play for them.”

What did Opulent Temple do to set the standard for today’s music scene at Burning Man?
What we did to raise the bar was really just building on the precedence of the great camps that came before us but taking it to a higher level. We make our own art and the production pieces that make up our camp, and we build new stuff every year to add to our recognizable look. We were the first to have a DJ-operated flame-throwing booth, and the first to consistently bring out an eclectic range of so-called ‘big-name’ DJs, and we did it all year round through volunteers building the camp and making the art.

CREDIT: Photo by IRDeep

What’s the future of the music community of Burning Man? Will the music be too much and eventually take away from the art as it slowly becomes the main attraction?
I think people’s association and experience of Burning Man — unless something drastically changes — is always one of art and music. For now, it is by far primarily dance music. Though it sounds ironic to say, in one light you could say the organization has gone to great lengths to do nothing to support music at Burning Man beyond allowing it to exist. They do a lot to nurture the art scene, so I don’t see it becoming too much.

[Source: Spin]

Read the full interview at Spin Magazine.

Here’s a Syd Gris set from last year’s Halloween.