PartySmart began with a meeting of seven people on February 23, 2000, where we first discussed our ideas for a Rave & Nightclub Health & Safety program. Five of these people were promoters and the other two were active supporters of the rave scene. Some of us had been involved for a couple of years already in taking care of the young people who attend raves, so it was natural to extend our efforts to include drug education and harm reduction. We had been discussing the need for this over the previous three months, due to the recent huge influx of new, inexperienced young people into the rave scene. Looking into what others had done before, we discovered DanceSafe and RaveSafe on the web. We decided that there was a lot of overlap between DanceSafe’s principles and what we thought was needed in New Mexico. We decided that our focus would be health and safety, and that education and harm reduction would be important goals for achieving this. We have been very successful in educating ravers about the effects and risks of drugs, and they in turn have helped to educate many of their peers outside the rave scene. We have also been very successful in reducing harm to ravers from drug use, to the point where it is now extremely rare to see people sick or flaked out on the floor as was common before we started. We decided that another important goal was to help promoters and venue owners to understand and take seriously their responsibilities for the health, safety, and security of their guests. We have been successful in this goal, due in part to peer pressure among promoters and in part to party-goers raising their expectations and showing their support for responsible promoters. At a meeting in April, 2000, we decided to add one more goal, which is to promote respect within and for the rave scene. Public awareness and acceptance of PartySmart and DanceSafe have contributed to success in this area. Also, in reaction to negative media attention to raves and proposed federal legislation to shut them down, we have helped ravers to become politically active and stand together for respect of their civil rights. We have gone a long way toward achieving the goals of our Rave & Nightclub Health & Safety program, and we intend to strengthen these goals to address other aspects of community health in the rave scene.

For PartySmart’s first three appearances in the New Mexico rave scene, we simply provided photocopies of DanceSafe drug information cards and Ecstasy pamphlets at raves in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The timing of our first appearance, February 11, 2000, was propitious because there was a batch of DXM pills there that made many people sick. For our fourth appearance, on March 11, we had our first fully-staffed booth. Once again, there was a batch of pills that made people sick. We did what we could to help, which was too little and too late. Many people were very interested in the information that we had to offer. Partly because of these experiences, most promoters wanted us at their events, and we became an essential feature of almost every rave in New Mexico from that time forward. Starting on March 18, we began to provide the full-colour DanceSafe drug information cards. Starting on March 24, we had earplugs to give out. On May 1, we began to give out condoms. In early May we had a visit from Heather McCoy and Theo Rosenfeld of DanceSafe, in order that we might become recognized as a chapter of DanceSafe. After their visit, we added adulterant screening to our range of services. At the end of May, we covered two raves in one weekend for the first time. At the end of June, we covered our first two-day event, at which we helped to save someone’s life from an overdose of GHB. Since that incident, the sale of GHB at raves has no longer been tolerated, and since the end of July, nitrous tanks have only rarely been tolerated. By that time, we realized that the ravers had come to rely on our services. They all wanted to know what was in the pills that they were taking, and what were the effects and risks. At the end of August, dealers were no longer able to get away with selling bunk pills as ecstasy. A month later, dealers began buying testing kits for themselves, in order to avoid the embarrassment of being caught selling bunk pills. By the end of September, there were no more bunk pills being sold. (There were some reversals in this progress during 2001, but there were almost no bunk pills in 2002.) In the second week of September, 2000, we covered two events simultaneously for the first time, and we now have all the materials, volunteers, and leaders needed for two complete booths. In 2000, we provided booths and staff at 45 events, and self-service information tables at fourteen events. In 2001, we provided booths at 43 events and information tables at six events. In 2002 (by the end of August), we provided booths at 34 events and information tables at four events. We have provided booths at several other kinds of events besides raves. In 2001 we had a booth at a harm-reduction conference and an information table at a N.M. Department of Health annual meeting. In 2002 we had booths at punk and hip-hop shows, conferences, high-school and college health fairs, and daytime community events.

PartySmart has begun two other major programs in addition to our Rave/Club Health/Safety program. One of these is our School, College & Community Outreach program, with projects that provide harm-reduction outreach to youth in our communities through schools, colleges, and teen centers, empowering youth to promote community health. In May, 2001, we organized panel discussions at a teen center in Santa Fe and at a college in Albuquerque, to educate parents about the rave scene and to facilitate parent-teen dialogue about raves and drugs. In May, 2000, we made presentations about the effects and risks of drugs (ecstasy in particular) in health classes at two Santa Fe high schools and at a teen center in Los Alamos. In January, 2001, some of our volunteers in Los Alamos made presentations at the high school. Since then, many schools have asked for our help to facilitate discussions about drugs and related health and safety issues. In 2002 we began working with middle-school counselors to develop this program, to empower them and the students to create healthy school communities. There is a consensus that students need to take responsibility for their own health and for the health of their communities. They need to be proactive in educating themselves and each other about the effects and risks of drugs, and in helping each other learn to make responsible choices about drug use and other risky activities. This program is very much a work in progress.

PartySmart’s third major program is our Youth Advocacy, Law & Policy Reform program, with projects that politically empower and promote respect for youth and youth culture through advocacy, public education, and the reform of laws and policies that impact youth. In December, 2000, we attended a conference on drug policy, where we introduced ourselves to many people in the fields of law enforcement, public health, and education. In May, 2001, we organized a meeting of all the chapters of DanceSafe, as part of a harm-reduction conference in Albuquerque. In 2001 we helped to found the New Mexico Alliance for Drug Policy Reform, in order to address the issues of drug laws and policies that impact young people. This alliance has been very helpful to the rave scene, in educating legislators and the public about these issues. It has helped us to politically activate and empower ravers, and to connect them with resources to help them stand up for their civil rights. Through participation in coalitions, conferences, workshops, and meetings, and through networking at all levels of public education, health, and safety, PartySmart has gained respect and has begun to influence policy in many areas that affect youth.

PartySmart recruits volunteers from among those who visit our booth and show interest in becoming involved. That way, the volunteers are helping their friends and peers. This is more effective than bringing in volunteers who may have a lot of knowledge and experience, but little connection to those they are trying to help. PartySmart recruits from the core group of ravers who help at most of the raves. These are very caring, dedicated, motivated, reliable, resourceful young people. Many of them are already providing harm reduction services by looking out for their friends, even before we recruit them. They are willing to work all night long for no pay, because they were going to be there anyway. The promoters respect them and value their presence. This contributes to PartySmart’s success in being accepted by almost all promoters in New Mexico. In fact, some members of production companies are also PartySmart volunteers, which shows that promoters in New Mexico understand the importance of harm reduction, and that they understand that PartySmart contributes to their success. In addition, PartySmart recruits from among parents of the ravers, who can be very helpful with administration. We have even recruited a parent who is a psychiatrist who used MDMA for therapy back in the days when that was legal, and who is involved in research on psychedelic drugs. We have found that it is very easy to recruit volunteers, to the point where we have more than we know how to use, given the small number of leaders that we have to organize activities for them. About 200 people have asked to become involved. Of these, about 75 have worked as booth staff at least once, and about a dozen work regularly at the booth.

To summarize, we have been successful beyond our expectations in our education and harm-reduction efforts; we have made some progress in our efforts to improve promoters’ understanding of their responsibility for health, safety and security; and our efforts to foster respect for the scene have made an impact. In our first year of operation we provided information and services to approximately 30,000 people at about sixty events. Our further success in education and harm reduction will depend on our becoming more confident, knowledgeable, and capable. We will get training in first aid and CPR, and learn from medical professionals how to recognize and respond to drug-related emergencies. We will provide more detailed, credible printed materials backed up by references to legitimate scientific research. We will read and keep up to date with reliable sources of information. Professionals we have recruited from the medical, harm-reduction, education, and research communities will help us to achieve this. Our impact on the promoters’ understanding of their responsibilities is likely to become much greater now that promoters have begun to acknowledge that there is a problem; they are no longer in their denial phase. Further success in fostering respect for the scene depends on many people who are at this time beyond our influence. However, we will continue to influence those we can, and we will look for and follow up on opportunities to broaden support for our own work and for the scene as a whole. We will become pro-active in our public relations. We will influence people to be responsible through the example of our own passion and dedication.

© 2002 – 2009 PartySmart, a non-profit corporation