July was a hot month for music in Denver with events like the Global Dance Festival, Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, and the Underground Music Showcase taking center stage. But it also saw a serious effort by mega-music promoter AEG Presents to prevent drug overdoses at concerts.
Since June, AEG has helped distribute thousands of free doses of the anti-overdose drug Naloxone as part of its partnership with the Keep the Party Safe, a UC Health-sponsored campaign aimed at educating people about overdose prevention.
The campaign gave away 1,100 fentanyl test strips and 1,800 Naloxone doses during the July 28-30 Underground Music Showcase, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. The weekend before that, it distributed a whopping 2,000 doses of Naloxone during the Global Dance Festival at Empower Field at Mile High. All told, Keep the Party Safe has doled out 4,600 doses of Naloxone since the beginning of June, primarily outside of AEG-booked or -owned venues, including Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre; the Ogden, Bluebird and Gothic theaters; FirstBank Center; Mission Ballroom; and Civic Center Park Concert Series.
The partnership between the two organizations was first announced on National Fentanyl Awareness Day, May 9, and will continue through April 2024, according to UC Health. It has the potential to reach 1.2 million concertgoers across various venues and shows, AEG said.
“We are feeling more urgency in our partners,” said Michael Davidson, spokesman for the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, the campaign’s parent group, adding that there are groups nationwide that distribute at festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo and Electric Daisy Carnival, and DanceSafe, which focuses on the EDM world.
“But this is an idea that makes sense for Denver right now,” he added.
“Keep The Party Safe is targeted to those who might not know they are vulnerable and might not know about ways to stay safe, like having naloxone to reverse overdoses or picking a designated non-user,” said Robert Valuck, executive director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, in the statement.
Colorado’s overdose death rates stabilized in 2022, but remain near record levels, The Denver Post has reported, with nearly 1,800 deaths last year.
Naloxone — known in its nasal spray form as Narcan — has been shown to help rapidly reverse opioid overdoses, such as those from other party drugs that are spiked with or primarily made of the powerful fentanyl, by blocking opiate receptors in the nervous system. Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, and more than 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“We have one of the stronger campaigns in the country in terms of public awareness,” Davidson said. “We’ve been able to advertise in places and reach audiences due to our partners, which are not only things like The UMS but also Mile High Behavioral Health Center and the Denver Department of Public Health.”
At most shows and festivals, Keep the Party Safe sets up a table and offers doses of Naloxone, but also educational materials, posters, “break glass in case of emergency”-style overdose kits (that are semi-permanent to the venue) and overdose training for AEG employees.
Keep The Party Safe was launched in 2022 by the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. For more tips on preventing and treating overdoses, visit keepthepartysafe.org.