Alternatives to rave parties

Drug use: Teen-agers may go to marathon parties for dancing, but encounter sex and drugs.

April 20, 2001

ANNE ARUNDEL County's embarrassing episode involving a drug-filled "rave party" should shock the Baltimore region into action.

Police arrested 47 young people at Anne Arundel County fairgrounds at a party where teen-agers danced until they dropped. Many were wired on drugs.

The rave party is an international phenomenon. Dancing is the lure, but drugs and sex are often a part. The drug commonly associated with raves is Ecstasy, a stimulant that can cause brain damage.

In Anne Arundel County, officials foolishly allowed the fairgrounds to be rented for a 3,000-person rave festival. Police reported seizing about $16,250 worth of "party drugs," including 499 Ecstasy pills, 51 grams of marijuana, 22 hits of LSD, 24.6 grams of liquid LSD and nearly 44 grams of ketamine, a horse tranquilizer.

The fairgrounds are operated by a nonprofit organization, but that doesn't excuse the county.

County Executive Janet S. Owens will discuss raves tonight with Baltimore County substance abuse director Mike Gimbel on Maryland Public Television's "Newsnight Maryland," which airs at 7 p.m. She might learn a thing or two.

Ten years ago, Mr. Gimbel infiltrated a rave at the Timonium Fairgrounds and warned of open teen-age drug use and sex. Baltimore County has since toughened its permit process to ensure that county space will not be rented for such parties.

Mr. Gimbel says teen-agers need alternative activities. Typically those who attend raves feel they are too old for teen centers but too young for adult nightclubs, he says. Often, parties are thrown in the suburbs, illustrating again that drug use is both a suburban and urban problem.

The Owens-Gimbel discussion should start a dialogue on teen activities in the region, a discussion that must include the teen perspective. The region's leaders need to understand the lure of raves and develop attractive alternatives.

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