High energy, all-night dance parties and clubs known as "raves," which feature dance music with a fast, pounding beat and choreographed laser shows, have become increasingly popular over the last ten years, particularly among teenagers and young adults. Beginning as an underground movement in Europe, raves have evolved into a highly organized, commercialized, worldwide party culture. Rave parties and clubs are now found throughout the United States and in countries around the world. Raves are held either in permanent dance clubs or temporary venues set up for a single weekend event in abandoned warehouses, open fields, empty building, even the desert.  Attendance can range from small numbers in clubs to tens of thousands in a sport stadium or open field. 

Raves are frequently advertised as "alcohol free" parties with hired security personnel. Internet sites often advertise these events as "safe" and "drug free." However, they are dangerously overcrowded parties where your child can be exposed to rampant drug use and a high-crime environment. Numerous overdoses are documented as these events.

Raves are one of the most popular venues where club drugs are distributed. Club drugs included MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB and Rohypnol (also known as the "date rape" drugs), Ketamine, Methamphetamine (Meth), and LSD.  Because some club drugs are colorless, odorless and tasteless, they can be added without detection to beverages by individuals who want to intoxicate or sedate others in order to commit sexual assaults.

Don't risk your child's health and safety. Ask questions about where he or she is going and see it for yourself.



Raves evolved from 1980s dance parties, aided by the emergence of European techno music and American house music. European clubs that sponsored raves in the 1980s tried to limit the exposure of attendees to the public and to law enforcement. Raves were secretive, after-hours, private dance parties and were often held in places where attendance was restricted to invitees or friends of invitees. The site of the part was often kept confidential, and invitees usually were not told the location of the host club until the night of the party. Because of the restricted access and the secrecy surrounding the locations, the growing rave culture was often described as an "underground" movement.

By the mid-1980s, rave parties overseas had developed such a following among youths and young adults that by 1987, London raves had outgrown most dance clubs. It then became common to hold all-night raves -- which drew thousands of people -- in large, open fields on the outskirts of the city. As the movement continued to grow in the last 1980s, the first rave parties emerged in U.S. cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Rave parties and clubs were present in most metropolitan areas of the United States by the early 1990s. Teenagers overtook the traditional young adult ravers and a new rave culture emerged; events became highly promoted, heavily commercialized, and less secretive. Many new U.S. rave promoters were career criminals who recognized the profitability of organizing events tailored to teens. Capitalizing on the growing popularity of raves, specialized industries were developed to market clothes, toys, drugs, and music. Private clubs and secret locations were replaced by stadium venues with off-duty police security.

By the late 1990s, raves in the United States had become so commercialized that events were little more than an exploitation of American youth. Today's raves are characterized by high entrance fees, extensive drug use, exorbitantly priced bottled water, very dark and often dangerously overcrowded dance floors, and "chill rooms," where teenage ravers go to cool down and often engage in open sexual activity. Moreover, many club owners and promoters appear to promote the use of drugs -- especially MDMA (Ecstasy). They provide bottled water and sports drinks to manage hyperthermia and dehydration; pacifiers to prevent involuntary teeth clenching; and menthol nasal inhalers, chemical lights, and neon glow sticks to enhance the effects of MDMA. In addition, rave promoters often print flyers featuring prominent and repeated use of the letters "E" and "X" (E and X are MDMA monikers) or the word "rollin'" (refers to an MDMA high), surreptitiously promoting MDMA use along with the rave.

Rave music evolved from 1980s techno, house and New York garage music. The mix of these different styles of dance music helped mold the modern version of electronic rave music. Today, rave music falls into several categories: ambient, techno, trance, progressive trance, cybertrance, house, jungle, drum 'n' bass, techstep, garage, and big beat.

Although a casual listener may not be able to distinguish between techno and trance, ravers know the music well, and several DJs and bands -- unfamiliar to most people -- are internationally famous within the rave community. Today's rave DJs are skilled stage performers and are considered artists much like musicians. They mix electronic sounds, beats, and rhythms, often synchronizing the music to a laser program. Popular DJs sell their music and perform live at the largest rave parties and clubs around the world. Rave organizers announce their appearance of famous DJs on their flyers and on the Internet to promote upcoming raves.


Rave Promotion

Despite the commercialization of raves through the 1990s, many promoters have preserved the tradition of rave location secrecy, more as a novelty than as a necessity. In this tradition, raves are rarely promoted in open media but are advertised on flyers found only at record stores and clothing shops, at other rave parties and clubs, and on rave internet sites. They flyers or Internet advertisements typically provide only the name of the city where the rave will be held and a phone number for additional information. The location of the rave is often given to the caller over the telephone, but many promoters further maintain secrecy by providing on a location, called a "map point," where ravers go the night of the rave. At the map point, ravers are told the actual location of the rave. The map point is usually a record or clothing store within a 20-minute drive of the rave.


Raves and Club Drugs

While techno music and light shows are essential to raves, drugs such as MDMA, Ketamine, GHB, Rohypnol, and LSD have become an integral component of the rave culture. These drugs collectively known as "club drugs" are an integral part of the rave culture. Many ravers use club drugs and advocate their use, wrongly believing that they are not harmful if they are used "responsibly" and their effects are managed properly. Many of the commercially designed rave clothes display pro-drug messages, and rave posters and flyers often promote drug use.

Club drug use accounts for increasing numbers of drug overdoses and emergency room visits. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the number of emergency department (ED) mentions for MDMA and GHB, often associated with the crime of drug-facilitated rape, more than doubled between 1998 and 1999. DAWN data for 1999 further indicate that young people are the primary users of MDMA and GHB. For instance, whereas 29 percent of all DAWN ED cases involved patients aged 25 and under, at least 80 percent of Ketamine, LSD, MDMA, and Rohypnol ED mentions and 59 percent of GHB ED mentions were aged 25 and under.

MDMA is unquestionably the most popular of the club drugs, and evidence of MDMA use by teenagers can be seen at most rave parties. Ketamine and GHB are also used at raves, as is Rohypnol, although to a lesser extent. A recent resurgence in the availability and use of some hallucinogens -- LSD, PCP (phencyclidine), psilocybin, and peyote or mescaline -- has also been noted at raves and dance clubs and may necessitate their inclusion in the club drug category. Inhalants like nitrous oxide are sometimes found at rave events; nitrous oxide is sold in gas-filled balloons called "whippets" for $5 to $10.

Rampant use of club drugs at raves may be leading to the use of other and highly addictive drugs by youth. There have been widespread reports of increasing availability and use of Asian methamphetamine tablets (frequently referred to as "yaba") at California raves and nightclubs. Heroin is being encountered more frequently in the eastern United States. A wider variety of visually appealing and easy-to-administer forms of MDMA, LSD, heroin, and combination tablets are also found at raves and on college campuses.


Rave Clothing and Pharaphernalia

Many young ravers wear distinctive clothing and carry paraphernalia commonly associated with club drug use and the rave culture. Ravers dress for comfort. They usually wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and dress in layers, allowing them to remove clothing as they become overheated from dancing for hours. Many wear loose shorts or very wide-legged or baggy pants. Ravers wear T-shirts, bikini tops, tank tops, tube tops, and open-back halter tops to help keep cool. After hours of dancing and often after using MDMA -- which elevates body temperature -- many ravers have removed most of their clothing. Some ravers, especially females, wear costumes to rave events, dressing as princesses, cartoon characters, or other fantasy figures that match the theme of the rave (e.g., futuristic, space, mystic).

Ravers often wear bright accessories like bracelets, necklaces, and earrings made of either plastic beads or pill-shaped sugar candies. MDMA users sometimes use these accessories to disguise their drugs, stringing MDMA tablets mixed with the candies. Many ravers chew on baby pacifiers or lollipops to offset the effects of involuntary teeth grinding caused by MDMA. Pacifiers are worn around the user's neck, often on plastic beaded necklaces.

Many people bring various items to rave events to enhance the effects of MDMA. Ravers use bright chemical lights and flashing lights to heighten the hallucinogenic properties of MDMA and the visual distortions brought on by its use. Chemical glow sticks, bracelets, and necklaces are commonly worn at raves and waved in the eyes of MDMA users for visual stimulus. Ravers often insert flashing red lights in their belly buttons (held in place with a mild adhesive) and pin blinking lights in the shape of hearts, stars, and animals to their clothing to provide additional visual stimulation to MDMA users. Ravers that use MDMA often wear painter's masks with menthol vapor rub applied to the inside of the mask. MDMA users believe that by inhaling the menthol fumes, they are enhancing the effects of the drug. They may be adding to their risk of hyperthermia, however, because the fumes cause eyes and nasal passages to dry out.


Anti-Rave Initiatives

In the late 1990s, many communities began attempts to reduce the number of raves in their areas and to curb the use of club drugs. Several cities passed new ordinances designed to regulate rave activity, while others began enforcing existing laws that helped authorities monitor raves more closely.

Cities such as Chicago, Denver, Gainesville, Hartford, Milwaukee, and New York took deliberate steps to combat raves. These cities reduced rave activity through enforcement of juvenile curfews, fire codes, health and safety ordinances, liquor laws, and licensing requirements for large public gatherings. Many communities also began requiring rave promoters to retain, at the promoters' expense, onsite ambulance and emergency medical services and uniformed police security for large rave events. Because of these measures, many rave promoters and organizers moved their operations to other areas.

Information provided by the United States Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center and the Maricopa County Attorney General's Office.



Mesa Police Department
Crime Prevention Literature

PO Box 1466
Mesa, AZ 85211