I've only been to Burning Man four times but I've hung out with some long-time burners for years, and I helped start a theme camp at Burning Man and was its leader for a couple of years. During that time I was also a part of the Burning Man community that exists all year round, not just during the one week of the Burning Man event, and I have attended various Burning Man endorsed regional events in Southern California.
Burning Man itself is a large publicly accessible event. It has law enforcement and is mostly a giant party and art festival on the dry lake bed of the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada.
What kind of people go to Burning Man?
Burning Man is a gathering of many different "tribes". The event began as a counter-culture festival in San Francisco. Since its inception more than 30 years ago, the event has drawn people from various counter-culture communities such as:
- Disenfranchised artists
- Artists who work with unusual media such as fire and light
- Sexual deviants such as Swingers, Polyamorous, BDSM, and the LGBT community
What unifies all these groups?
What kinds of drugs?
First and foremost, Burning Man is about hallucinogenic drugs. These are the drugs that spawned the hippie era of the 1960s in the USA and other western nations. These drugs make you hallucinate, but they also make you feel "peace", "love", and "oneness with the universe". From my experience I have personally seen or heard of the following drugs being used within the Burner community:
- LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)
- Psilocybin-containing mushrooms (Psilocybe and related species)
- DMT (dimethyl tryptamine)
- 2CB & 2CI (Bromo-dimethoxyphenethylamine and Iodo-dimethoxyphenethylamine )
- Mescaline (from Peyote and other cactuses)
- Ecstasy (MDMA - Methylenedioxymethamphetamine)
- Amphetamines of various types
- Nitrous oxide
- PCP (phencyclidine)
- GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid) and GBL (gamma-butyrolactone)
- Designer drugs that skirt around controlled substance laws by having a different molecular structure but have similar effects as the drugs they're intended to mimic.
From that list you can see that the drugs being used among the Burner community are mostly party drugs, the kind of drugs that alter your consciousness or that allow you to party all night like a rockstar. Not surprisingly, you don't see nervous system depressant drugs being used much at Burning Man. Drugs like heroin, morphine, opiates, opioids, benzodiazepines such as Xanax, rohypnol, and barbituates don't seem to have a following. They may get some usage but I didn't encounter them at all. Perhaps I just wasn't moving in the "right circles".
In short, Burning Man is about creating art that is inspired by, and intended to enhance the drug experience.