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NSW Health has alerted the public to the risks of MDMA (ecstasy) use, after several people were hospitalised after attending a Sydney music festival.
A panel of toxicology experts has determined MDMA as the cause of toxicity in several people who were taken to hospital after attending a music festival at Sydney Showground from 3pm on Saturday 11 February 2023.
NSW Police have confirmed a 26-year-old man who attended the festival died of a suspected drug overdose and another 12 people were hospitalised, with seven of those requiring intubation.
Police said more than 130 people were treated by medical professionals at the venue, with complaints related to suspected drug use and/or heat exhaustion.
Samples of the drugs seized by police were analysed by NSW Health Pathology’s Illicit Drugs Analysis Unit (IDAU) which found MDMA in varying amounts and purities. It found no contaminants or other substances in the drugs, meaning there was no evidence of a ‘bad batch’ as the cause.
Medical Director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre, Dr Darren Roberts, said consumption of MDMA can cause serious illness, which may include severe agitation, raised body temperature, seizures or fits, heart rhythm problems and death.
“Consumption of MDMA has been linked with cases of serious illness and death, particularly when multiple doses are consumed. The amount of MDMA in a tablet or capsule can vary substantially, even within the same batch,” Dr Roberts said.
Dr Roberts said the amount of MDMA in tablets or capsules from NSW Police seizures in 2022 varied by up to twenty-fold.
“While one MDMA tablet or capsule alone can cause some people to experience toxicity, the risk of serious toxicity is much greater if multiple tablets or capsules of MDMA are consumed over a short period, or if MDMA is consumed in combination with other stimulants,” Dr Roberts said.
High temperatures were also likely to have contributed to the high numbers of critically unwell patients at the music festival.
“It is very important to remember, if you or a friend has taken drugs and feel unwell you won’t get into trouble for seeking medical care. If you feel unwell, or if a friend feels unwell, please seek help immediately,” Dr Roberts said.
NSW Health regularly informs the public of known high risk drugs in circulation at Public drug alerts.
NSW Health Pathology’s Illicit Drugs Analysis Unit works every day to keep the community safe by conducting tests on drugs seized by police. Their work supports the health and justice systems and contributes to public health alerts and drug warnings.
For more information about staying safe at festivals, including the warning signs to seek help, see: stayok.nsw.gov.au