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MDMA use at music festival linked to hospital admissions

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24th February, 2023

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


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