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Australians call for nationwide pill testing following festival MDMA overdoses

Eight young people were in induced comas following Hardmission Festival in Melbourne on Saturday

  • WORDS: BECKY BUCKLE | PHOTO: @ELVIN.HEA
  • 9 January 2024
Australians call for nationwide pill testing following festival MDMA overdoses

Australian welfare groups are calling for nationwide pill testing provisions after eight festival-goers were hospitalised following suspected MDMA overdoses this weekend.

Paramedics at Melbourne's Hardmission festival on Saturday (January 6) transported nine patients to hospital, eight of which were placed into medically-induced comas, according to The Guardian.

Three of the nine patients remain in a critical condition, with one in a serious condition — one in a serious but stable condition and one remains stable. Two patients have been discharged from hospital.

According to news.com.au, festival-goers at Hardmission had taken to social media over the weekend to complain of "overcrowding" amid 32-degree heat.

The Victorian Ambulance Union’s secretary, Danny Hill told The Guardian that patients were “really sick” adding: “You had patients with high temperatures – some over 41 degrees and seizure activity. In order to be transported, [paramedics] have to do intervention that is normally left for patients suffering a head injury or a stroke,” he said.

Hill explained that it was unusual to have a high number of people affected at one event revealing: “I don’t think we’ve seen it for some years, if ever”.

Following the festival, the Australian Lawyers Alliance have called for nationwide pill-testing.

In a statement, Greg Barns SC, criminal justice spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance says: “The reality is that young people will experiment with drugs and they are being needlessly exposed to death or physical and mental harm when we have the ability to prevent this through the introduction of drug checking services.”

Barns adds: “Our priority must be to avoid deaths and minimise harm.”

As well as this, The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) is also encouraging the introduction of nationwide pill testing.

Since the festival, VAADA says it has the support of 79 other organisations to implement a drug-checking service in line with recommendations from five Victorian coronial inquiries.

Chris Christoforou, CEO of VAADA says “Drug checking services offer a handbrake for people who have otherwise opted to consume illicit drugs to reconsider their decision. Importantly, it can provide lifesaving information prior to consumption, rather than through pathology tests from people in emergency departments or morgues.

“We are gravely concerned regarding the risk of further harm in the community given the likelihood that the substances attributed to causing these overdoses are still in circulation.”

Christoforou concludes: “We hope that those who experienced harm over the weekend from these substances have a full recovery.”

Currently, Victoria is looking into a pill-testing trial to be introduced this summer if passed by parliament.

The Pill Testing Pilot for Drug Harm Reduction Bill aims to run pill testing services at music festivals as part of a two-year trial which could extend to four years.

In a statement to Mixmag Victoria Police have said: “Victoria Police are investigating reports a number of people were taken to hospital seriously unwell while attending a music festival in Flemington Saturday evening.

“Police were not aware of any critical health incidents during the event however are now making enquiries and an investigation has commenced.”

The statement adds: “Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.”

Mixmag has contacted Hardmission Festival for a comment.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from super-strength ecstasy here.

Becky Buckle is Mixmag's Multimedia Editor, follow her on Twitter

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