Concerns have been raised a “bad batch” of drugs are circulating in Victoria following a suspected mass overdose at a Melbourne rave.
Nine people were hospitalised after suffering suspected drug overdoses at the Hardmission Festival at Flemington Racecourse on January 6, with eight placed in induced comas.
Most of the affected partygoers were aged in their 20s and 30s, although one teenage girl was among the cohort rushed to hospital.
On Monday, Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill said there were “many more than eight” people needing assistance at the event, but paramedics and doctors had to take over the work of breathing for eight patients.
“The scary thing is these drugs …. are not made in batches of eight, you know what I mean, they’re made in batches of hundreds and thousands so there’s many many more out there,” he told 3AW.
There’s probably many many more festivals that are coming up over the coming weeks and months … There is obviously a particularly bad variant out there and we have no mechanism to determine whether those drugs are circulating at an event.”
It’s believed those at the festival had overdosed on methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA.
It’s understood the condition of attendees at the event deteriorated rapidly, believed to be consistent with people taking a substance at the same time.
Paramedics in attendance described patients feeling like “a heat pack” with internal temperature’s reaching more that 41C.
As of Tuesday afternoon, four people remain in a critical condition, two are in a stable condition and three have been discharged from hospital.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the Department is working closely with the Victorian Poisons Information Centre to investigate the unfortunate incidents.
“Those involved are receiving care, and we’re expecting more information about the substances involved within the next week as we consider if further public health alerts or other steps are needed,” she said.
Mr Hill has urged the Victorian Government to introduce a pill testing regime such as the system introduced last year in Queensland.
“We may not stop all drug taking behaviour but hopefully we can stop people from taking this particular drug that is particularly bad,” he said.
“There’s categorically not one variant of this drug you would ever have our paramedics say are safe — they’re all playing Russian roulette but some are particularly bad.”
Major Events Minister Steve Dimopoulos told media on Monday the government had no plans to introduce pill testing in Victoria, but was open to “innovative approaches” to reduce harm.
“The poison centre is still diagnosing what actually happened here. Let’s have a look at what the actual evidence shows,” he said.
“Rather than jump to assumptions in terms of was it something in the pills, was it a reaction, or was it something specific with different individuals — there may be different answers.
“I want to remind all Victorians to be very careful what you put into your body.”
Data released by the Coroners Court of Victoria last November show overdose deaths linked to illicit substances have almost doubled to 301 between 2013 and 2022.
The same year the number of overdose death involving alcohol reached 173 — the highest over the past decade.