17 February 2023

NSW Health is alerting the public to the risks of MDMA (ecstasy) use, after a number of patients were admitted to hospital following attendance at a music festival in Sydney on Saturday 11 February 2023.

A panel of toxicology experts has determined MDMA as the cause of toxicity in these patients. No contaminants or other substances were detected in the patients’ toxicology testing, meaning there is 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.

“The high temperatures are also likely to have contributed to the high numbers of critically unwell patients at last weekend’s music festival. Taking a break from dancing, seeking shade if it’s sunny and drinking water are important measures to reduce the risk of overheating at festivals.

“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,” he said.

There are teams of well-trained peer volunteers from programs such as DanceWize NSW and the ACON Rovers who are ready to support you at many major festivals. Other event staff are also trained to help patrons.

The NSW Ministry of Health, NSW Ambulance, and local health districts provide risk management advice for festival organisers and NSW Health has issued Guidelines for Music Festival Event Organisers and pre-hospital clinical guidelines for onsite medical care providers.

At locations other than festivals, phone emergency services on Triple Zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. For more information about staying safe at festivals, including the warning signs to seek help, see Stay OK at Music Festivals.

NSW Health informs the public of known high risk drugs in circulation at Public drug warnings.

For information about the potential adverse effects of MDMA, please contact the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

For support and information on drug, alcohol and other substance, please contact: The Alcohol and Drug Information Service: 1800 250 015. This is a 24/7 service offering confidential and anonymous telephone counselling and information.