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MDMA found in two-thirds of drug deaths

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Drug deaths at music festivals were significantly higher in the 2010s than the 2000, a new study has found.
Drug deaths at music festivals

MDMA was found in 66% of drug deaths at music festivals across the 2000s and 2010s, according to a new study by the Australian National University.

The study used historical records to investigate alcohol and drug-related deaths after attending Australian music festivals and concerts.

Young men recorded the highest number of deaths. The median age of deaths in the study was 23.

Drugs and festivals

Emergency services and police are often deployed to manage or limit the harmful impacts of drug use among people going to festivals.

Pill testing services are currently only used in the ACT. Queensland is currently making plans to add drug-checking services across the state.

Drug deaths at music festivals

There were 64 drug-related deaths at Australian music festivals from 2000 to 2019. About three-quarters of deaths were male, with most at events in urban areas.

Deaths were more common in multi-day festivals (56% of total deaths). Most deaths were in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

The actual toxicity of the drug was the most common reason for death. This was followed by external injuries, such as a car collision while under the influence of drugs.

Other trends

The majority of deaths involved the use of multiple substances. Alcohol (47% of total deaths), cannabis (17%) and ketamine (16%) were commonly detected in drug-related deaths.

The youngest reported death in the study was of a 15-year-old, while the oldest was 50.

Drug deaths were significantly higher in the 2010s than the 2000s. Most deaths occurred in hospital, while almost two-thirds of deceased people received some type of health intervention before death.

Future concerns

Researchers expressed concerns with the growing popularity of new psychoactive substances used to mimic the effects of better-known illicit drugs.

A 2020 Australian study found that almost one-quarter of regular users of illicit stimulants, such as cocaine and ice, recently used a new psychoactive substance. DMT was the most commonly used drug.

The effect of these substances can be “highly unpredictable”, and toxic in low doses.

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