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Alert For Festivalgoers: Dangerous High-Dose MDMA Tablets Circulating NSW

9 November 2023 | 10:21 am | Jessie Lynch

"If you or a friend feel unwell, you won't get into trouble for seeking medical care. Please seek help immediately."

Blue Punisher ecstacy pills

Blue Punisher ecstacy pills (Twitter)

In a concerning development for the party scene in New South Wales, health authorities have issued a stark warning about a series of high-dose MDMA tablets that have been found circulating in the state.

These tablets, identified by their distinctive shapes and colours, contain dangerously high levels of MDMA, with some containing up to twice the average dose typically found in ecstasy pills.

The warning, coming from NSW Health, highlights three specific types of MDMA tablets that have been recently discovered:

  • Blue, diamond-shaped tablets with the 'Punisher' logo were found to contain 216 mg of MDMA.

  • Blue, skull-shaped tablets with a 'MYBRAND' logo and text, were found to contain 216 mg of MDMA.

  • Yellow, square tablets with 'SpongeBob' smiley face markings were found to contain 160 mg MDMA.

To put this into perspective, these doses are significantly higher than the average, posing a severe risk of overdose and potentially fatal consequences.

Dr Darren Roberts, Medical Director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre, said the consumption of high doses of MDMA has caused serious illness and death in NSW. 

“It can cause severe agitation, raised body temperature, seizures or fits, irregular heart rhythm and death,” Dr Roberts said.

“The health risks from MDMA are greatly increased if high amounts, including multiple doses, are consumed over a short period. Other risks include taking MDMA in combination with other stimulants, such as amphetamines or cocaine.

“Hot environments can also increase the risk of harm from MDMA. Several music festivals are taking place this week in New South Wales, and hot weather is predicted. Taking a break from dancing, seeking shade, and drinking water are important measures to reduce the risk of overheating at festivals.

“It is very important to remember the amount of MDMA in a tablet or capsule can vary a lot, even within the same batch. If you or a friend have taken drugs, please watch out for each other and know the warning signs that you need help. If you or a friend feel unwell, you won't get into trouble for seeking medical care. Please seek help immediately.

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

The presence of other substances such as cathinone stimulants, and "ketamine and ketamine-analogues" in some sampled pills adds to the danger, as these combinations can lead to unpredictable and harmful effects.

The advisory comes in the wake of recent tragic incidents, including the deaths of two punters at Knockout Outdoor festival, suspected to be linked to drug overdoses.

Despite these alarming events, there has been resistance from the NSW government to introduce pill testing as the festival season approaches.

NSW Health's message to the public is clear: the consumption of these high-dose tablets can have dire consequences. They urge anyone who feels unwell after taking drugs to seek immediate medical attention and reassure that help will be provided without fear of legal repercussions.

Festivalgoers are urged to stay informed, look out for one another, and prioritise safety above all else.

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

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

For support and information with alcohol, MDMA and other drugs, please contact the Alcohol and Drug Information Service on 1800 250 015. This is a 24/7 service offering confidential and anonymous telephone counselling and information. NUAA also provides a range of harm minimisation resources and advice and can be reached on 1800 644 413.