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Eight In Critical Condition After Suspected Overdoses At Hardmission Festival

8 January 2024 | 11:32 am | Jessie Lynch

“They had to bring paramedics in from other parts of the city to assist with it – it shows how dire the situation was.”

Hardmission Melbourne

Hardmission Melbourne (Hardmission)

Eight punters have been rushed to various Melbourne hospitals in critical condition after a mass MDMA overdose at Hardmission Festival held at Flemington Racecourse on Saturday (Jan. 6).

The festival drew thousands of keen partygoers who packed Flemington Racecourse for an unforgettable night. However, the euphoria was abruptly interrupted as emergency services responded to a wave of MDMA overdoses over just four hours.

The affected individuals were promptly transported to hospitals across Melbourne, including the Royal Melbourne, St Vincent’s, Footscray, Sunshine, and the Austin.

Initial reports indicated that seven punters were placed into induced comas, but by Monday, Ambulance Victoria confirmed they were treating nine people for drug-related incidents, with eight requiring intubation and one admitted for further treatment.

Victorian Ambulance Union general secretary Danny Hill said the situation at the event was “dire”.

“There were a lot of ­patients overdosing on MDMA, quite a number of them were critically unwell,” he told the Herald Sun.

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“Seven patients had to be placed into an induced coma by our ­mobile intensive care ambulance paramedics and a breathing tube placed into their throat, so they were fully sedated.”

"It's quite a high-level treatment that our paramedics perform and it's reserved for our most time-critical patients and patients in life-threatening health conditions," he said.

"It's probably quite rare that we would see this amount of people needing such aggressive treatment."

He added, “They had to bring paramedics in from other parts of the city to assist with it – it shows how dire the situation was.”

According to Hill, the victims experienced the effects of serotonin syndrome, a severe reaction associated with illegal drugs that triggers a defensive response in the body. Symptoms include dangerously high temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius and acute cardiac distress, which require induced comas and life-saving interventions.

Ambulance Victoria regional and clinical operations director Vanessa Gorman explained, "This is a reaction you can get from illegal drugs and basically it puts your body into defensive overdrive.’

“They all had very high temperatures over 40C and they all presented with acute cardiac symptoms which is why they all needed that life-saving support through the intubation and transport through to hospital.”

Before the festival, Hardmission organisers shared a post on social media, announcing volunteers from DanceWize would be on-site at the festival.

Hardmission is committed to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all our attendees. As part of our dedication to harm minimisation, we are proud to ­announce the presence of DanceWize at the event,” they wrote on Friday.

“Remember, we’re here to look out for one another and create an environment where everyone can enjoy the music responsibly.”

A Victoria Police spokeswoman told the investigation into the incidents remained ongoing.

The overdoses come following a string of similar instances from last year, including Transmission Festival in 2023 during which one man from a suspected drug overdose, while twelve others were hospitalised.

Two men then died from suspected overdoses after attending October’s Knockout Festival, and in November, NSW health authorities issued a stark warning about a series of high-dose MDMA tablets that have been found circulating in the state, again promoting calls for pill testing to be available at such events.

Following the October deaths, Greens MP Cate Faerhmann voiced her frustration over the lack of such harm-reduction strategies and called for immediate action ahead of festivals taking place this summer, saying there is enough evidence to show pill testing prevents harm.

"It's incredibly frustrating that governments don't seem to act unless there's a crisis but then all they've done after the crisis is commission reports and then not act on the recommendations," Faerhmann said at the time.

"It's going to be a very hot summer and it's going to be a very dangerous summer unless [NSW Premier] Chris Minns acts."