A long-term Sydney drug user says there are dodgy MDMA pills being sold in Sydney, and just half of one left her unable to move and hallucinating
A long-term Sydney drug user says dodgy MDMA pills are being sold around the city, and just half of one tablet left her hallucinating and unable to move.
Emma, 37, has been using drugs recreationally since 1996. She says she had used a dealer she knew and trusted, and believed she was taking MDMA.
The woman told Daily Mail Australia she had started off by halving one of the pills with a friend to get a feel for the drug, and says she feels lucky she didn’t take a full one.
‘We could barely move, we couldn’t even get down the stairs,’ she said. ‘We only had half a pill each – I know heaps of people who double dunk [take two pills at once], and I thought: ‘If we’d done that…’, it was so scary.’
Emma said the pill ‘messed with her central nervous system’, and left her feeling wet all over and hallucinating.
After researching the pill, and hearing a smaller dose could produce a less frightening high, she tried the drug again a week later, with a different friend.
‘I was more sober, but it meant I was more aware of what was going wrong,’ she said, noting the friend also suffered a bad reaction.
‘You couldn’t make sense of the world around you.’
Emma says being unable to test her pills meant she was only able to rely on the trust she had in her drug dealer – and claims thousands of drug users are in the same boat.
‘People walk into raves and take two or three at the same time,’ she said. ‘If you’re getting them from the same person, you think it’s going to be the same [as what you’ve had before].’
The woman, aged in her late 30’s, says she bought light blue/grey pills with a Mercedes logo on them from a trusted dealer, believing they were MDMA, but quickly discovered something was very wrong (similar pictured)
Callum Brosnan, from Baulkham Hills, was found in a ‘distressed state’ at a train station near the event, and rushed to hospital just before 1.30am, before dying of a suspected overdose after attending a dance festival in Sydney
The Knockout Games of Destiny Rave was held at Sydney Olympic Park on Saturday and hosted 18,000 people. Three others aside from Mr Brosnan were left fighting for their lives after also suffering suspected overdoses
The argument for pill testing has been headline news twice in the past three months, with young people dying from overdoses, or becoming critically ill as a result, at two high profile dance festivals; Defqon and Knockout.
Experts and some politicians have thrown their support behind the idea, as have drug users, who are becoming afraid of what they could be taking.
The World Drug Report 2017 says between 2009 and 2016, 106 countries and territories reported 739 new psychoactive substances to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Paul Dillon, the founder of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, told Daily Mail Australia these substances were often sold as MDMA or ecstasy and were designed to mimic the effects.
‘It’s always been dangerous [to take drugs], but the issue is now that there are far more substances around,’ he said.
Paul Dillon, the founder of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, said many new substances being created in labs were designed to act like ecstasy, but had unknown dangers
Emma says while she and others are more afraid than they were previously, bad experiences would not be enough to stop illicit drug use.
‘There’s nothing that’s going to stop people taking drugs,’ she said, claiming pill testing over an increased police presence would at least make the experience more safe.
‘When we first started attending festivals, it was pretty easy to just pop it in a sandwich, there were no drug dogs, but now you see people just chuck a handful in their guts [to avoid police detection], and everyone is carrying them in their bum or their vagina,’ she said.
‘The more you push it, the more underground it goes.’
Emma said a zero tolerance policy from police did nothing but make it harder to ask for help if something went wrong.
‘I know kids who are scared to tell ambos what they’ve taken, because they’re scared they’ll be charged,’ she said.
‘[When we had the dodgy pill], my friend and I were thinking about handing them in at a police station, but we realised we would probably be charged.’
Emma said being able to hand in bad pills could help to get them off the street, or to give emergency services a heads up on what to watch out for – both things that could save lives.
Mr Dillon said pill testing was proven to have reduced harm at festivals in the United Kingdom, but nothing would ever be able to completely exterminate the risk of an overdose or adverse reaction death.
‘The problem is, all the signs things could be going wrong when you take a drug like ecstasy are also the signs the drug is working,’ he said.
‘One of the major signs something is going wrong with ecstasy is you start to overheat. Another one is sweating, disorientation… in some cases, you get things like seizures.’
62 people were found in possession of drugs at the festival, including an 18-year-old woman who was allegedly carrying 390 MDMA pills inside a condom hidden in her body
The drug expert said in his experience working with medical teams at dance festivals, one person could be in serious trouble, but everyone around them will have taken the same thing and not suffered at all.
‘I think what people tend to forget about drugs, is individual difference,’ he said. ‘Everyone who takes a drug will have a different response, and that could change every time you take it.
‘You don’t know what you’re taking, or what effect it will have on you.’
The drug researcher said heavier policing is a common government response to public outrage over drug deaths, but it has not done much to solve the problem.
‘Drug use has not reduced at festivals or night clubs – people just take their drugs in a different way, or choose things not easily identified by drug dogs,’ he said.
Mr Dillon said this use of ‘visual’ action, which he believes is used because it can be seen by the public, and often provides a polling boost to governments, has damaged the police’s relationship with the public, especially at festivals.
‘Police have always been an incredibly important part of dance events,’ he said. ‘It makes everyone smarten their act up, and people feel safe having police around.
‘But now, the relationship with police has really been damaged. Which is really sad. Police are an incredibly important part of events, but [need to be] used in an appropriate way.’
On Sunday morning, 19-year-old Callum Brosnan died of a suspected drug overdose after attending the Knockout Games of Destiny Rave at Sydney Olympic Park the night before.
He was found ‘having a fit’ at the nearby train station, and was rushed to Concord Hospital about 1.30am, but died just hours later.
Three others, two women aged 19 and 25, and a 24-year-old man, were left fighting for their lives after suspected overdoses.
The tragic night comes just three months after 23-year-old Joseph Pham died at Defqon 1 of a heart attack caused by a suspected drug overdose.
Emma and Mr Dillon have both called for pill testing to be made available at events, but NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said the government will not introduce the service (pictured: Callum Brosnan who died of a suspected overdose early on Sunday morning)
On Monday, drug law reform campaign Take Control called for pill testing at festivals but NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian rejected this, saying the government would not endorse anything that normalises illegal drug taking.
‘If we thought it would save a single life, of course, we would go down that path,’ she said.
‘Unfortunately what pill testing doesn’t do is really take into account people’s different physical attributes. What is safe for one person isn’t safe for another.’
Police officers at the Knockout festival issued 69 banning notices and conducted more than 200 searches, with 62 people found in possession of drugs including an 18-year-old woman who was found with nearly 400 tablets internally concealed.
A 25-year-old man who was allegedly found with 145 MDMA capsules in his possession was also charged.
NSW Labor has promised to hold a drug summit in 2019 if the party is elected to government at the state election on March 23.