Last night, Australia’s first pill testing trial went off without so much as a hitch at Groovin the Moo in Canberra. There were 85 samples tested, way more than any of the STA-SAFE team thought they’d get—they even had a bet running. “We thought we’d see 30 people,” explained Matt Noffs, one of the lead campaigners, who heads up the Noffs Foundation.
Two samples that came through the tent, though, had the testers seriously concerned. One came from a young guy who thought he had speed. It turned out the active ingredient in the powder was N-Ethylpentylone—a cathinone, which are a class of drugs also known as “bath salts.”
“I haven’t seen that before in Australia,” Dr David Caldicott, who works as an emergency doctor at Canberra’s Calvary Hospital, told VICE. “But within five minutes of that result, I’d called the chief health minister of the ACT and let him know it was in the territory.”
N-Ethylpentylone showed up in New Zealand earlier this year, and was also found at V Festival in the UK late in 2017. Usually it’s sold under the guise of being MDMA. But the effects can range from an increased heart rate to nausea, vomiting, and even hypothermia.
“We know it can be fatal,” Dr Caldicott said, “it’s been linked to what we call ‘mass overdose’ events in Europe.”
Inside the testing tent at Groovin the Moo, this scary test result was posted up on a wall on a red card, with a description of what the festivalgoer thought they had and what it actually was.
Only about half of the samples that came through the testing tent had any sort of active ingredient in them. Many people thought they had MDMA but actually had bought something filled with sweet’n’low, arnica muscle rub, paint, caffeine, or even “fat burner.”
Early reports suggest nobody was hospitalised for drug-related illness at the event.
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