Deaths and severe toxicity at an electronic dance-music festival in NYC

December 23, 2014, 4:33 pm

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ecstasy pills


Illnesses and Deaths Among Persons Attending an Electronic Dance-Music Festival — New York City, 2013. Ridpath A et al MMWR 2014 Dec 19;63:1195-1198.

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When we last reported on the deaths of 2 young people at the New York City’s Electric Zoo Festival in 2013, the investigation into these incidents had just begun and the results of toxicology tests were not yet available.

This report — from the CDC and the New York City Department of Health — describes the full investigation into adverse medical events associated with the 3-day Labor Day weekend electronic dance-music (EDM) festival. (After the 2 deaths, the third day was cancelled.)

The authors identified 22 adverse medical events requiring transfer to an emergency room. Nine cases were severe — defined as involving seizure, intubation, ICU admission, or death. Specimens for toxicology testing were available from 17 patients. The following were the key findings:

  • Five patients were admitted to the ICU.
  • One patient who died tested positive for MDMA (ecstasy); the other fatality was positive for MDMA and methylone.
  • Six of the 22 patients transported to hospital had ingested ethanol only.
  • The most common drugs identified were methylone (9 patients), MDMA (5 patients) and methamphetamine (2)
  • Among the 9 severe cases, 8 had ingested a stimulant such as methylone with or without alcohol, and 6 had ingested one or more stimulants without alcohol.
  • Among the 22 patients transported to hospital, common abnormalities included temperature >102oF (4 patients), pulse rate > 100/min (14), seizure activity (6), sodium <135 mEq/L (5), creatinine >1.3 mg/dL (4), and creatinine kinase >1000 IU/L (7).

For the 2014 festival, safety measures were instituted and a  surveillance system was put into place to quickly identify adverse health events. Despite this, there were 2 severe cases this year including a death attributed to use of methamphetamine.

Of course, these findings are time and place specific, and other EDM or “rave” festivals might involve different drugs or types of exposures. This report might have been somewhat more interesting had it included detailed descriptions of the 2 fatal cases.
Related posts:

Death from methylone ingestion 

Case report: fatality after ingestion of methylone and butyl one sold as “ecstasy”

Fake “ecstasy”: ethcathinone and methylone

Must-read paper: 12 cases of MDMA (ecstasy) toxicity from a rave party


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