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Forensic Sci Int. 2019 Jun;299:174-179. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2019.03.047. Epub 2019 Apr 6.

Lessons to be learned from toxicological analyses in intoxicated patients and seized materials at an electronic music dance festival.

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Ghent University, Belgium; Emergency Department, General Hospital Maria Middelares, Ghent, Belgium. Electronic address:
Toxicological Centre, University of Antwerp, Belgium.
Emergency Department, University Hospital, Antwerp, Belgium.
Emergency Department, University Hospital, Antwerp, Belgium; The Flemish Cross, Mechelen, Belgium.
Emergency Department, General Hospital Maria Middelares, Ghent, Belgium.
Ambulance medic, Antwerp, Belgium.
Medicines laboratory, Sciensano, Brussels, Belgium.
Belgian Early Warning System Drugs, Sciensano, Brussels, Belgium.


Medical problems related to illicit drug use are frequently encountered at electronic dance music (EDM) events. In this prospective study, the medical problems and toxicological analyses on intoxicated persons and seized materials are described jointly. The aim of this study is to find out to what extent these efforts may assist in developing prevention strategies and organising on-site care at EDM events. The most frequently encountered clinical presentation in the 121 included patients was: agitation/aggression (26%), drunkenness (25%), depressed level of consciousness (24%) and hallucinations (9%). Only five patients were transported by ambulance to a hospital. In 100 of the 121 included patients (83%) an ethanolemia of at least 0.50 g/L was measured (with ethanol as the only drug found in 47 cases). 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) was detected in 54% of the blood samples, cocaine in 11%, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) in 11%, amphetamine in 7%, ketamine in 6% and a new psychoactive substance (NPS) in 4%. Except for 8 MDMA-users poly drug use was found in all these cases. The 178 seized samples most frequently contained MDMA (31%), cannabis (28%) or no active substance (15%). In 11 samples (6%) an NPS was detected. Of particular interest was a tablet containing 4-chloromethamphetamine (a previously unknown neurotoxic NPS), 4-chloroamphetamine, para-methoxyamphetamine, para-methoxymethamphetamine and ethylone. Our data show that at EDM events ethanol and MDMA are still the party drugs causing most health hazards and that NPS only play a minor role. Regarding the toxicological efforts, we recommend to analyse all seized materials from an EDM event, but only blood samples from the most severely intoxicated patients.


Electronic dance music event; Ethanol; New psychoactive substances; Party drugs

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