Words by Marcella Gallace & Lauren Ziegler
Over the weekend, a 19-year-old man passed away from a suspected drug overdose at the A state of Trance music event held at Sydney Olympic Park. The man, now identified as Tolga Toksoz, collapsed at the festival before being taken to Concord Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A 20-year-old male is currently in Westmead hospital on life support, with another also four taken to hospital (and since discharged) following the same event. 23 other patrons were treated by medics on site. A third man was allegedly rushed to hospital during the event, after informing police that he had accidentally swallowed a bag of pills while attempting to hide them from sniffer dogs.
Officers have been led to believe that the group were playing a ridiculous, deadly ‘game’ where they challenged each other over the number of drugs they could take.
The incident calls for further attention regarding pill testing being introduced at Australian festivals, as well as improved police methods of drug testing and searching. Some are even calling out to ‘ditch the dogs,‘ arguing that sniffer dogs are ineffective in drug detection, and that they increase the chance of overdoses.
Toksoz’s death once again brings the dangers surrounding drugs and dance music events to media attention. It follows on from the death of Georgina Bartter at Harbourlife in November 2014, James Munro at Defqon 1 in September 2013, and three punters who died at another A State of Trance event in Jakarta last year.
Whether the amount of pills or the poisonous chemicals within them are to blame, the event once again brings to light the many problems surrounding a lack of information, understanding and drug testing at events.
As Drug Squad Commander Tony Cooke describes: “MDMA is manufactured by money-hungry criminals who are only interest in boosting their black market businesses. They will cut their product with anything they can find in order to increase their yield.”
“They were dealers that were there preying on the people that go in there and are silly enough to actually go and buy the drugs from them,” Assistant Commissioner Mennilli said.
Out of the 16 000 punters, around 180 punters were searched by sniffer dogs and 40 charges were laid regarding drug possession and related offences. Among those charged for supply including 20-year-old men from Greenacre and Auburn who were found with 130 and 98 pills respectively, and a 21-year-old male from Victoria, who was found with 15 tablets believed to contain MDMA.
These incidents should indicate the increasingly, incredibly obvious need for drug testing to be introduced at festivals and other events – pill kits or booths should to be made available, legally, for users to find out what’s in their drugs before they consume them.
While this idea worries police and politicians due to its necessary acknowledgement that drug use is taking place, it really is the only potential option we have.
For more information about the need and importance of drug testing, visit the excellent US site DanceSafe. To get in the know and join forces with Australian drug information and harm reduction activists, visit Unharm.
For more information about drug testing, watch this incredible documentary below, created for drug-testing company The Bunk Police. You can also buy your own testing kit from their website.