Disturbing new drug Monkey Dust has triggered a major health alert as the designer party substance infiltrates dancefloors and music festivals across Australia.
Disturbing new drug Monkey Dust has triggered a major health alert as the designer party substance infiltrates dancefloors and music festivals across Australia.

Fears over killer new drug sweeping Australia

EXCLUSIVE: A disturbing new drug called "monkey dust", which is being passed off as ecstasy on dancefloors and at music festivals nationwide, has triggered a major health alert.

Authorities warn the cheap and potentially lethal drug, also known as bath salts or MDPV, can cause psychosis.

Its hallucinogenic effects are so strong, some users believe they are superhuman and jump off buildings or in front of cars, or bang their heads into walls.

The drug, a potent offshoot of methamphetamine, or ice, has been linked to dozens of deaths in the United Kingdom.

Its use there is epidemic, and the Australian Federal Police say it is on their radar. Last year, it seized 4.5kg of the drug - enough for half a million street doses.

In one case in Australia, a woman who took the drug ended up licking the dance floor so feverishly her tongue bled.

Detecting Monkey Dust is difficult because it is still new and it avoids being detected by sniffer dogs.
Detecting Monkey Dust is difficult because it is still new and it avoids being detected by sniffer dogs.

Finding it can be difficult: it is new, and is not detected by sniffer dogs or current roadside tests.

The drug, which causes intense hallucinogenic rushes, extreme paranoia and feelings of invincibility, can be taken as a pill, snorted or smoked.

More potent than ecstasy, a hit can cost as little as $10, and some dealers pass it off as ecstasy, thus increasing risks of fatal overdoses.

Leading forensic toxicologist Andrew Leibie said the drug appeared briefly in Australia a few years ago, but now had re-emerged in bigger quantities to become the new "it" drug on dancefloors and at music festivals.

"We tend to see drugs that are big in Europe, the UK and the US. Our summer music festivals are six months behind,," he said.

"Is it something we should be worried about? Yes. There is a clearly a market for it.

"It's certainly a contender for the fatal drug overdoses we are seeing. I would have it as one of my top five suspects."

One man died last week from a drug overdose at Beyond the Valley festival near Warragul, while several others were treated for overdosing.

And Josh Tam died after consuming what was believed to be a cocktail of ecstasy and alcohol on December 29. He became the fourth person in as many months to die of a suspected drug overdose at a music event in NSW.

Mr Leibie said monkey dust was extremely dangerous, and only a small dose could kill.

"It's cheaper than ecstasy and it's a lot more dangerous," he said. "The minute your friends start acting strangely, go get medical help. You have a window of about 30 minutes to one hour to get treatment - after that, it's too late."

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An AFP spokeswoman said it was aware of MDPV.

"The illicit drug trade is not a just a policing problem - it is an attack on our society, both here in Australia and overseas, which is destroying individuals, families and communities," she said.

"Anyone who is considering experimenting with illicit drugs or new psychoactive substances, no matter how they are branded or presented, do not do it.

"It's a gamble with your life that's just not worth taking."

Victoria Police spokeswoman Alanna Jarry said: "Victoria Police monitors new synthetic substances emerging in the illicit drug market. Drug dealers continually develop new products to create a new 'high' and to try to avoid prosecution."

In January 2017, a dodgy batch of drugs being sold as MDMA but laced with the powerful hallucinogen NBOMe resulted in three deaths and 20 overdoses - most of them around Chapel Street's entertainment area.

A month later GBL, nicknamed "coma in a bottle", was linked to almost 40 overdoses at the Electric Parade at Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

aleks.devic@news.com.au

@AleksDevic



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