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Maryland EMS Physicians Describe Public Health Threat of Designer Drugs at EMS Today 2016

Electronic dance music (EDM) festivals represent a perfect storm of risk factors associated with mass gatherings and pose a unique challenge for EMS systems. This is attributed to a convergence of multiple factors, including an increase in the frequency and popularity of EDM concerts/festivals, a younger attendee demographic, the abundant availability of designer drugs such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, also known as Molly and Ecstasy) and the prevalence of alcohol and other external factors, such as exposure to weather conditions. Combined, these variables have resulted in an overall increase of patient encounters and acuity during these events.

In the session Overdose by Designer Drugs: Death in Teens/Young Adults—A New Public Health Threat delivered Saturday, Feb. 27 at EMS Today 2016, Kevin G. Seaman, MD, FACEP, Matthew Jason Levy, DO, MSc, and Benjamin J. Lawner, DO, MS, EMT-P, FACEP, reviewed clinical cases and described cutting edge treatments for intoxication with agents such as MDMA.  The presenters described their experiences in planning for and responding to emergencies at these large-scale gatherings. EDM festivals continue to gain popularity, and the presentation was certainly helpful in assisting fire department personnel, EMS professionals and emergency clinicians with crafting a comprehensive incident management plan.

Other points discussed by the presenters included:

  • Patients requiring medical assistance at EDM festivals may present with higher acuity conditions such as delirium, tachycardia and hyperthermia.
  • Adequate “event intelligence” is essential for creating a medical incident action plan. Environmental considerations such as ambient temperature and the location of water sources factor heavily into event planning.
  • EMS personnel may benefit from “just in time” training to prepare them for the unique clinical presentations encountered at EDM festivals.
  • Medical care at these events requires broad-based collaboration between event promotors, emergency responders and law enforcement personnel.
For more coverage of EMS Today 2016, click here.