Music festival drug overdoses: 18 people treated at Knockout Outdoor, Listen Out


Horror start to Australia’s party season with 18 drug overdoses at two music festivals over the weekend – with sniffer dogs and amnesty bins failing to deter revellers’ dangerous behaviour

  • Party season began with Knockout Outdoor and Listen Out on Saturday
  • Festivals were held at Sydney Olympic Park and Centennial Park, respectively
  • Eighteen people were hospitalised with suspected drug overdoses at the events
  • Police arrested over 70 people for drug possession and four for drug supply

A horror weekend has seen 18 people at two music festivals rushed to hospital after suffering drug overdoses, despite the introduction of amnesty bins and a heavy police presence with sniffer dogs.

Australia’s party season kicked off with Knockout Outdoor at Sydney Olympic Park and Listen Out at Centennial Park on Saturday night – with tens of thousands of revellers turning out.

More than 70 people were arrested for drug possession and a further four for drug supply.

Fortunately no deaths have been reported. 

Eighteen people across both events were hospitalised with suspected drug overdoses and scores more were treated by medical staff (pictured, revellers at Listen Out)

Australia's party season kicked off with Knockout Outdoor (pictured) and Listen Out festivals on Saturday night

Australia’s party season kicked off with Knockout Outdoor (pictured) and Listen Out festivals on Saturday night

The arrests and hospitalisations come despite amnesty bins being set up at both events for revellers to discard drugs without the fear of being arrested.

The policy was introduced as a recommendation of a coronial inquest handed down in 2020 into the deaths of six young people at music festivals in NSW between December 2017 and January 2019.

Alex Ross-King, 19, Joshua Tam, 22, Callum Brosnan, 21, Diana Nguyen, 21, Joseph Pham, 23 all died at festivals after taking MDMA or ecstasy.

Five of the six festival goers also had other illegal substances in their system. 

The inquest also recommended a number of other measures including pill testing, scrapping the use of sniffer dogs and reducing the number of strip searches.

The government rejected all recommendations with police sniffer dogs out in force over the weekend to deter drug use.

Police officers and a drug detection dog walk amongst festival goers at the entrance of Splendour in the Grass 2022 at North Byron Parklands on July 22

Police officers and a drug detection dog walk amongst festival goers at the entrance of Splendour in the Grass 2022 at North Byron Parklands on July 22

More than 44,000 people went to Knockout Outdoor (pictured), while 21,000 attended Listen Out on Saturday night

More than 44,000 people went to Knockout Outdoor (pictured), while 21,000 attended Listen Out on Saturday night

Police said they were generally pleased with crowd behaviour, but added there are still those continue to put their health and the wellbeing at serious risk.

‘Illicit drugs are breaking down the fabric of society. Dealers simply see drug users as a commodity market, and care little for the consequences that go with drug use,’ South West Metropolitan Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said.

‘Police will continue to conduct high-visibility operations to target the use, possession and supply of illicit substances – along with antisocial behaviour and alcohol-fuelled violence – particularly as large-scale events continue to return in the summer months.

More than 44,000 people went to Knockout Outdoor, which ran from 2pm to 11pm. 

Police said they were generally pleased with crowd behaviour despite the arrests (pictured, festival goers at Knockout Outdoor)

Police said they were generally pleased with crowd behaviour despite the arrests (pictured, festival goers at Knockout Outdoor)

Twelve people were rushed to hospital with suspected overdoses after taking party drugs.

Police arrested 24 people at the event for drug procession. While three others were charged with charged with drug supply.

Listen Out had an attendance of 21,000 people and started at midday on Saturday.

Six people were hospitalised, while 49 revellers were charged with drug procession.

One 19-year-man was cuffed by officers and charged with drug supply. Four others were arrested for assaulting police.

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