Status:
Resolved
Health advisory:
140012
Date Issued:
02 Dec 2014
Issued by:
Dr Rosemary Lester, Chief Health Officer, Victoria
Issued to:
Health professionals

Key messages

  • Four males have recently developed unusual and severe adverse reactions suspected to be associated with smoking or snorting illicit drugs (Ice or MDMA). Three of these patients have been hospitalised with respiratory failure.
  • Be alert for patients presenting with shortness of breath, cough, fever and myalgia and check for use of Ice, MDMA or other illicit drugs. Severe pneumonitis, hypoxia and respiratory failure may develop in these patients.
  • Advise all patients to discontinue use of illicit drug products.

What is the issue?

Methamphetamines are synthetic psychostimulant drugs which present in three forms: Speed (usually in the form of a powder), Base (an oily, sticky or waxy paste) and Ice (crystal or crystalline powder). Ice (‘crystal meth’, ‘shabu’ or ‘glass’) is a stronger form of methamphetamine. Methamphetamines can be injected, snorted, smoked or swallowed.

MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a hallucinogenic amphetamine. ‘Ecstasy’, ‘eckie’, ‘e’ or ‘Xtc’ is the street term for a range of drugs that are similar in structure to MDMA . Ecstasy is usually taken orally in tablet form. Tablets sold as ‘Ecstasy’ in Victoria often contain a mixture of other drugs. Illegal amphetamines are manufactured in secret laboratories and ‘cut’ (diluted) with different substances to boost profits. This means they present in various degrees of purity and usually contain other chemicals that may cause serious health issues.

Who is at risk?

Any individual smoking or snorting Ice or MDMA is at serious risk of harm. These drugs are untested and unregulated and may therefore include a range of undisclosed chemicals that can cause serious health issues.

Symptoms

Be alert for potential use of Ice, MDMA or other illicit drug use in any patients presenting with shortness of breath, cough, fever, and myalgia. Severe pneumonitis, hypoxia and respiratory failure may develop in these patients.

Prevention and treatment

Any patient reporting or suspected of using illicit drugs should be advised of the risk to their health. Treatment should be initiated in accordance with clinical presentation. Discuss with the Poisons Information Centre for further advice.

Factsheets on Ice, Ecstasy and other illicit drugs:

AOD information, counselling and support services: