Have the Astroworld participants been stabbed with drugs? Not likely

Travis Scott on Astroworld stage

Travis Scott performs at the 2021 Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 5, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Erika Goldring / WireImage via Getty Images

Drug experts say it’s unlikely that an Astroworld Festival attendee began mass stabbing people with needles filled with a mysterious drug – a theory backed by Houston police, apparently without evidence .

Eight people, including a 14-year-old boy, died Friday during the Houston festival, hosted by rapper Travis Scott; Scott played as the people in the crowd were crushed to death.

Scott has since released a video statement saying he’s working with local authorities. He and entertainment giant Live Nation have been the subject of at least one festival-related lawsuit, which Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña has called “a mass casualty incident.”

As news of the tragedy emerged over the weekend, TMZ reported that a man with a needle may be injecting people in the crowd with an unknown drug. The gossip site had no evidence to support this claim.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner has since perpetuated this theory, tell reporters Saturday that a security guard “felt a prick in the neck” while trying to restrain someone.

“When he was examined, he lost consciousness. They administered Narcan [the brand name for naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses]. He was resuscitated and the medical staff noticed a prick-like bite that you would get if someone tried to inject, ”Finner said. “It’s a part of it. The other thing that is very important: there were individuals who were trampled.

Houston Police spokesman Victor Senties told VICE News the department would not provide any additional information on the drug theory on Monday, but said the theory has not been confirmed.

“We haven’t confirmed anything,” he said. “We still have an active investigation going into this. You have to understand that we have thousands and thousands of people who were there, so there is still a lot of work to be done.

Participant and ICU nurse Madeline Eskins said Rolling stone she saw nothing that could suggest people were stabbed with drugs.

“They’re trying to blame the drugs. And I agree with you: I don’t think it was caused by drug use, ”she told the magazine. “Could that have been a contributing factor? Sure. Will they find drugs in the bodies of those who have died? May be. But people were suffocating. People were getting trampled, a lot of those trauma injuries. A guy got his face smashed. He was bleeding from his nose, face and mouth which I guess the drugs can cause but can also be stepped on.

Claire Zagorski, coordinator of the Pharmacy Addictions Research and Medicine program at the University of Texas at Austin, said it’s important to remember that just because someone responded after receiving Narcan, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he was overdosing.

“I could absolutely give myself Narcan and feel more alert afterwards,” she told VICE News. “It’s kind of like a placebo effect.”

The San Diego County Sheriff‘s Department has come under fire after sharing a video showing an officer resuscitated with naloxone after an overdose of fentanyl exposure, which is not possible. Lucas Hill, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Texas at Austin, previously told VICE News that the officer was more likely to have had a panic attack.

Dr Ryan Marino, a medical toxicologist and addiction specialist in Cleveland, Ohio, told VICE News that it would be logistically difficult to inject a group of people at a show.

“It wouldn’t be easy to do. Anyone who administers drugs knows that giving someone such an injection is very obvious and usually painful, but it’s not something that can be done stealthily, ”he said.

“Injecting someone into the neck is difficult,” Zagorski said, adding that the drug would likely hit a muscle, not a vein, which means it would take longer to pass through the body.

Zagorski said that when you factor in the circumstances the security guard found himself in – the total chaos with people dying around him in the dark – it seems like it would be difficult to assess whether someone has him. stabbed with drugs.

“We’re getting into the urban legend a lot here,” Zagorski said.

She said Finner’s remarks, which were reported by numerous media outlets as confirmation that someone was stabbed with a needle, were irresponsible.

“The police tend to think in these situations that it is okay even if they are wrong, because it just makes people more vigilant about drugs,” she said.

Marino told VICE News that if someone was injected with drugs at the concert, it should be easy to provide evidence, including toxicology tests from people who believe they were injected.

Finner said homicide and narcotics detectives were working on the Astroworld case.

Astroworld’s drug hit theory comes as doping injection rumors began to circulate in September and October in the UK, after social media posts featuring victims’ testimonies with photographs of suspected and bruised injection sites have become viral.

Although a small number of arrests have been made in Nottingham and Sussex, police forces across the country have yet to confirm that doping injections exist or charge anyone, and if they do, what substances or devices are used and where they may originate. As of October 27, British police forces had recorded 198 confirmed reports of alcohol consumption in the previous two months, as well as 56 incidents in which victims said they feared they had been doped by injection.

Experts VICE World News spoke with suggested the injections would be incredibly unlikely. If they did occur, they would be significantly more risky for the abuser compared to traditional alcohol consumption and would likely involve some level of medical or technical training.

There have been confirmed reports of victims who claimed to have been injected doping, which were later found not to have undergone toxicology tests, such as one case in Exeter. The social media panic led to the spread of disinformation around HIV too.

But VICE World News also reported that a lack of a standardized protocol between healthcare and the police makes it difficult to effectively verify new information and threats. Reports of the peaks tend to increase each fall – when students begin their university studies – and victims VICE World News spoke to pointed out that there was little support and opportunity to hand over samples of urine or blood because their cases are not taken seriously enough.

– with files from Sophia Smith Galer

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.

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