A Hasselt festival for teenagers was shut down around 18:00 on Wednesday after 24 girls became unwell, possibly due to needle spiking. They reportedly fell ill with nausea, hyperventilation and headaches.
Needle spiking appears to be on the rise in Belgium after 14 people were allegedly attacked at a football match on Saturday while another two cases at Saturday’s Pride festival are under investigation.
The first girl at the We R Young festival fell ill around 17:00 and reported to the nursing station, saying she felt a prick. “It soon became apparent that fifteen people, all girls, may have had to deal with needle spiking,” says Hasselt mayor Steven Vandeput.
In total, 24 young people became unwell at the festival, several saying they felt a prick. Ten teenagers were taken to the hospital as a preventative measure and for further examination.
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The emergency intervention plan was immediately implemented and the festival security were told to close the festival, mayor Vandeput said. The site, which hosted around 3,300 young people, was then evacuated.
The girls who felt unwell were attended to on-site, where doctors assessed whether further treatment in hospital would be necessary.
One girl is said to have had a puncture wound, although Vandeput stressed that the public prosecutor’s investigation is ongoing, particularly as to whether it is a case of ‘needle spiking’ or mass hysteria.
Four of the girls who were taken to hospital have been searched for traces of drugs and the first results of the urinalysis were negative, according to Jos Vandekerkhof of the Jessa Hospital in Hasselt.
However, he emphasises that the urine test only detects the most common traces of drugs. Other tests may therefore still yield something, though those results are not yet expected today.
Meanwhile, the judicial authorities were also on-site to investigate what had happened. So far, there is no trace of possible culprits.
“Just to be clear, we don’t know if this is a case of needle spiking,” says Anja De Schutter of the public prosecutor's office. “Did the young people become unwell and then panic broke out? Or did they become unwell because panic broke out?”
Several teenagers spoke about the panic at the festival site. “We heard that a girl had fallen from a drug syringe and then we saw several other people fall,” Valerie told VRT. “A lot of girls started crying.”
Jill and Lore, both 14, also saw with their own eyes that panic started: “Suddenly there was a lot of panic on the site. We went to the police, but they said nothing was wrong.”
In recent days, needle spiking incidents have made headlines after the incidents at the football match and Pride, with numerous party-goers feeling unwell after feeling a prick.
Apparent needle marks were visible on victims but the cause of their discomfort has yet to be established medically. There is a chance that a psychological aspect is involved now that there is a lot of attention to needle spiking, experts say.
“You should not underestimate the effect on the environment if someone starts to feel unwell. Soon someone else also feels something,” drug researcher Tina Van Havere said yesterday on the news programme “Laat”.