A Southern California raver who died after attending the Hard Summer festival at the Fairplex in Pomona last year had a rare psychedelic drug in her system, according to coroner's and toxicology reports recently made available to the Weekly.
Katie Dix, 19, died as a result of “multiple drug intoxication,” investigators with the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner concluded.
Those drugs included MDMA, as suspected, and alcohol, the coroner's report says.
But testing found that her system also contained a rarer pyschedelic known as ethylone, which has euphoric, tingling and stimulating effects similar to those of MDMA, aka ecstasy and molly, according to online accounts.
Ethylone has been sold on the street as molly in the past, but it's also possible that it was used as an additive or filler for the MDMA that Dix reportedly took Aug. 1 before dying, said leading ecstasy expert Charles Grob, a UCLA psychiatry professor.
Dix also had a history of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), allergies, asthma and an elevated heart rate, according to the coroner's report.
Those conditions could have accelerated her reaction to the the drugs, Grob said. Medication she took for those conditions also could have had adverse reactions, he said, although the toxicology report made no mention of such substances.
A relative told authorities that Dix had been taking Ativan for her ADHD. She also used alcohol socially, the female relative is reported to have said.
The coroner's report says friends told police Dix, from Camarillo, took “molly” at 7 p.m. on Aug. 1 at the festival and, 15 minutes later, experienced difficulty breathing, became unresponsive and went into full cardiac arrest.
She was taken to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, where staffers tried to revive her for a half-hour, authorities said. She was pronounced dead at 8:10 p.m.
Dix's toxicology report describes ethylone as “a substituted cathinone that is sold recreationally as a novel psychoactive substance.”
“Ethylone is increasingly being detected in a range of forensic toxicology cases, including performance and postmortem cases,” the report says.
UCLA's Grob, one of few academics to have performed legal MDMA research on human subjects, indicated ethylone was still a relatively rare drug for partygoers.
But he wasn't surprised at the tragic results here, particularly given Dix's existing conditions.
When it comes to taking MDMA and similar drugs, “People don't have an adequate understanding of the range of effects,” he said.
“She probably didn't realize the extreme risk she put herself in,” Grob said.
Dix was one of two young women who died after attending Hard Summer last year. The other, 18-year-old Tracy Nguyen of West Covina, died of MDMA “intoxication,” a coroner's official told us. No other drugs were blamed for her death.
The consistent level of deaths at raves or electronic dance music festivals in Southern California and Las Vegas in the last six years has been a subject of ongoing concern for elected officials.
Nineteen-year-old Emily Tran on Anaheim died of “acute MDMA intoxication,” with no other drugs detected, after she experienced seizures at Hard Summer in 2014, a coroner's official told us that year.
Last year Hard was held on taxpayer-owned property, the Fairplex, and following the August 2015 deaths, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors pondered an outright ban on raves at its facilities.
The board settled for a system of reviewing such parties on a case-by-case basis.