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Details emerge about overdoses at Boston concert

One concertgoer suffered an overdose after buying the drug Ketamine from a stranger, a guy who “looked strung out.” Another told police he blacked out after taking a hit of Molly for the first time. When he woke up, he was in the hospital.

The men were among three patrons treated for apparent overdoses at a Bank of America Pavilion concert in late August, just days after a college student died of a suspected overdose of Molly, at the Boston nightclub House of Blues.

Details of the overdoses, which heightened concerns about the popular club drug Molly — the powder or crystal form of MDMA — emerged at a Boston licensing board hearing Tuesday, where police described the overdoses as a growing problem.


“This drug Molly is just a scourge in that nightclub crowd,” said Kenneth O’Brien, a Boston police detective.

The city Licensing Board, which oversees establishments with food and alcohol licenses, will vote Thursday on whether to penalize the outdoor venue for the overdoses. The board has the authority to suspend or revoke the venue’s license.

Last month, two major venues canceled concerts featuring electronic music following a spate of overdoses, including two deaths at a music festival in New York City that appeared to involve the drug. The overdoses prompted warnings by local police and health agencies.

Jim Jensen, the pavilion’s general manager, told the board Tuesday that one of the men had only been at the concert a few minutes when he became unsteady on his feet. Concert employees called medics to the scene, and he was rushed to the hospital.

“That’s what happened in all three of these cases,” he said.

The man who had purchased Ketamine was carried from his seat by people sitting near him, Jensen said. The man who told police he blacked out after taking a $30 hit of Molly was asked to leave after people complained he was causing a disturbance. He then hopped in and out of a police car, and later got out of the ambulance taking him to the hospital.


“This gentleman was very physically active,” Jensen said.

At the hearing, board members urged the venue to step up monitoring of its restrooms to deter illicit drug use.

“This is where a lot of the activity happens,” said board member Milton Wright.

Jensen said the venue had requested a Boston police detail but was denied. He also said that patrons are checked at the entrance for signs of intoxication. “Whenever we see someone who does not appear to be in good condition, we stop them and call law enforcement,” he said.

O’Brien, the police detective, told the board that there was nothing security could have done to prevent the overdoses.

Two of the overdose victims initially cooperated with police, but then refused to talk to them further. The man who had blacked out said that he had drunk at least five beers before taking Molly and that he could not describe who sold him the drug. The third overdose involved a man who told medics he had taken LSD. He left no phone number with the hospital, and police could not locate him.

“They wanted to put the incidents behind them,” O’Brien said.

The board also reviewed the House of Blues nightclub’s response to three drug overdoses in late August, one of them fatal. Employees said that even with tight security, small pills can easily be sneaked into a club.


Josh Cummings, a Boston police detective, said there was no evidence the drugs were sold at the club, though one overdose victim may have taken drugs there.

Cummings said there was nothing the club could have done to prevent the overdoses. The Licensing Board will also vote Thursday on whether to penalize House of Blues.

At a hearing last month before the city’s director of the Office of Consumer Affairs & Licensing, the nightclub defended its security policies, saying it is known as the “House of Rules” for extensive searches at the door. On the night of the overdoses, the club turned away more than 130 people who appeared to be impaired, they said.

The office took no immediate action.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.