GARDAI were last night trying to track down the source of the liquid drug that left three young men fighting for their lives in hospital.
As many as 30 people are believed to have taken the drug at three separate parties in Ongar, Dublin.
Now gardai are attempting to identify the source of the drug and whether it is part of an even bigger 'batch' or if it is a relatively isolated incident.
They urged people to check on family members or friends if it was possible that they had been in contact with the drug.
And they appealed for those who were at the parties to seek urgent medical attention.
The tasteless, odourless chemical GHB is so potent it has become notorious as a 'date-rape' drug, with side effects including memory loss and even a coma.
But in this case, party-goers were apparently taking the drug for recreational purposes during the Halloween celebrations.
The potentially lethal batch of drugs was discovered after the emergency services were called to a house in Ongar.
The small cul-de-sac is part of a large estate, and is home to a mixture of young Irish couples and foreign nationals.
There they discovered a man in his 30s slumped over and unconscious.
He was rushed to the James Connolly Memorial Hospital, where it was initially feared he had suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning.
But Ray Murray, a spokesman for Dublin Fire Brigade, said that after the fire crew returned to the house they could find no sign of the deadly gas.
At that stage, a number of other party-goers began to fall ill with the same symptoms.
Gardai said it is believed the potentially lethal sedative known as liquid ecstasy was taken at the party. The drug, officially known as GHB, can kill when mixed with alcohol.
Last night, three men remained in the intensive-care unit of the hospital. They were said to be in a "stable" condition.
At least four other people later presented themselves at the A&E department at the hospital but did not need to be admitted overnight.
Gardai are appealing for anyone who was at any of the three parties in Annaly Court to seek urgent medical attention.
"Some of those who attended may be living alone and gardai are anxious that those people are checked on and given medical advice without delay," said garda spokesman John Gilligan.
"There may have been up to 20 or 30 people at the party or series of parties."
A garda investigation into the supply and consumption of a controlled substance is under way, but he said that the priority at this stage was to ensure that anyone who consumed or was exposed to dangerous drugs received medical attention.
Last night, gardai were carrying out a technical examination of the three addresses in west Dublin. Liquid ecstasy can be made by anyone with basic scientific knowledge and with ingredients bought over the internet. However it is potentially lethal when mixed with alcohol.
Gardai wearing latex gloves were examining the inside and outside of the property yesterday morning, and at one point examined a small plastic jug that had been left at the scene.
One of the homes was rented accommodation where a couple lived with their two young children.
Neighbours said they had heard the party taking place but that nothing out of the ordinary appeared to be happening there. Many didn't realise that several of the party-goers had been hospitalised until the next morning.
A cardboard skeleton and a rubber mask still hung outside the door of one apartment.
No arrests have been made.
Last night, Fine Gael councillor Kieran Dennison said there has never been a major problem with drugs in the area.
And local Labour TD Joan Burton said the community was shocked at what had happened.
"It's a very nice quiet place, and we're all hoping that they'll make a good recovery," she said.
Tony Geoghegan, director of Merchants Quay drug treatment centre, said they hadn't noticed a particular problem with liquid ecstasy lately. But he said that it was very easy for someone with basic scientific knowledge to manufacture the drug in their own home.
"It's easily made up if you're a science or physics graduate," he said. "You can buy the ingredients in a chemist or on the internet and there's been a few little factories lately that have been busted by the gardai."
He also appealed for anyone who had taken the drug to seek medical attention.
Anyone with information on the drug or who can help identify people who may need medical help is asked to contact Blanchardstown garda station on 01 666 7000.
Knowing the score: Tony Geoghegan Page 28