Skip navigation and jump to content
Welcome to Ireland's Youth Information Website
Follow us
Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Snapchat

Accessibility Options

High Contrast Text Size

How to help a friend in a drug emergency

Dealing with a drug emergency involving you or a friend


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


Share this article -

Taking drugs can lead to an emergency situation where you or a friend suffer a bad drug reaction, mix drugs with alcohol or take too much.

It's important to know how to help in a drugs emergency and who to contact for support.

What is a drug emergency?

A drug emergency can include:

  • Taking an overdose,
  • Fearing a drug has been contaminated 
  • Experiencing an unusual reaction to a drug

You should go to the A&E department of the nearest hospital or call Emergency Services on 999 or 112 immediately.

How to help when someone feels fear, tense or panicked

Speed, cannabis, ecstasy, acid and magic mushrooms can sometimes make you feel tense, frightened or panicky. Other drugs can have the same effect if you react badly to them. The following is what you can do to help:

  • Calm and reassure the person in difficulty. Speak normally and don't show signs of panicking yourself.
  • Remind them that the effects of the drug will wear off.
  • Take them somewhere quiet with low lights.
  • If they are having problems breathing then calm them and ask them to breathe slowly and deeply.

How to help when someone is overheating

Ecstasy, speed or any drug that raises your body temperature can cause overheating. You might become dehydrated and too hot. This could be after dancing and warning signs include fainting, tiredness, exhaustion or cramps. The following is what you can do to help:

  • Take them somewhere cooler and quiet. Stay with them all the time.
  • Take off any extra clothing that they're wearing.
  • Get them to rehydrate with water or isotonic drinks regularly, but don’t go over a pint in an hour.
  • If they're not getting better call an ambulance on 999. Make sure that somebody stays with them even if one person has to leave to call for help.
  • If you call an ambulance, stay with them until it arrives and then tell the ambulance people what drugs were taken and if they also had alcohol or anything else.

How to help when someone is unconscious

A lot of alcohol or too much of most drugs can cause you to pass out or go into a state of unconsciousness. The following is what you can do to help:

  • First of all, it's important to check if the person is actually unconscious or has just fallen asleep after a long night out.
  • Shake the person to see if they respond. If you don't receive any response and are in a pub or niteclub alert the bouncers or staff immediately. Many niteclub staff will have first aid training and will know what to do.
  • If this is not possible, and the person is still unresponsive, call an ambulance on 999 right away. Make sure someone stays with them even if one person has to leave to call for help. If you're alone, go and call help then get back to them ASAP.
  • Make sure they're breathing. If you think they're not, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or shout for someone to help who knows emergency resuscitation.
  • Put them lying on their side (with their head tilted back to open their airway), and in the recovery position, so that they don't choke.
  • If you call an ambulance, stay with them until it arrives and then tell the ambulance people what drugs were taken and if they also had alcohol or anything else.

You could also take a course in First Aid and Resuscitation so you can help anyone who is in trouble. Orgnisations like St. John's Ambulance, Order of Malta, the Red Cross and Safety Ireland all offer first aid courses. 

Share this article -

Published February 25th, 2013
Last updated November 22nd, 2017
Tags drugs addiction emergency
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

Need more information?

Request to speak with a youth worker in your area over the phone, by email or text. They may be able to assist you by providing further information specific to your needs.

Youth Work Ireland - Crosscare - YMCA

Contact via: Phone E-mail Text
By clicking submit you agree to our terms and conditions. ​Please note that this service is run by Youth Work Ireland and Crosscare​.​ E​nquiries are not handled by SpunOut.ie directly.
Jump to related articles
Was this article helpful?