Reducing harm when taking drugs at an event

If you choose to take drugs it is important to understand the risks and how to reduce harm
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Young people at a music festival

It is always safest not to take drugs, but if you choose to do so it’s important to inform yourself about the risks involved and how to reduce harm when taking them. If you’re taking drugs on a night out or at an event or a festival, remember this is a time to enjoy yourself and you do not need drugs and alcohol in order to do so.

You shouldn’t feel pressured to take drugs at an event, as lots of people attend events, festivals and nights out and do not. Enjoy yourself and look out for those you go with so that you can all stay safe and have a good time together.

If you do decide to take drugs and begin to feel unwell it is extremely important that you tell someone and get the medical support you need. If you are at a festival and this happens, you and your friends will not get in trouble if you go to the medic tent, they are there to offer care and support. 

10 ways to reduce harm if you take drugs at an event

 Here are some ways to reduce harm when taking drugs at a festival, event or on a night out.

1. Tell your friends if you decide to use drugs

If you choose to take drugs at a festival, let those who you are with know what you are going to take. This way, if you become unwell or unconscious they will be able to let the emergency services know exactly what you have taken to better help you accordingly.

2. Think about your health

If you have taken drugs before you may know how they affect you, but you can never be certain that you will have the same experience from what you might think is the same drug. Do your research before you choose to take a drug to understand the physical and mental impacts different drugs can have on you. This is especially important if you have any preexisting health conditions, including mental health conditions, or are on any prescribed medications.

3. Start low and go slow

Start with a very small dose and see how you react to the drug. Wait at least 2 hours before taking more. For example, it can take time for you to feel the effects of MDMA in comparison to drugs such as cocaine. If you take MDMA, it is important to allow time for it to set in and do not expect to experience it instantly.

Some ecstasy pills can be slow releasing meaning you can’t be sure how long it takes to kick in. Drugs can also look the same, but may have different contents or strengths. If you buy two pills that look the same, they may have different effects.

4. Avoid mixing drugs

Every time you mix drugs, including alcohol and prescription medication, you increase the risk of harm. Avoid mixing drugs or using one drug to reverse the effects of another. For example, if you are feeling too drunk, do not take cocaine as a way to sober yourself up. Instead, drink water and wait for the effects of alcohol to wear off before you think about taking anything else.

5. Avoid sharing drug snorting tools

If you choose to snort drugs, it is important not to share whatever you use to snort them with. Sharing what you use to snort with can lead to the transmission of infections. Tools such as snorting straws can pick up small particles that may carry infectious diseases. Avoid also using bank notes when snorting. Bank notes are more likely to contain germs or traces of blood from other people. It is recommended that people use a sterile straw or a metal “tooter” if they choose to snort drugs.

6. Avoid taking a drug for the first time

If you choose to take drugs at an event, festival or night out, you should stick with taking drugs that you have experienced before and know the effects of.

If you take something new you do not know how your body will react to it.

7. Avoid taking drugs from someone you do not know

As illegal drugs are not regulated, you can never know for certain what a drug may contain that you take at an event, festival or night out. If someone you do not know offers you drugs, it’s best not to take it from them. Some drugs look similar, and you may be told a drug is one thing, when it is actually something else.

8. Avoid taking drugs alone or in secluded locations

If you take drugs alone you might not have support if something goes wrong. If you take drugs somewhere isolated, you also run the risk of emergency services being unable to reach you in an emergency situation.

If you take drugs at an event, festival, or night out, stay in the public areas. If you feel overwhelmed, let a friend know that you are leaving an area and where you intend to go, or ask them to go with you.

9. Keep cool and stay hydrated

Events like concerts, nightclubs, and summer festivals can be extremely warm. Spending time in large crowds while dancing can easily lead to overheating or dehydration. It is important to take breaks from dancing, to steadily drink water throughout the event, and have enough to eat. Do not drink more than a pint of water an hour as consuming too much water can also be harmful.

10. If something goes wrong, get help

If you’re on a night out and something goes wrong, alert the staff in the nightclub or venue to let them know. Many nightclub and pub staff and bouncers have been trained in this situation.

If you’re at an organised event like a concert or a festival, there will usually be a medic tent or medical staff on standby. Find out where the medical tent is and don’t be afraid to get help if you or a friend become physically or mentally unwell after using drugs. Always be honest with medics about what was taken, they are there to help. The medical tent is a safe place and you will not get in trouble for telling them what you have taken, asking for help is the best thing you can do. 

11. Do not drive when on drugs

It can take long periods of time for the effects of some drugs to wear off. If you take drugs one night at an event, you may not be safe to drive the next day. Research the drugs you take and see how long it takes for them to leave your system. The morning after an event, take your time when leaving. Eat a meal and stay hydrated. Make sure that you are completely sober before driving.

Supports and Services

Reaching out for help can be difficult, but there are non judgemental support services available to you if you need help or have concerns about your drug use. You will not get in trouble for taking drugs if you reach out to one of these services, their work is to support you and they want to help.

  • Online information and support for drug and alcohol use. Includes a national directory of drug and alcohol services
  • HSE Drugs & Alcohol Helpline: Freephone 1800 459 459.
  • The Club Drug Clinic offers advice, support and detoxification for GHB (Liquid Ecstasy, G) and other chemsex and club drugs is an integrated person centred specialist addiction service. Phone: 01 6488 600
  • YoDA (Youth Drug and Alcohol) Service for under 18 support for young people and their families affected by substance or alcohol misuse 01- 9214978.
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