Emergency Info

Guidelines on when to call the Emergency Services 999 for unwell recreational drug users

Call 999 if ANY one of the following is present:

Unconsciousness – if the patient does not respond to vocal commands, requires painful stimulus (e.g. pressure across the fingernails) to respond or does not respond at all.

Significant agitation (e.g. pacing around the room) or aggression not settling within 15 minutes.

Seizures (e.g. a convulsion similar to an epileptic fit)

Breathing difficulties such as fast breathing rate which does not settle within 15 minutes.

Heart rate over 140 beats per minute not settling within 5 minutes.

Temperature over 38.5 not settling after about 5 minutes of rest, or if very flushed and feels very hot if no thermometer is available.

Blood pressure – Systolic (“upper pressure”) over 180mmHg, or Diastolic (“lower pressure”) over 110mmHg on two repeated blood pressure measurements.

Other concerns – if there are any other concerns (e.g. severe headache, chest pain).


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Are students doing more drugs during COVID?

Largescale survey

A survey of over 16,000 university students , from 14 different UK universities (Bristol, UCL, Warwick, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Belfast, Durham, Southampton, Sussex, Exeter, St Andrews, Birmingham, Lincoln and Glasgow), found that drug use is still prevalent at university despite the range of rules imposed by our series of national lockdowns such as bubbles, rules of six etc.

The Survey was conducted by The Tab and was completed by 16,017 respondents in total. The Tab is a long-running (founded in 2009) student journalism site covering youth culture and student culture and a proven launchpad for young people aspiring to be journalists.

The survey asked students about their drug of choice, whether they have been taking more drugs since the pandemic and the emotional reasons behind their drug use.

When asked about their own drug use, only one third of students said they were doing drugs more often since lockdown. However, when presented with the same question phrased about other students, “do you think students are doing more drugs since the pandemic?”, a majority (55%) of students said they thought that their fellow students have beendoing more drugs since the pandemic started.

Cannabis and cocaine most popular drugs

The survey asked about what substances studeants were taking, giving a range of options of the most common drugs among young people using recreationally – cannabis, ketamine, cocaine, MDMA, Xanax, nitrous oxide, amphetamines and hallucinogenics – 44 per cent of students (6,908 respondents) said they used cannabis most often. The next most popular drug was cocaine, with 1,959 (12.2%) respondents using it, followed by nitrous oxide (11.9%), ketamine with 1,842 (11.5%), and then hallucinogenics (7.3%). The least popular drugs from the options provided in the survey were amphetamines (taken by just 3.1% respondents) and Xanax (3.6%).


The survey also asked students why they were doing drugs, presenting respondents with three key options:

  1. Self-medication/relaxation
  2. Boredom/as a distraction  and
  3. Others are taking drugs (presumably a way of asking about peer pressure).

More than two out of five (44%) students said they took drugs primarily because of boredom, with a high proportion (37.5%) also saying they took drug to relax or self-medicate with a surprisingly high one in six respondents (17%) admitting that they mainly took drugs because other people did. The survey did not permit students to choose more than one option in answering this question but the evidence base suggests that most people have more than one reason for using substances.

Looking forwards

This largescale survey gives a good insight into the most popular drugs among young people at University and, if and when our nightlife sector finally re-opens, confirms that venues will need to ensure that they can respond to people who get into trouble through their use of cocaine and ketamine in particular.



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