Safer Nightlife does not provide detailed information on the health risks of different substances although we provide an overview of the most commonly used substances and their main health risks. Many people who use drugs when they go out will also understand the main effects and risks of the drugs they are taking and the main harm reduction advice.
Nevertheless, the safest advice – don’t drink too much alcohol, don’t mix alcohol with drugs, don’t keep redosing or topping up – conflicts with what, for many people, are the essential elements of the night out.
This means that many people ignore the advice.
Drug outreach services – where organisations provide drug information and advice at nightclubs and festivals – are no longer commonplace. Owners, managers and promoters can however fulfil a useful role in providing specific drug information about immediate concerns around a particular batch or type of pills or other substances being used at a club or festival.
An event’s medical and welfare team can spread the word about particular concerns and digital messages can also be sent via social media (using the hashtag for the event/festival) or via an app associated with the event and used for ticket purchases, event entry etc.
Access to information
It is also regarded as good practice for venues and festivals to advertise clearly information on how to contact on-site medical and welfare services and contact details for local services who can provide advice and support for customers who are concerned about their general level or patterns of drug taking.
Toilet and chill out areas are obvious places to post this information.
One of the main risks from illegal drug taking is that it is impossible to know exactly what substance you are taking.
Unlike legal medicines or alcohol, the contents of any particular pill or powder are likely to vary enormously. A tablet may or may not contain the chemical substance it is sold as containing and the dosage – and therefore how much it affects the body – is unknown.
Recent research1 analysed over 650 seized ecstasy tablets and established that tablets from the same batch can contain very different concentrations of MDMA.
In response to this situation, a number of festivals started hosting drug testing facilities on site. There are two main approaches to drug testing: publicly accessible drug safety testing (also known as “drug checking” or front of house testing) where festivalgoers can submit substances of concern for analysis to find out their contents and strength; and non-public testing (also known as “back of house” testing), where substances which are seized or found by the police or the organisation running the festival are tested.