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).


Download as a PDF

The role of medical and welfare staff working at pubs, clubs and festivals is to ensure that they are adequately trained to be able to undertake assessment and management of individuals who become unwell within the venue, in particular those adversely affected by the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

Key activities of medical and welfare staff

The key activities of medical and welfare staff include:

  • Awareness of the current trends in recreational drug use and any particular patterns in drug use within their venue or associated with a particular musical genre being hosted. See Drink, drugs and going out,
  • Understand the toxicity associated with the various categories of recreational drugs and the common presenting features associated with them,
  • Assessing and managing patients with recreational drug toxicity using the ambulance referral guidelines. [Link to when to call an ambulance resource.]
  • Training of other staff in the toxicity of recreational drugs and common features seen in individuals becoming unwell through recreational drugs.
  • Liaising with other staff to ensure that venues are appropriately patrolled to identify individuals who have or may be developing recreational drug toxicity.
  • Maintaining medical room facilities so that they are appropriately equipped and staffed at all times. See Key elements of provision,
  • Ensuring that their personal training in first aid is sufficient to be able to deliver a safe and appropriate service, not just for assessing individuals with recreational drug toxicity but also those who may require medical assistance for other reasons.

You can also find a compendium of other useful resources in Helpful organisations which includes contact details for useful organisations, training providers and a whole host of specialist advice and information sources, many of them online.

Skip to content