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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Remote harm reduction work

This post is based on a recent webinar by Bristol Drugs Project entitled “Behind the Scenes”. The webinar talked about how BDP has responded to the changing face of new psychoactive substances and ‘club drugs’ over the past few years and, in particular, how it has moved much of its harm reduction outreach work online to provide a service throughout the pandemic.

How people socialise through lockdown

As everybody knows, nightclubs and most festivals have been closed since the end of March which means that most people have been partying behind closed doors, mainly in their own homes.  While clubs have professional staff, security and medical teams and, on occasion, specialist outreach services, house parties have none of the support systems in place for people who take drugs as part of their socialising. Some people may even be reluctant to phone for an ambulance in a drug-related medical emergency if they are worried about police finding out about illegal drug use at their home.

Many of us have found it difficult to cope with the boredom that lockdown has brought and the loss of structure to our daily lives. Some of us have started drinking and/or using drugs earlier in the day or have been consuming seven days a week, when we used to party only at the weekend. For some people drug use will have become normalised within their limited social bubbles. Students may be particularly at risk since almost all teaching is now being done online and, again, organised parties and clubbing are no longer possible.

Buying drugs during the pandemic

Many people who used to buy their drugs from a trusted individual have moved to purchasing drugs from the darknet. For many, this is perceived as less risky – both in terms of minimising  the chances of being arrested and, often, in terms of being able to access higher quality drugs. There are, of course, risks to using substances of a higher purity and you are used to. However, there has also been a shift to buying drugs via social media where many entrepreneurial dealers have developed an aggressive marketing approach. In many cases, online dealers’ representations of themselves as being trustworthy sources turn out to be misleading.

Psychological impact

Most of us have struggled to a greater or lesser extent from the impact of COVID-19 during 2020 in terms of isolation and loss of income. For the large numbers of people who have lost their jobs or, even worse, someone they love to the virus, the impact has obviously been much more profound. Young people, used to spending much more time outside the home, have been disproportionately affected. Many of them have had to live with the uncertainty and confusion of the A-level results situation. Others have moved away from home to university for the first time but have had limited opportunities to make new friends or to maintain face-to-face contact with existing family and friends. The ongoing boredom and lack of interpersonal contact has encouraged many to deal with the crisis by the increased use of drink and drugs.

Online harm reduction

Organisations like the Bristol Drugs Project who would normally be doing outreach work at clubs and festivals have developed a range of online harm reduction interventions. They have chosen to use the online platforms with which their target audience is most familiar and have posted harm reduction infographics on Instagram, shared the latest research and information on Twitter and blogged regularly on their website on such issues as Student Harm Reduction and COVID-19. The organisation has also promoted online tools from other providers such as Breaking Free’s Staying Free app which gives users the tools, techniques and support to help manage their drug and alcohol use.

This form on online support will be increasingly vital as we all battle through the coming winter under lockdown.




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