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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Although the focus of Safer Nightlife is providing information on the safer management of illegal drug-related harms at pubs, clubs and festivals, we would of course be remiss not to include alcohol in the resource.

Those involved in selling alcohol in the hospitality industry will be familiar with the main risks associated – aggression and violence, drink driving, accidents and, occasionally, serious harm or even death to the person consuming excess alcohol, particularly when combined with legal or illegal drugs.

There are a number of reputable training courses1 to help licensed premises equip their staff with both knowledge about their legal responsibilities and duties and skills such as how to refuse to sell alcohol to an intoxicated customer in a way that does not provoke a disturbance.

Alcohol-related ill health

Alcohol is a massive health issue in England. In 2017/18 (the last year for which official statistics are available1) there were 338,000 hospital admissions where the main reason for the admission was alcohol and there were 1.2 million admissions where the primary reason for hospital admission or secondary diagnosis was linked to alcohol – one in 14 of all hospital admissions. These figures are about 15% higher than those of the previous decade. A number of people also die every year from alcohol poisoning – consuming too much alcohol on one specific occasion.

Alcohol trends

Overall, though, we are starting to consume less alcohol as a country with young people leading the way. The proportion of men and women usually drinking at levels with an increased or higher risk of harm decreased between 2011 and 2017 (from 34% to 28% of men, and from 18% to 14% of women). The proportion of men and women usually drinking over 14 units in a week varied across age groups and was most common among men and women aged 55 to 64 (36% and 20% respectively).

Young men aged 16 to 24 years old are the age band least likely to drink at “increased or higher risk of harm” levels. While for women those aged between 55 and 64 are most likely to drink at these harmful levels.

In addition, one of the main risk factors from taking illegal drugs is to combine that activity with drinking alcohol.


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