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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Drug testing

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.


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