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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Non-public drug testing

The purpose of back of house testing is somewhat different to public drug checking.

Organisations like TICTAC Communications1 analyse drugs which have been seized by the police or festival organisers.

Preliminary documentation and analysis is carried out onsite and further more rigorous analysis is performed subsequently in a laboratory if necessary. The information from their analysis is used for three main purposes:

  • To provide festival organisers with information about what drugs are being used and in particular any concerns about specific substances so that festival goers can be advised about heightened risks.
  • To provide security staff and police with intelligence about the range of substances being brought into the festival.
  • To analyse national trends in drug use so that policy makers, commissioners and providers of services can be aware of the latest drugs and changes in which drugs are being sold or consumed.

Should your festival provide drug testing?

The number of drug-related deaths at festivals has increased in recent years; for example at least three teenagers died from drug-related causes while attending music festivals over the August Bank Holiday weekend in 2019.

Festival organisers are urged to consider including drug testing services in their arrangements, whether front or back of house. Festival organisers should discuss their plans with local police, licensing authorities and public health in advance.

Festivals and local police are also strongly encouraged to consider non-public drug testing since intelligence about the latest trends in drug use are an invaluable component of planning appropriate responses.

Some festivals employ both public drug checking and non-public drug testing services as part of their multi agency harm reduction partnership with complementary and integrated testing between the two organisations.


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