While clubs and large scale festivals are yet to get the green light here in Ireland, house parties, raves and a number of small outdoor gatherings are very much underway, meaning the likelihood of the session and all that comes with the session is very much back on the menu.
We have teamed up with the UK based not-for-profit Community Interest Company The Loop, to help share their Summer Harm Reduction Campaign to our audience here in Ireland and beyond. We regularly keep an eye on The Loop’s drug safety campaigns and their even more important ecstasy bad batch warnings and updates, as we are firmly in the mindset that drug safety and awareness is the key to keeping people alive. The correlation between dance music and drug culture will always be here and won’t go away any day soon, but what we can do is help to inform and share the correct information, so if you are to take drugs or are curious about taking drugs, you have all the information you need. Of course, avoiding drugs is always 100% the best policy, but if you are to experiment, we want to make sure you are as informed as possible.
While we are still waiting for the full opening of the country, England opened its door on the 19th of July, with festivals and nightclubs re-opening, having been closed like ourselves, for nearly 18 months. While this is an exciting time for many, as we have all missed being able to party with friends and loved ones, this is a poignant moment, which at times felt insurmountable, however, it is important to keep yourself and your friends safe. There may be a temptation to try and ‘make up for lost time’, to ‘catch up’ or celebrate that little bit ‘extra‘. But it’s important that your excitement doesn’t result in you taking too much and having a bad time.
Taking too much of a drug or taking it too fast can cause you to feel unwell, and have a bad time. It is also the primary cause of drug related emergencies, which may mean you need medical help or hospitalisation.
#GoSlowStayLow. By pacing yourself and taking things slowly you are much more likely to have #ANightToRemember and not a night to forget. Stick with your friends and make sure you know what each other has taken. A meeting point is a great idea, so if somebody gets lost or your phone dies you know where to find them. It’s generally best to only take drugs when you’re around people you trust and know well. If anything were to happen, you want to be around people who you know will support you and have your back. And were a drug related emergency to happen, always call for help. At festivals, look for someone who has a radio and ask them to call for medics. At nightclubs, go to a bar and ask for medical help. Elsewhere, call 999. Remember that police do not routinely accompany ambulances to drug related emergencies. If someone could just do with some support or assistance and it is not an emergency, look for the on-site welfare area or chill out tent. It is a good idea to identify the location of these when you arrive at an event.
Remember that taking drugs in a nightclub or festival may be different to what you’re used to. Our world became a lot smaller at the start of the pandemic, and many of us may not be used to crowds anymore. It’s worth bearing in mind how this may affect your anxiety levels. You may feel unsafe somewhere you’ve felt confident and safe before. Some drugs such as MDMA and psychedelics like LSD can heighten your senses and distort your feelings. Taking these drugs in a festival or nightclub environment post-lockdown may be a different experience to what you’re used to. By starting with smaller doses, you can judge how you’re feeling and reduce the likelihood of an overwhelming experience.
Tolerance for a drug is affected by how much someone takes and how often they take it. With repeated use, tolerance is built as the body attempts to adapt to conditions of intoxication and maintain stability. This results in the person having to take more to achieve the same desired effect. Equally tolerance is lost or diminished when the drug use stops. The body attempts to adapt to conditions without the drug. The person may experience a condition known as withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can be mild or unpleasant and in some instances life threatening, depending on what drug is being withdrawn from.
Unintentional overdose can be a consequence of a high tolerance (taking more and more for the same desired effect) or equally a lowered tolerance (taking your usual dose has an increased effect if you haven’t used for a while). An overdose occurs when the quantity of the drug ingested is toxic to and overwhelms the body in its ability to metabolise and excrete it, which can leading debilitating and life threatening symptoms.
The safest way to use drugs is not to use them at all. However, if the decision is made to use drugs, try not to combine them with other drugs including alcohol. Inform yourself as much as possible about the drug before taking it. Make sure you are aware of the desired effects, risks and what an overdose with that drug may look like. Consider interactions with other drugs too, be they illicit, prescription or over the counter drugs.
Go slow, stay low. You can always take more of a substance, not less. Inform yourself of the average dose, for your size and body weight. Do not take whole ecstasy pills – they often contain the equivalent of 2 or 3 doses in one pill. Consider trying a quarter. If taking MDMA crystal, crush it, dab a little on your finger tip and wait. If intending to redose, wait two hours before doing so. Sometimes the active response may be delayed, often resulting in double dosing. Look out for alerts for substances of concern in circulation. Alert your friends to any undesired effects you have noticed.
Respect your body. A weekend festival or party will take its toll. Replenish, Rehydrate and Repair. Eat a substantial meal. Hydrate with sips of water or non alcoholic drinks. Get some sleep to repair an exhausted body and mind. And remember, the drug is not intended to dictate the experience. Make experiences you want to remember, not experiences worth forgetting, if remembered at all.
Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have adversely affected many people’s mental health. Every person is unique and will have responded to these unprecedented changes in circumstances in varying ways. Loss of social contact and the ability to freely engage in the activities we enjoy may have had significant effects on your mental state, potentially resulting in low mood, anxiety, poor sleep, and in some cases, loss of touch with reality (i.e. psychosis). The increase in significant life stressors during this time, such as loss of employment, finances, physical illness, and bereavement, may have also had an impact on your mental health.
The pandemic itself is undoubtedly a collective global trauma, and it is of course normal and human to experience a certain degree of suffering in response to such adversity and loss. However, regardless of the degree of mental suffering experienced, the way we’re feeling can affect the way we experience drugs. So if you are struggling with your mental health, it is advisable to check in with your emotional and psychological state, and ask yourself whether you are in the right mood to take drugs. If you aren’t feeling too great, there is a higher likelihood of having a bad time on drugs, and greater potential of exacerbating any underlying mental illness.
Some people may have started using drugs and/or alcohol during the pandemic to manage their mental health (i.e. by modifying difficult thoughts or feelings). This may have resulted in a drug/alcohol dependency, where the person requires more and more of the substance to get the same effects, and has to take it every day to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. This is most likely to occur with specific substances, such as alcohol, opiates (e.g. heroin, codeine, tramadol, etc), and benzodiazepines (e.g. valium, xanax, etc). Withdrawal symptoms and health implications will vary between these substances, and you may require professional medical intervention to safely withdraw.
In the case of alcohol or benzodiazepine dependency, it is extremely dangerous to abruptly stop using these substances if you have been using them routinely every day, as this can result in acute withdrawal characterised by seizures (fits), confusion, and hallucinations. If you experience any of these symptoms during withdrawal, please attend A&E or call 999 for an ambulance immediately, as this is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not managed in a timely manner. Conversely, opiate withdrawal cannot be fatal and does not require urgent medical intervention, but it may be distressing and uncomfortable. If you think you have developed a dependency, but are continuing to use the substance, and hence not acutely withdrawing, it is advisable to contact your GP or local substance misuse team for support with stopping.
Some drugs, such as cocaine and MDMA have been very high strength in recent years. The Loop has routinely put out drug alerts over the last few years about pills that contain over 3x a common dose of MDMA. High strength drugs are one of the main factors behind an increase in drug overdoses and deaths for ‘party drugs’. There is good reason to think that there will still be a number of high strength drugs in circulation this summer. In Europe this year, pills have been found that contain over 350mg of MDMA, which is nearly 4x a common adult dose.
As well as high strength drugs, sometimes when you buy a drug you may be sold something which isn’t what you expected it to be. While the majority of drugs are what they are sold as in the UK, it isn’t uncommon for New Psychoactive Substances to be miss-sold as traditional party drugs. For example, The Loop has issued several drug alerts about a cathinone called N-ethylpentylone being sold as MDMA. It has a much longer effect than MDMA and is associated with severe insomnia and psychosis. We [The Leep] issued alerts about this drug because it was in circulation in the UK before Covid-19, and we don’t know if it will still be in circulation when festivals and clubs re-open. Eutylone is a cathinone similar to N-ethylpentylone, and New Zealand based drug checking service KnowYourStuff found a third of ‘MDMA’ samples tested last summer contained eutylone. It is hard to say whether or not there will be similar findings in the UK this summer, but you can’t know what’s in your drugs without getting them tested.
The best way to test substances of concern is by a laboratory. Ideally, you will be able to use The Loop at some point this summer in the UK, and we will be able to check any substances of concern for you and give a healthcare consultation to help you understand the risks associated with drug taking and share strategies to help reduce this risk. If you’re not able to use The Loop this summer, the next best alternatives are WEDINOS or Energy Control. Both of these offer a postal testing service for substances of concern.
In addition to drug checking or drug testing, you can reduce the likelihood of coming to harm either from high purity or miss-sold drugs by pacing yourself, and you should always #GoSlowStayLow. By taking a small amount of a drug, waiting and seeing how you feel, you reduce the likelihood of accidentally taking too much. If you take a drug and the effects are different to what you expected or it feels too strong, consider disposing of it. It’s best not to allow yourself to be pressured into taking a drug, as this can negatively affect your experience. At a time of high strength drugs it is particularly important to start with smaller amounts. Remember, you can always take more of a drug, but you can never take less.
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