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Staying safe

This section gives you some tips on how to make sure your outing is a memorable one, and not for the wrong reasons.

Many people like to go out with friends to have a good time. This could mean going to a friend’s place, a pub or club, or a music festival or event. This doesn't mean that alcohol or drugs would be involved.

However, given that some people do take drugs when they go out and that you can never tell exactly what an illegal drug contains or what effect it will have, they put themselves at serious risk of harm. There is no safe level of illicit drug use.

If you suspect negative effects from drugs taken by you or someone else, remember that every second counts, so react fast and call an ambulance on triple zero 000 immediately. Police will not normally attend unless the paramedics are threatened or there is a death.

Planning ahead, including thinking about how you will respond if you or someone else runs into trouble, will help you to reduce the risk of anyone coming to harm if things don't go as planned.

Before your night out, festival or event have a checklist

 Checklist:

  • Get a good night’s sleep or have a sneaky afternoon nap.
  • Eat and hydrate well.
  • Dress to match the weather conditions and dress code.
  • Carry photo ID, remember most places need to scan your ID or match it to your ticket, or you won’t be able to get in.
  • Extra money for things like coat check, taxi, ride share or public transport.
  • Charge your phone and get credit (if you’re not on a plan) or top up your data if you’ve run out, so you can find your friends, use maps & apps and order a ride home.
  • Take condoms, just in case you decide to have sex or help out a mate if they forgot to pack some.
  • Plan your trip - know where you’re going, and how to get there.
  • Plan how you’ll get home - public transport, ride share or get picked-up by parents, sibling or friends.
  • Let someone know what time you expect to be back.
  • Plan your night out - how many drinks you might have and only take enough money for the plan. When you take a lot of money or your card, you might spend more than you planned.

When you are out

Make smart decisions when you are out. Some things to consider:

  • You can have a good time without drinking alcohol or taking drugs Remember – the safest choice is not to take drugs at all.
  • Keep your wits about you, and trust your own judgement or gut instinct. If a situation doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
  • Stay close to friends you trust, and remember ‘mates look after mates’, keep an eye out for each other.
  • If you are faced with a situation that could possibly get violent, walk away.
  • When entering and exiting a venue or event, take note of conditions of entry e.g. lock out times, pass outs and excessive queues, as you may not be able to get back in.
  • Remember to stay hydrated by drinking 500-600ml of water over each hour, when you’re active. If the venue or event is licensed, they are required by law to provide you with free drinking water.
  • Take regular breaks from dancing to chill out and cool down.
  • The stimulant effects of amphetamines or caffeine (like in energy drinks), can mask the depressant effect of alcohol and can make you feel less drunk than you are and can increase the risk of overdose and you may take more risks.
  • To avoid drink spiking, watch your drinks being poured if possible, don’t leave your drink unattended and don’t accept drinks from a stranger. The most common form of drink spiking is alcohol. If a friend appears to have been drink-spiked don’t leave them alone. Assist them to get medical attention.
  • Think about what you post on social media… what is safe, legal and not crossing the line. Posting pictures of people who are unconscious or containing nudity without their permission is not ok.
  • Seek help immediately if you are worried about yourself or someone else. Remember that every second counts, so react fast and head to first aid for help if at a festival or call an ambulance on triple zero 000.

Getting home

  • Never get in a car if the driver has been drinking or taking drugs.
  • Accepting a lift from a stranger, including someone you have just met, can be unsafe. If you do plan on getting a lift with someone you have just met, tell a friend and give them the details.
  • If you have driven your own car and end up drinking or taking drugs leave your car where it is and find a safe way home with friends, in a taxi, ride share or on public transport.
  • If you get stuck, consider calling a sober friend or parent. They may be annoyed, but they will be happier to know you get home safely.
  • If your phone is about to run out of battery, let someone know what time to expect you home.

Reduce the chance of things going wrong if you are hosting or attending a gathering with friends and family in the home environment. Some things to consider:

  • Consider registering your party with local Police at least one week in advance, particularly if you are expecting a high number of guests. It is polite to inform your neighbours.
  • Ensure it’s clear on the invitation that your party is ‘invitation only’ to reduce the chance of ‘gate crashers’ showing up. Ask your guests not to spread the word to others via SMS or social media. If uninvited guests appear, ask them to leave immediately and call Police if necessary.
  • Other measures to reduce the risk of gate crashers include keeping the gathering small, locating the party away from high traffic areas, having a guest list that you check off when people arrive, having one entrance to the party and locking other entrances and consider hiring crowd controllers if you are having a larger party.
  • Consider providing facilities for activities that can keep people entertained and take the focus off drinking e.g. pool table, sports activities, dance area, karaoke and computer games.
  • Respect and support people’s decisions not to drink or take drugs, or to drink within the guidelines.
  • Secure all valuables on your property.
  • Be vigilant if you have a swimming pool, and ensure gates are functional.
  • Serve plenty of healthy food and water throughout the entire duration of the party. Position this where people are gathered so it is easily accessible. If you are providing alcohol, ensure there are non-alcoholic and low-alcohol options available for guests.
  • Do not provide alcohol to anyone under 18 years of age. It is against the law to provide under 18s with alcohol without their parents’ consent.
  • Where possible, serve drinks in plastic or paper cups rather than glass to avoid breakages and potential injury.
  • If you are hosting, act in a responsible manner and ensure you remain sober.
  • If you are confronted with a situation that could possibly escalate to violence, try to calm the guests down, and separate them if possible. Call Police if violence erupts or you feel the situation is beyond your control.
  • Consider your neighbours, and turn the music down at an appropriate time.
  • Ensure your guests get home safely. Encourage them to stay overnight if they appear to be intoxicated, or order them a taxi.
  • It is a good idea if either the host or someone else attending the party has a current First Aid certificate.
  • If someone is intoxicated and hos unconscious’, put them in the recovery position to help them avoid choking on vomit or cutting off their airway.
  • If someone is heavily intoxicated and goes to bed, ask the person not to lock the bedroom door, so you can check in on them.
  • Check and monitor someone regularly if they have ‘passed out’.
  • Seek help immediately if you are worried about yourself or someone else. Remember that every second counts, so react fast and call an ambulance. Police will not attend unless ambulance officers are threatened or there is a death.
  • If waiting for medical assistance, stay with the person at all times. If they are unconscious, put them in the ‘recovery position’ and ensure their airways are clear, particularly if they are vomiting.
  • If you have a guest that stops breathing, commence Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and continue until medical help arrives.

Dehydration

Dehydration is most often the result of not drinking enough water or very heavy sweating. It is important to keep hydrated by drinking water and other non-alcoholic fluids. Water helps to prevent dehydration, regulate body temperature and remove waste products. 

To avoid dehydration, sip 500 - 600ml of water over each hour if you are dancing or being active.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • Increased thirst
  • A dry mouth
  • Decreased urine output
  • Dry flushed skin
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Cramping.

Treatment for dehydration:

  • Stop vigorous activity such as dancing e.g.  get out of the mosh pit or off the dance floor.
  • Sip cold water slowly.
  • Find a place in the shade to sit down and rest e.g. chill-out tent.
  • Do not consume alcohol and caffeine as these will increase your rate of dehydration.
  • If ecstasy has been used, avoid isotonic sports drinks, as these can increase the effect that the drug has on raising blood pressure.
  • If symptoms persist, and condition does not improve, seek medical assistance.

Overhydration

Overhydration in venues and at festivals and events is most often associated with people who have taken ecstasy and consumed excessive amounts of fluids. Other medical conditions can compound the problem.

Overhydration is dangerous and can lead to swelling of the brain cells which can lead to disorientation, convulsions, coma and even death. Immediate signs of overhydration include nausea, vomiting and muscle cramps.

Preventing overhydration:

  • Stick to no more than the recommended amount of water for staying hydrated.
    • If you are not active, sip 250ml of water over each hour.
    • If you are active, sip 500-600ml of water over each hour. e.g. dancing

Treatment for overhydration:

  • Overhydration requires urgent medical attention to be reversed.

Where to get help

  • If at a festival or event, go straight to the nearest First Aid Tent.
  • Call an ambulance on triple zero 000 immediately.
  • Go to the nearest Emergency Department.

Overheating occurs when heat production in the body is higher than heat loss. This may happen if you are dancing for long periods of time or if stimulant drugs such as ecstasy or amphetamines are used. Overheating can lead to heat exhaustion and a more serious condition known as heat stroke.

Normal body temperature usually lies between 35.6°C and 37.8°C. When the temperature exceeds this range, the body will produce more sweat and increase blood flow to the skin in an attempt to lose heat. Body temperatures reaching 41°C can produce convulsions and 43°C can cause death.

  • To prevent overheating, wear clothing to suit the weather conditions and the event (e.g. light clothing if dancing)
  • Take regular breaks
  • Stay hydrated, drink cold fluids

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion results from the body overheating and becoming dehydrated. Signs of heat exhaustion include a high body temperature, confusion and possible collapse and fainting.

Treatment for heat exhaustion:

  • Cool the body down: rest, splash water onto face or body, drink cold fluids move to the shade or cool area and remove excess clothing
  • Do not consume alcohol and caffeine as this will increase the rate of dehydration
  • Monitor the person if they are confused or disorientated as they may be at risk of dangerous situations.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke can occur if the body is unable to lose heat and cool down. Signs of heat stroke include hot and dry skin and a high body temperature.

Treatment for heat stroke:

  • Seek medical assistance immediately as heat stroke can lead to convulsions and organ damage and can be fatal
  • Cool the body down urgently: apply wet and cold cloths to the body, use fans or air-conditioning
  • Sip cold fluids and remove excess clothing.

Where to get help

  • If at a festival or event, go straight to the nearest First Aid Tent.
  • Call an ambulance on triple zero 000 immediately.
  • Go to the nearest Emergency Department.

Anxiety

When using illicit drugs people often feel nervous and agitated. Amphetamine-type stimulants, including meth and ecstasy, can increase the heart rate and leave a person feeling anxious.

Some common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Worrying all the time
  • Becoming easily tired
  • Lack of concentration
  • Irritability
  • Irregular heartbeats or palpitations
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Tension and pain in muscles
  • Panic attacks.

Psychosis

The term psychosis describes a disorder in which a person’s perception of reality is impaired.

It is often associated with cannabis or amphetamine use. Amphetamines can trigger a psychotic episode in healthy people with no previous history of mental health problems.

Symptoms of psychosis may include:

  • Having unusual thoughts
  • Disorganised or bizarre behaviour
  • Hearing or seeing things that are not there
  • Feeling suspicious or paranoid
  • Believe that other people are going to hurt them.

Where to get help

  • If at a festival or event, go to the nearest First Aid Tent.
  • In an emergency, call an ambulance on triple zero 000 or go to the nearest Emergency Department.
  • Visit the Mental Health Commission website for information on support services.

Mixing drugs is also known as polydrug use. It occurs when two or more drugs are used at, or near, the same time. Mixing drugs is dangerous and the effect can be unpredictable.

Severe side-effects associated with taking higher doses of drugs are more likely to be experienced when mixing drugs. Especially when drugs of unknown content and purity are mixed. This includes mixing alcohol, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs.

 Mixing drugs can lead to:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Panic attacks, paranoia,
  • Increased intoxication
  • Unpredictable behaviour
  • Toxicity
  • Overdose.

Some examples of side-effects of mixing drugs are:

Stimulants with Depressants

Mixing alcohol and amphetamines can have dangerous masking effects. This can result in much larger amounts of both drugs being used without the person realising. 

See the Amphetamines and other drugs page for more information on the effects of mixing drugs.

Stimulants with Stimulants

Mixing amphetamines (including meth and dexies) and ecstasy can result in severe dehydration, dangerously high body temperature, heart seizures and even death.

See the Ecstasy and other drugs page for more information on the effects of mixing drugs.

Depressants with Depressants

Mixing alcohol with either opioids (including heroin and codeine) or benzodiazepines can fatally depress the heart rate and breathing, leading to loss of consciousness, risk of choking on vomit and fluids and death.

See the Heroin and other drugs page for more information on the effects of mixing drugs.

Drink spiking occurs when alcohol and/or another drug is placed in a person's drink without their knowledge.  The most common drug used for drink spiking is extra alcohol. Young women are more commonly the targets of drink spiking and the resulting harms can include sexual assault, robbery and unprotected sex. You can reduce the risk of drink spiking by not leaving drinks unattended, and not accepting drinks from strangers, keeping your drink covered. If you think a friend may have been affected by drink spiking, do not leave them alone and seek medical attention.

For more information on drink spiking visit the Alcohol Think Again website.

Sometimes intoxicated people may find themselves in dangerous situations. Being intoxicated increases the risk of being a victim or a perpetrator of sexual harassment, assault or rape. Sexual assault can happen anywhere, for example parties or ‘Leavers’ celebrations where there are lots of people, people you don’t know or people you have just met.

  • Forcing someone to engage in sexual activity is a crime.
  • When someone is intoxicated they do not have the capacity to give consent and cannot legally consent to sexual activity.
  • You can withdraw consent at any time during sexual activity, even after prolonged periods.
  • The age of consent is 16 years.
  • If a person has diminished capacity (e.g. learning disability) they are not able to give consent.
  • Date rape is a crime.
  • Both males and females can be victims and/or perpetrators of sexual assault.
  • Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim.
  • Drink spiking is a crime. Drink spiking may be done as a ‘joke’ or with the purpose of sexual assault. The drug most often used to spike a drink is alcohol.

Visit Reach Out for more information about sexual assault.

Contact the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) in a crisis or for information and counselling on 08 6458 1828.

Drugs can contain many unknown chemicals, and can have unexpected negative mental and physical health effects.

The safest choice is not to take drugs. However, if you choose to take drugs you can reduce the risk of harm.

  • Avoid using alone or in an isolated environment
  • Avoid mixing depressant drugs together (alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids, heroin)
  • It’s safer not to inject drugs, and never share injecting equipment
  • Take a break from use 
  • Seek assistance if you start to feel unwell (mentally or physically)
  • Look after your mates – if they look like they are getting into trouble assist them to seek help, police will not be involved if you seek medical help 
  • Let ambulance or first aid responders know what you have taken if you get into difficulty.

See useful links for more harm reduction information.

 

It is safer not to use drugs, but if someone does and starts to have any of the symptoms of toxicity or overdose - call an ambulance on triple zero 000 or if you're at a festival or event go to the nearest First Aid Tent straight away. 

Police will not normally attend unless paramedics or first aid providers are threatened or there is a death. 

Symptoms of drug toxicity

Overdose and toxicity occurs when the level of intoxication from the drug reaches a point where it begins to produce physical and/or psychological harm.

Overdose is the term used for opioid overdose and toxicity is the term used for stimulant overdose.

There are a number of signs and symptoms that point out someone is in trouble. These differ with the type of drug used:

Stimulant Drug Toxicity Signs and Symptoms - Ecstasy | Methamphetamine| Cocaine

  • Hyperactivity
  • Shaking, trembling and spasms
  • Vomiting, cramping, feeling faint
  • Sweating, hot and cold flushes
  • Raised temperature and overheating
  • Bad headache and/or persistent headache
  • Racing heartbeat and high blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing or a feeling that you ‘can’t breathe’
  • Chest pain, pounding heart
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Agitated or irritable behaviour
  • Confused, disoriented, being irrational or not themselves
  • Anxiety, paranoia and delusions
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Threat sensitivity
  • Convulsions
  • Cardiac arrest

Depressant Drug Overdose Signs and Symptoms - Heroin | prescription opioids | methadone

  • Shallow pulse and breathing
  • Blue lips and nails
  • Pupils like pinpoints
  • Disorientated
  • In and out of conversation ‘on the nod’ and feeling very tired
  • Snoring or gurgling sounds (like sleep apnoea or in a very deep sleep)
  • Slumped posture
  • Not responding
  • Unconscious
  • Not breathing, coma.

It is not necessary for someone to have all of these signs or symptoms for them to be overdosing. Only a few could still mean they are in trouble and need emergency help.

Responses to overdose (DRSABCD)

  • Check for Danger to self and others.
  • Check to see if they Respond to touch or sound.
  • Send for help. Call an ambulance on triple zero 000.
  • Clear and open the Airway.
  • Check for Breathing.
  • If breathing normally put in the recovery position and call for medical assistance. (normal breathing is 2-3 breaths per 10 seconds)
  • If not breathing normally, give two rescue breaths
  • If you have access to Naloxone, administer per training or instructions
  • Commence Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), continue until medical help arrives (30 chest compressions to every 2 breaths).
  • If the person responds, monitor the person and wait with them until medical help arrives.

 Where else to get help

  • Go to the nearest Emergency Department.
  • Police: triple zero 000 in emergencies or 131 444 to report an incident.
  • Sexual Assault Resource Centre 24 Hour Emergency Line: 9340 1828 or free call from landlines 1800 199 888.
  • Lifeline suicide and crisis support: 13 11 14.
  • Alcohol and Drug Support Line: (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 (country-callers toll free).
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Know the Signs

Stay safe when you're out next - look out for bad headaches, a racing heartbeat  & overheating.

Learn all the signs someone needs immediate help here