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Staying safe

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, and this does not necessarily 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. Please note that Police will not normally attend unless ambulance officers 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 do not go as planned. This section gives you some tips on how to make sure your outing is a memorable one, and not for the wrong reasons.

Before heading out

 When getting ready, quickly check that you:

  • Are well-hydrated and have eaten.
  • Are dressed appropriately for where you are going (consider dress code, sun protection etc.)
  • Are carrying acceptable ID.
  • Have enough money for things like getting a taxi or public transport to get home.
  • Are carrying a charged mobile phone with credit.
  • Have packed condoms if you think you might end up having sex.
  • Know where you are going, and how to get there.
  • Have planned how to get home if you are not very familiar with where you are going. This could be via Transperth, taxi or pre-arranged pick-up from a parent, sibling or friend.
  • Have let someone know what time to expect you back.

When you are out

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

  • That you do not need to drink or use drugs to have a good time.
  • Remember – the safest choice is not to take drugs at all!
  • Keep your wits about you, and trust your own judgment or gut instinct. If a situation does not feel right, it probably is not.
  • Stay close to friends you trust, and look after 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.
  • To avoid drink spiking, watch your drinks being poured if possible, do no leave your drink unattended and do not accept drinks from a stranger. Alcohol is the most common drug used to spike drinks. If a friend appears to have been drink-spiked don’t leave them alone. Assist them to get medical attention.
  • Remain hydrated at all times. If the venue or event is licensed, they are required by law to provide you with free drinking water.
  • Be aware that mixing alcohol and drugs can put you at greater risk of overdosing. The depressant effects of alcohol can mask the effects of stimulant drugs like amphetamines.
  • When you mix alcohol with energy drinks it can also have a masking effect and you may not feel as drunk as you are, and may take more risks.
  • Take regular breaks from dancing to prevent overheating.
  • 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.

Getting home

  • Never get in a car if the driver has been drinking or taking drugs.
  • It is safer not to accept a lift from a stranger, including if you have just met them.
  • 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 or via bus or train.
  • If you get stuck, consider calling a sober friend or parent. They may be annoyed, but they will be more upset if you do not get home safely.
  • If your mobile phone is about to go flat, let someone know what time to expect you back.

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, drink 250mL water per hour if you are inactive and 500mL water per 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 and fainting.

Treatment for dehydration:

  • Drink water slowly and find a place to rest.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these will increase your rate of dehydration.
  • Avoid vigorous activity such as dancing.
  • If ecstasy has been used, avoid isotonic sports drinks, as these can increase the effect that the drug has on raising blood pressure.

Seek urgent medical attention if condition does not improve. 

Overhydration

Overhydration in venues and at 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 the recommended amount of water for staying hydrated. If you are not active, sip 250mL (one glass) of water per hour. If you are active e.g. dancing, sip 500mL (two glasses) of water per hour.

Treatment for overhydration:

  • Overhydration requires urgent medical attention to be reversed.

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.

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 appropriate clothing (e.g. light clothing if dancing), take regular breaks and drink fluids. Overheating can lead to heat exhaustion and a more serious condition known as heat stroke.

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 and remove excess clothing.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as this will increase the rate of dehydration.
  • Monitor the person because disorientation could place them in a dangerous situation.

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:

  • Call an ambulance on 000 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, drink cold fluids and remove excess clothing.

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:

  • Odd thoughts that come and go.
  • Visual illusions.
  • Disorganised or bizarre behaviour.
  • Hear or see things that are not there.
  • Paranoia.
  • Believe that other people are going to hurt them.

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

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 Overdose (e.g. Ecstasy, speed, cocaine, amphetamines)

Symptoms

Hyperactivity

Shaking / Trembling / spasms, chest pain, pounding heart

Vomiting

 

Sweating

 

Raised temperature and body chills

Agitated or irritable behaviour

Rapid breathing or a feeling that you ‘can’t breathe’

Disorientation

 

Paranoid, delusional, anxious or psychotic behaviour

Difficulty passing urine

Severe Headache

Convulsions.

 

Depressant Drug Overdose (e.g. Heroin)

Symptoms

Shallow pulse and breathing

Disorientated

Blue lips and nails

Not responding

Snoring or gurgling

Unconscious

Pupils like pinpoints

Not breathing

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 000.
  • Clear and open the Airway.
  • Check for Breathing.
  • If breathing normally put in the recovery position and call for medical assistance.
  • If not breathing normally, give to rescue breaths and commence Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), continue until medical help arrives (30 chest compressions to every 2 breaths).
  • If you have access to naloxone, administer per training or instructions, continue with CPR, monitor the person if they start breathing and wait with them until medical help arrives.

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

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
  • Severe emotional and mental disturbances such as panic attacks and paranoia.

Some examples of side-effects of mixing drugs are:

  • Mixing alcohol and amphetamines can have dangerous masking effects. This can result in dangerous amounts of both drugs being used without the user realising
  • Mixing amphetamines and ecstasy can result in severe dehydration, dangerously high body temperature, heart seizures and even death.
  • Mixing alcohol and heroin can fatally depress heart rate and breathing resulting in death.

Drink Spiking

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 harms resulting include sexual assault, robbery and unsafe sex. You can reduce the risk of drink spiking by not leaving drinks unattended, and not accepting drinks from strangers 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.

Sexual Assault

Sometimes intoxicated people may find themselves in risky situations. Being intoxicated increases the risk of being a victim or a perpetrator of sexual harassment, assault or rape. This may happen anywhere, for example parties or ‘Leavers’ celebrations where there are lots of people and you may not know many of them.

  • Forcing someone to have sex is a crime
  • 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.

For more information about what is a sexual assault go to:
www.reachout.com/find/articles/sexual-assault

 

Drugs can contain many unknown chemicals, and can have unexpected negative mental and physical 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
  • It’s safer not to inject drugs, and never share injecting equipment
  • Take a break from use and 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 feel any of the following symptoms: very tired, hot or cold and unwell, irritable, confused or irrational, cramps, faint, trouble going to the toilet, trouble breathing, headache, vomiting, collapse or convulsions - call an ambulance on 000 immediately.

Please note that Police will not normally attend unless ambulance officers are threatened or there is a death. 

Where else to get help

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