August 16, 2022

Drugs and partying – know more, be safer

Concert crowd view

COVID-19 has meant that many festivals were cancelled or postponed and there was limited time spent socialising with friends.

But – parties are back!

And the long-awaited festival season is right around the corner, so let’s take a look at how to party safer if you do choose to drink alcohol or take other drugs.

What to know before you use drugs

  • The safest option is always not to take drugs, especially if you’re unsure of the strength or the drug effects.
  • Start small – everyone reacts differently. Have a test amount first and wait two hours before taking more. This is to see if you experience any negative side effects and to help understand how strong the drug is and its effects.
  • Avoid taking large amounts of any drug.
  • Remember you can never be 100% certain about what’s in a drug. Find out as much as you can about the drug through our Drug Facts pages or Text the Effects.
  • Don’t pressure anyone to drink or use drugs and don’t encourage risky behaviour.
  • If you're feeling down or depressed, taking drugs or drinking alcohol can intensify these feelings. It may be a good idea to reach out for support during this time.
  • Safer using – to reduce the risks associated with using drugs check out Hi-Ground. They provide important harm reduction tips such as:
  • avoid sharing needles, use sterile mixing water, use a clean straw/spoon when snorting and much more.
  • Organise safe options for getting home. If you’re travelling by car, nominate a designated driver.
  • And, always know the risks – using, selling or carrying drugs is currently against the law.

How to keep safe while you’re using drugs

  • Avoid using alone, be with someone you trust to help if things go wrong.
  • Tell your mates what you’re taking in case you have a bad reaction.
  • Avoid mixing drugs. Taking different drugs at the same time (including alcohol, prescription medicine and over-the-counter drugs) can have unpredictable effects and may increase your risk of harm. Take a look at this Drug Mixing Calculator to find out more.
  • Limit caffeine use. Some drugs may contain caffeine. Having too much caffeine can cause heart problems, so avoid drinking large amounts of coffee or energy drinks when taking drugs.
  • MDMA, dehydration and overheating. MDMA (ecstasy) is commonly taken at dance parties, festivals or nightclubs. Dancing can raise body temperature and cause your body to overheat.
  • Take regular breaks to cool down and drink about 500ml of water per hour if you are being active, 250mls when resting.
  • Drinking too much water while taking MDMA is also dangerous, as deaths have occurred from ‘dilutional hyponatremia’ - a condition where a person’s brain swells from drinking too much water, inducing a coma.1
  • Stay connected. Alcohol and other drugs may prevent you from thinking clearly, so stay with trusted friends. Friends can also look out for you if you find yourself in uncomfortable or risky situations.
  • Don’t drive or swim. Alcohol and other drugs affect your reflexes, response times and judgement, so avoid driving or swimming. This includes when you’re coming down. If your friend has taken drugs or alcohol, they can’t drive either.
  • If it’s hot and you’re outside – slip, slop, slap and slide.
  • Getting home safely. Organise a lift with someone who isn’t drinking or taking drugs, get a taxi or rideshare, stay with the party hosts, or a hotel.
  • On your Ps? You must have zero blood alcohol content (0.0 BAC). In other words, no alcohol at all.

After using drugs – how to deal with a comedown

If you’re going to have a big night or weekend using drugs and alcohol, you’re also going to experience a hangover or comedown afterwards.

Comedowns don’t last forever – they’re often unpleasant, but rarely dangerous. Typically, you should feel better in 2-3 days.

Your comedown experience will depend on the drug type, strength and amount you’ve taken, and your general health.

Here’s some of our top tips to help you recover:

  • Know how long drugs stay in your system, especially if you’re a tradie, a driver, or hospitality worker - you’ll need to know when you’re safe to drive or work machinery.
  • Resist the temptation to use more drugs - it’s just delaying the inevitable.
  • Eat well and drink lots of water.
  • Hang out with friends.
  • Rest up – whether it’s sleep or just laying on the couch, take the time to rest. Your body and brain needs time to heal.
  • Get some fresh air. High-intensity exercise is a bad idea when you’re coming down but getting the blood flowing with some gentle exercise, like a walk, can help.
  • Let trusted people know that you are coming down.
  • Avoid people or places that stress you out.
  • Be kind to yourself and do things that make you feel good – put on comfy clothes, have a hot bath or shower, binge-watch Netflix or listen to music.
  • Remind yourself that this will pass.

When to seek medical help after alcohol or drugs

If you’re concerned about physical health symptoms, contact Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

If you’re having negative thoughts (like hurting yourself or others), contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or SuicideLine Victoria on 1300 651 251.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency call Triple Zero (000) immediately - ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police.

What to do in the case of an overdose or adverse reaction

If someone overdoses, or has a bad reaction while using a drug, it’s very important that they receive professional help immediately. A quick response can save their life.

Here are some common signs of an overdose to look out for:

  • difficulty breathing
  • loss of consciousness
  • choking or gurgling sounds
  • cool or clammy skin
  • do they answer when you call their name?
  • can the person speak?
  • how is their skin colour (especially lips and fingertips)? Remember that this can look different with people with different skin tones.
  • Typically this is bluish purple skin (for people with lighter complexions) or greyish or ashen skin (for people with darker complexions).2

How to respond to an overdose

  • Call triple zero - 000.
  • If they’re unconscious, don’t leave them on their back, as they could choke.
  • Turn them on their side and into the recovery position. Gently tilt their head back so that their tongue doesn’t block their airway.
  • Don’t leave them alone – stay with them until help arrives.
  • If they’ve taken opioids, and you have access to Naloxone, use it.
  • Tell the paramedics what drug/s they’ve had, including: the amount, how long ago, and if there are any pre-existing medical conditions (if known).
  • Paramedics are there to help and will not involve the police - ambulance staff will only send police with the ambulance if they are concerned for the safety of paramedics or if someone has died.
  • Answer the operator’s questions and speak clearly. 
  • The operator may give your first aid instructions over the phone.

Do not hang up until the phone operator tells you to. 

Remember that witnessing an overdose can be distressing or frightening. There are many things you can do to cope and recover from trauma. Seek professional help if you need additional support.

Planning your night and being aware of the effects of alcohol and other drugs can help reduce the risk of harm.

This means knowing your mates will look out for you; you have a safe way to get home; and, you know how to get help if you need it.

  1. Liamis G, Milionis H, Elisaf M. A Review of Drug-Induced Hyponatremia. American Journal of Kidney Diseases [Internet]. 2008 16 July 2022; 52(1):[144-53 pp.].
  2. Department of Health and Aged Care. About opioid overdose and adverse reactions: Department of Health and Aged Care; 2019 [16 July 2022].

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