The Party soon to be Started

Friday the 30th of April 2021 saw the first legal rave at the Circus Night club in Liverpool, this was an indoor event with approximately 3000 ravers in attendance. On the 2nd of May an outdoor event Festival Republic gig was attended by approximately 5000 festival goers. Both of these events were outside of current Covid-19 restrictions including the rule of six in the UK. These events form part of the UK governments Events Research Program which is designed to safely get big crowds back this summer.

As most of the world’s night scene has been non-existent for the past 12 months there has been no release, no associating with others. We’ve not been able to enjoy the weekend at the pub, finishing off at a club and having that release. Maybe your buzz is Cocaine, MDMA or even Amphetamine when you’re on a night out, but there have been no nights out for over 12 months now.

The fist thing you need to be aware about is your tolerance levels, as you use your drug of choice each weekend your body gets used to it, this is tolerance. The higher your tolerance to your drug of choice, the more you need to take is increased for you to get the same buzz.

What are the risks I hear you say?

Firstly, let’s look at the Drug Market, Cocaine, MDMA and most other stimulants that are a part of the night scene are not manufactured in the UK. This means they have to be imported, but with limited movement over the past 12 months of imports this has had an impact on the supply chain. Pre Covid-19, 1kg of Cocaine was selling for approximately £20k, since the pandemic prices have risen to £44k per 1kg. That’s a lot, that’s over doubled in the last 12 months.

A recent study was conducted in Canada Changes in Substance supply and use among people who use drugs, the aim of the study was to look at any increased risk to People who use drugs (PWUD) or experience negative effects related to COVID-19. The report looks at the increased risk or unintended consequences regarding border closures, non-essential travel and supply patterns. A semi-structured approach was taken with 200 PWUD. Many of the PWUD said there had been a change to their substance use and supply disruptions, including the potency and availability and some stating an increase in price. The report noted that in the initial months of the pandemic, Cocaine, Heroin and MDMA use decreased due to the decline of social gatherings and the night time economy.

Due to the changes in supply, 61% of participants reported that there had been a major decrease in the quality and potency of their substance. An overwhelming number of participants gave accounts of substances heavily adulterated with bulking agents and that included unknown substances and chemicals which in turn usually resulted in poorer quality drugs. The changes to the potency, and the strength has had a negative impact on tolerance levels. A decrease in tolerance increases the risk for experiencing a fatal overdose.

The study all so looked at the increase in prices, 162 people were asked and 62% stated there had been a substantial increase in price since Covid-19. One participant stated that the prices have sky rocketed, they are just mixing it with crap and charging double. Although for some others, they stated prices did not really increase, but the strength and potency had decreased.

Within the study, 173 people were asked about their perceived overdose risk, 38% said they think their risk of overdose has increased, reasons given differed but the main concern was an increasingly contaminated and a toxic supply.

As the party is soon to start, we have to be aware that what we buy may not be what has been sold. As festivals will soon be opening up and people are going to be taking party drugs. Concerns around the use of MDMA and dangerous substitutes are real. The Trip Report has come across some very interesting data over the past few months, considering the night scene and festivals have not been active, the sample pool is very limited and includes substances from the UK and Europe but not limited to.

A sample sold as MDMA was actually Caffeine. Probably the safest substitute as most of us already use caffeine on a daily basis and have increased tolerance. But let’s be honest, too much caffeine use has been linked to heart complications over the years. The majority of samples form The Trip report and also Know Your Stuff have raised concerns around MDMA actually being Synthetic Cathinones (Mkat, Mephedrone, Bath salts, 4-MMC). Cathinones do have a similar effect as MDMA, the feelings wear off faster and can tend to lead to people redosing quicker and more often increasing the risk of over dose. The risks associated with using Cathinones is a raise in blood pressure and heart rate. Reports of chest pain, delirium and dehydration. The long-term effects can be a breakdown of skeletal tissue and kidney failure.

Worryingly a number of samples that were sold as MDMA are actually DOC. Now DOC is a common substitute for LSD, its effects are similar to LSD and DOC is potent enough to put on a TAB and a dose is around 2-4mg. The supposedly MDMA was purchased in pill form thus not knowing the accurate strength of each pill.

A more concerning issue at the moment that has been reported are double strength pills. These are being sold as MDMA. A standard Ecstasy pill is around 100 – 150mg per tablet. These pills are coming through at around 200-230mg per pill. So effectively they are double dose tablets. Easy to identify as they will have a split adown the middle. These pills are intended to be split and only half a dose used. As the same as any use of MDMA the advice is simple, check the strength, only use half to start. Remember that MDMA can cause dehydration. This can be exacerbated if in a hot club and dancing the night away. Remember, always rehydrate with water NOT alcohol as alcohol speeds up the dehydration process. As you dehydrate through sweat you also shed electrolytes, try to drink a sports energy drink like Lucozade or if not available, a pinch of salt in your water will help to replenish the lost electrolytes.

So how do you stay safe? How do you know what your taking?

Hopefully we will see more Drug Testing services at festivals this year. One UK based charity The Loop conducted in 2016 Multi Agency Safety Testing (MAST) with one addition, this was open to the public to at the Secret Garden Party and Kendal Calling. In the UK we have not taken the risks of harm and death by substances at festivals as serious as other countries such as Australia, Canada, Portugal and the Netherlands. As recently reported by Voltface a recent UK study found that 1 in 5 people who test their drug end up disposing of them, thats potentially saved one person from serious harm or death. At the Secret Garden Party the testing services helped to reduce the hospital admissions from 19 people the previous year (without testing services) to one person the following year (with testing services), this is yet another reason that evidence based and testing services saves lives and families. Lets be honest though, there were still 4 people who chose to take the drug that was being tested and increased their own risk. Testing is not the only answer, there has to be a robust harm minimisation package available. PWUD need to have access to information in a safe environment, where they can discuss the findings of their results and make an informed choice.

How do you make an informed choice? Firstly we need to look at the 3 S’s. What are the 3 S’s?

Substance, Setting & Self.

So, what is the substance you are taking? Is it a Stimulant, a Depressant or a hallucinogenic? You need to now your drug of choice. Do your research, the internet is an excellent gateway to learning, sites such as FRANK or EROWID will give you fact based information to help keep you safer. What’s the setting? What is your mindset? What is your social surrounding? What are the other factors around you that could affect how you feel? Who are you with? Its been noted that your social group will have an impact on the psychedelic experience. Are you with people who are supportive and in a relaxed environment? The Set is ones self is able to control or guide the experience consciously or subconsciously. Also, if you are experiencing any form of stress, your anxiety levels are high or you may even be in an difficult environment, maybe the club is too cramped, your feeling paranoid already, this is the Self part of it. If in doubt don’t use!! Yeah, easy for you to say I hear! Lets be honest, if your not feeling your best, if your head is running a committee meeting before you have even taken that stimulant, what do you think the committee meeting will do? I can tell you its not going to stop, actually the meeting will probably be extended for the next 8 hours plus and many other factors will decided to join the table.

As with any substance, the best harm min advice is always not to use! Lets be realistic though, if you have got the substances in your pocket then you are intending to use them. Stay safe as you can, sample the product in a small dose first. If in doubt, throw it out.

If you do find your self having a bad trip, remember you need to calm your mental state down, change the environment you find yourself in, go outside if indoors, get a supportive friend with you. Drink and rehydrate with water, not alcohol. If you still feel unwell, see medical help, this could be a staff member in the club, healthcare workers at the festival, find the recovery tent or call emergency services. Never fear calling for an ambulance, in the UK the police will only attend if the ambulance crew fear for their own safety. Always remember, you can control your conscious and subconscious by remember to take care of your mental wellbeing.