Brendan Bonner, Acting Assistant Director, Health Improvement, PHA said; “The summer has always been a time when we are more likely to see an increase in binge drinking. In the past the PHA has issued warnings about managing your alcohol consumption, particularly during summer festivals and sporting events, as alcohol consumption in the warm weather increases the risk of dehydration and overheating. However, we also know that during the summer time young adults are more likely to experiment with drugs, and this year we are issuing advice to people who plan to use drugs, to help them reduce the risks to their health and life.”
Last year 251 new psychoactive substances were identified in the UK and are coming onto the market at a rate of 50-60 a year, the equivalent to one a week. These drugs are not controlled and can therefore contain absolutely anything. It is also evident that drugs are being mixed with other drugs.
Brendan Bonner continued: “Mixing drugs is a major risk. In Northern Ireland, three out of four drug-related deaths involve more than one drug. People are mixing drugs with alcohol or other drugs including prescription drugs, illicit drugs or legal highs.
“The way in which people take drugs can increase or decrease the risks to their health, so it is vital they have access to advice on how to take them to help reduce the risk. This includes not mixing them with alcohol or other drugs, always taking them with someone they can trust, and, if they feel unwell, seeking emergency medical help immediately. The faster they get medical help, the greater the likelihood that any treatment will be successful”.
Chris Rintoul from Council for the Homeless said; “We want people who will use drugs over the summer to be aware that there are risks involved. Any drug can cause harm but many of these can be reduced by taking some simple steps such as:
- Be informed; listen to up-to-date media reports on any bad batches going around.
- Try to score your drugs from someone you know and who knows what they are selling.
- Make sure you stay with your friends and watch out for them the whole night.
- Take it easy on the drink (if you can’t avoid it completely).
- Start with a low dose and wait for the peak effects to come on before re-dosing.
- Know your tolerance to any drug; if you are a new user don’t push it.
- Set limits by thinking through what you want to do and how. Then tell your friends what these are.
- Have a clear plan of how, when and where you want to come down before you start using and then stick to it.
- To stay hydrated – Sip water or an isotonic sports drink, about a pint per hour.
- Try your best to avoid mixing drugs.
“People want to enjoy themselves and the experience; no-one wants to end up in hospital or worse. Following the above advice doesn’t guarantee your safety, but it will help. As Don Shapiro, author, said “Every choice counts. Choose wisely”.
Drug advice is available on the Public Health Agency website – www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/harm-reduction-drug-users and Council for the Homeless website – www.chni.org.uk/index.html.