Safer Clubbing

Recreational drug and alcohol use is a common fact of nightclub life. While people use recreational drugs to enhance their experience of dancing, partying, socialising, and sex, alcohol and so-called “club drugs” – alone or in combination – can be dangerous or lethal when misused. Arming yourself with information about the properties of these drugs and the risks associated with taking them is the best way, aside from not using them at all, to reduce the chance that you will harm yourself or someone else while partying.

Drugs that have become associated with after-hours and nightclubs include ecstasy, speed, cocaine, GHB, ketamine, and poppers. A risk common to many of these drugs is that they are illegal, therefore unregulated, and may contain varying levels of ingredients, making it hard for users to know what a “safe” dose is. Not knowing what is in the drugs you are taking, or their concentration, greatly increases the chance of overdose.

Another risk common to many or all of these drugs is that combining them with other drugs or with alcohol greatly increases the chance of medical emergency, overdose, or death.

IN ALL CASES, IF OVERDOSE OCCURS, call 911. If overdose occurs: Stay calm. Know the location of the emergency and the number you are calling from. Wait for the call-taker to ask questions, then answer clearly and calmly and honestly. If you reach a recording, listen to what it says. Let the call-taker guide the conversation. Follow all directions. Do not hang up the call until directed to do so by the call-taker.

If you know you will be partying, plan ahead. Pack the necessary tools to ensure you have a fun, safe time. Many people enjoy having sex while they use substances. If you’re one of those people, pack condoms and lube in advance. Substance use can impair judgement, creating a situation where you may behave differently than normal. If you plan to be safe, there is a much greater chance you will be!



Ecstasy (MDMA) in particular has become closely associated with after-hours, nightclubs, and dancing. Ecstasy is a mood elevator that produces feelings of relaxation, well-being, empathy, and euphoria, and can have many of the same physical effects as other stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines.

The most common adverse effect of Ecstasy use is hyperthermia, a marked increase in body temperature that can result from dancing for extended periods of time in an overheated room without replenishing fluids. Hyperthermia can lead to dehydration, heat-stroke, and in some cases, death. Repeated use of Ecstasy over a short interval of time can lead to high levels of the drug in the body—increasing the risk of harm.

Another potentially serious risk for Ecstasy users is the fact that counterfeit Ecstasy is common, and without a testing kit, it is impossible for users to know whether an Ecstasy pill contains only MDMA, or has been mixed with other ingredients such as speed, caffeine, PMA (a dangerous stimulant), Ketamine, DXM (an ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicines that can contribute to heat stroke), PCP, cocaine, atropine, and many other substances.

Actual Ecstasy overdose is rare, and when it occurs is most often linked to dehydration or the mixing of Ecstasy with other drugs or alcohol.


Drink Water. People who use Ecstasy and dance in hot places such as indoor parties need to replace fluids at regular intervals and pay attention to the warning signs of heat stroke, which include: Cramps in the legs, arms and back; failure to sweat; giddiness, dizziness, headache, fatigue; vomiting; fainting; feeling suddenly tired, irritable and confused.

Don’t Mix Ecstasy with Alcohol. Alcohol causes dehydration on its own and when mixed with Ecstasy, increases the possibility of developing heat-stroke.

Wear Cool, Loose-Fitting Clothing.

Take Breaks from Dancing.

Keep Plenty of Latex Condoms and Lubricant on Hand if There is Any Chance That You Will Engage in Sex, Planned or Unplanned.

For More Information About Ecstasy Overdose, how to prevent heat-stroke, and what to do if someone gets heat-stroke click here


GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is usually sold as an odourless liquid. It is sometimes used as an alternative to Ecstasy. GHB has similar effects to alcohol. When GHB is taken in mall doses, users experience relaxation, euphoria, and disinhibition. Higher doses can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, slurred speech, muscle spasms, impaired mobility, and loss of consciousness. Initially developed as a sleep-aid, GHB is a central nervous system depressant. It is very dangerous to mix GHB with alcohol or other depressants, including prescription sedatives (Valium, Halcion, Xanax, and others) – doing so can cause loss of consciousness and slowed respiration, which may lead to death.

Another risk of GHB is that concentrations can vary widely between batches, making it very hard for the user to find the correct dosage for a “recreational” effect. Since drug onset varies, users who do not feel the effects quickly enough sometimes take more, making themselves susceptible to overdose.

Because it is an odourless liquid that can be poured into an unsuspecting person’s drink and cause them to become unconscious or unable to move properly, GHB has become known as a “date rape drug.”


Start With a Small Dose. Start with a dose of no more than half a teaspoon and wait at least an hour before deciding whether to take more.

Don’t Use GHB Alone. Passing out on GHB is dangerous and potentially life-threatening, as it can cause you to stop breathing or vomit while unconscious.

Don’t Mix GHB With Alcohol or Other Drugs, Particularly Other Central Nervous System Depressants.

Don’t Drive if You Have Taken GHB. GHB can impair motor coordination as much or more than alcohol. Also, the effects of GHB come on fast and cannot be controlled or paced.

Don’t Leave Drinks Unattended or Accept Drinks From a Stranger.

Keep Plenty of Latex Condoms and Lubricant on Hand if There is Any Chance That You Will Engage in Sex, Planned or Unplanned.

For More Information About GHB Overdose and what to do, click here.


Ketamine (“Special K” or “K”) is a “dissociative anaesthetic,” which causes users to feel detached or disconnected from their environment. It is used for medical purposes, including veterinary anaesthesia. Ketamine usually comes as a liquid, which recreational users either inject or drink, or cook into a powder to snort.

Low doses of Ketamine can produce a dreamy sedated feeling in the user, numbness in the extremities, and a feeling of floating outside the body. At higher doses, the user may experience extreme clumsiness (as they are unable to feel their hands and feet), erratic emotions, or vivid psychedelic effects. They may become anaesthetised, unable to move (AKA a K-hole), or may lose consciousness. For this reason, Ketamine has also been labelled a “date rape drug.” At high doses, Ketamine can depress consciousness and breathing and is extremely dangerous to combine with other depressants or alcohol.


Don’t Take Ketamine Alone.

Don’t Take Ketamine With Strangers.

Choose a Safe Environment and Do Not Drive.

Keep Plenty of Latex Condoms and Lubricant on Hand if There is Any Chance That You Will Engage in Sex, Planned or Unplanned.

Don’t Mix Ketamine with GHB, Opiates, Alcohol, or Other Depressants.

If You are Injecting Ketamine, Use a Sterile Syringe.

For More Information About Ketamine Overdose, and what to do, click here LINK


Amphetamines (including methamphetamine) are stimulants that induce exhilarating feelings of power, strength, energy, self-assertion, focus and enhanced motivation.  When taken, the need to sleep or eat is diminished; feelings are intensified: sexuality is intensified; and the user may feel that he or she can take on the world.

Amphetamines can also cause anxiety, insomnia, and aggression. Use of very high or toxic doses of amphetamines can cause hypertension and increase the risk of stroke, seizures, and cerebral haemorrhage. High doses, particularly in the context of repeated binges, can cause temporary psychosis that includes mood swings, hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, impulsivity, and the potential for aggression. Amphetamines can also induce or exacerbate depression and anxiety disorders and trigger existing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Speed can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, injected, and inserted anally. Taking speed orally is the safest method of ingestion. Snorting speed takes effect faster than swallowing, but can damage the nose. Smoking methamphetamine takes effect immediately, and can easily lead to addiction. Injecting speed is the riskiest way of using speed. Risks of injecting include addiction, overdose, vein damage, bloodstream infections, and the transmission of blood-borne illness such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C from sharing syringes.

The disinhibitory nature of stimulants makes them an appealing tool to aid sexual activities. Many people use stimulants to enhance senses, increase energy and stamina, increase confidence, and reduce anxiety, making sex more fulfilling. Because of this, users may follow impulses that could result in risky sexual behaviours.

While uncommon, overdose is also a risk. In the case of a life threatening stimulant overdose, medical attention is required.


Don’t Mix Speed With Other Drugs.

Don’t Use Speed If You Have a Heart Condition.

If You Do Inject Speed, Use a Sterile Syringe.

Keep Plenty of Latex Condoms and Lubricant on Hand if There is Any Chance That You Will Engage in Sex, Planned or Unplanned.

For More Information About Amphetamine Overdose, and what to do, click here.


Cocaine comes in powder or crystal form. The crystal form of cocaine is also known as “crack.” Most users snort powdered cocaine, although it can also be injected or smoked. Crack is smoked.

Cocaine is a stimulant. It increases heart rate and blood pressure and causes feelings of energy, alertness, exhilaration, euphoria, and self-confidence in the user. Injecting cocaine intensifies these effects and they are felt immediately. Smoking crack produces effects comparable to injection.

Cocaine and crack are short-acting – the high from snorting cocaine lasts about 15-30 minutes, and the effects of injecting or smoking last 5-10 minutes – which can lead to over-use.

Harmful effects of cocaine include irritability, restlessness, anxiety, paranoia; nosebleeds and damage to the membranes of the nose from repeated snorting; seizures, strokes, heart attack and sudden death. Some users experience depression, agitation, anxiety, and paranoia when coming off of cocaine. Many users become compulsive in their use of cocaine, which can lead to physical or psychological addiction. Chronic use of cocaine can result in weight loss, sexual problems, disordered thinking, extreme mood swings, paranoia, aggression, and psychosis.

Smoking cocaine can damage the lungs as well as leading to compulsive use. Users who inject cocaine have increased risk of transmitting or contracting HIV and Hepatitis B and C from sharing needles.

As with alcohol and other drugs, people often use cocaine in association with sexual activity, which can result in risky sexual behaviours.


Don’t Mix Cocaine With Other Drugs or Alcohol.

If  You Are Injecting Cocaine, Use a Sterile Syringe.

Use Condoms. If there is any chance that you will have sex (planned or unplanned), carry condoms and use them every time you have sex.

Don’t Use Cocaine if You Have a Known Heart Condition.

For More Information About Cocaine Overdose, and what to do, click here.


“Poppers” is the popular name for a class of inhalants, including isobutyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, and amyl nitrite, that relax the muscles, dilate blood vessels, and speed up the heart. Poppers are inhaled from an open bottle and give an immediate “rush” sensation of heat and excitement that lasts for several minutes. Nitrites intensify sexual pleasure, and are most commonly used for that purpose.

Negative effects of poppers include headaches, weakness, dizziness, sweating, flushing, nausea, and vomiting. Risks from frequent or long-term use include glaucoma, anaemia,

Studies have shown that poppers can reduce the functioning of the immune system for several days after use, which can be dangerous for people with AIDS.

Poppers’ sexual effects can lead users to engage in risky sex practices. Because poppers cause blood vessels to open, it is easier to get an infection, including sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, if you engage in risky sex.

Poppers are highly poisonous, highly flammable, and can cause irritation if they come into contact with the skin. Extensive use can damage the nose and lungs.

People who suffer from circulatory problems, low blood pressure, heart trouble, breathing problems, anaemia, glaucoma or who are pregnant should not use poppers.


Use Condoms. Poppers can affect your judgement when you are having sex. Carry condoms and use them every time you have sex.

Don’t Use Poppers If You Have a Suppressed Immune System.

Keep Poppers Away from Cigarettes, Candles, and Lighters.

Don’t Combine Poppers With Other Stimulants.

Don’t Mix Poppers With Other Drugs, Especially Stimulants Like Speed and Cocaine.

Don’t Combine Poppers With Viagra. Both poppers and Viagra can cause blood pressure to drop, which can be dangerous.

Don’t Drink Poppers. If swallowed call 911 or Poison Control.


For many people, alcohol is a fact of celebrating and party-going. In fact, the ubiquity of its use leads many people to assume that the risks of alcohol use are minimal compared to other recreational drugs. While this may be true for people who use alcohol in moderation and in settings and situations where risks (such as driving a car, or drinking with strangers) are minimised, club-goers, especially those who use other substances, should become informed about the health and behaviour risks associated with alcohol use in a club setting, and take steps to avoid or reduce those risks.

In low to moderate amounts alcohol can produce feelings of relaxation or euphoria, lower inhibitions, and increase sociability. Larger amounts can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, slower reflexes, aggressiveness, bad judgement, dehydration and a hangover the next day. Alcohol slows the central nervous system; impairs reflexes, vision, and motor coordination; and affects judgement. Consuming too much alcohol at once can cause acute alcohol toxicity (overdose), which can cause loss of motor control, black-outs (periods of consciousness that one will not be able to remember later), temporary coma (passing out), and in extreme cases, death.

Mixing alcohol with other drugs – particularly other central nervous system depressants such as GHB, Ketamine, opiates, sedatives (such as Klonopin, Xanax, Valium, Halcion, and Restoril) or prescription narcotics – poses a serious risk of overdose, and is extremely dangerous. Even if you are a regular drinker, the amount of alcohol you are normally used to drinking may pose a much greater risk for intoxication or overdose if combined with other drugs. Mixing alcohol with Ecstasy can increase the risk of dehydration and heat-stroke.

Because alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgement, people are more likely to have sexual encounters when they have consumed alcohol, and are also more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviours, such as failing to use condoms, having sex with multiple or unknown partners, and failing to follow their risk-reduction plans (for example, discussing risk topics with sexual partners or saying no to risky sex).

Alcohol is also commonly a factor in sexual assaults, date-rape, and violence. Overdosing on alcohol or combining alcohol with drugs that can cause you to pass out, especially if you are partying with strangers, increases your risk of being victimised.

Be Cautious When Drinking With Acquaintances and Around Strangers. Both men and women can be victimized by date rape drugs which can be put in drinks, though alcohol itself is far and away the drug which most commonly facilitates such assaults on females in particular. Don’t take drinks from strangers.


Don’t Mix Alcohol With Other Drugs, Including Prescription Drugs. Mixing alcohol with other drugs, including over-the-counter or prescription medications, is dangerous and can lead to medical emergencies, overdose, and death.

If You Do Mix Drugs and/or Alcohol, Don’t Party Alone, and Tell Your Friends What You Are Using, In Case of a Medical Emergency.

Go Out With a Friend. It’s safer to drink in bars with friends than alone.

Be Cautious When Drinking Around Strangers. Both men and women can be victimised by date rape drugs which can be put in drinks. Don’t take drinks from strangers.

Plan Your Transportation. Don’t drive when you have been drinking or accept a ride from someone who’s been drinking. Plan beforehand who will stay sober or how you will get home after drinking.

Eat First. Eating a meal before you drink alcohol greatly slows the rate that alcohol enters the bloodstream, which reduces the possibility of alcohol overdose.

Slow Down. Drinking at a slower rate can lessen the chance of experiencing ill effects of alcohol. Ways to slow down include switching to less potent drinks (for example beer instead of whiskey), timing your drinks with your watch, and alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks.

Stay Hydrated. Alcohol causes dehydration. This is especially important if you are also using Ecstasy and/or are dancing for long periods of time in an overheated club.

Know the Alcohol Content of What You are Drinking. Alcohol content of different drinks and spirits can vary widely. Knowing the alcohol content of what you’re drinking can help you pace yourself.

Know Your Own Reaction to Drinking. Everyone’s reaction to alcohol is different, depending on body weight, metabolism, existing tolerance, food in the stomach, and other factors. Know your own limits and pace yourself. A standard drink is metabolised out of your system in approximately 1.5 hours.

Practice Safer-Sex. Being intoxicated interferes with decision-making and can increase the chance of risky sexual behaviours or victimisation. Carry condoms and use them every time you have sex.

If you wonder if you drink too much, and if your drinking habits are unhealthy or put you at risk of harm or alcohol dependence, visit this website to take a short quiz and learn more:   Alcohol Reality Check >


Cannabis is the most used illicit drug in the world and the second to alcohol among all drugs used for recreational purposes. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that, across all nations, 160 million people used cannabis in the course of 2005, 4% of the global adult populations – far more than the number that used any other illicit drug, though far less than the number that consumed alcohol or tobacco.

What are the potential health effects of using cannabis? Research shows that cannabis can help relieve pain, nausea, muscle spasms, anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia. It can also promote weight gain and appetite. These effects make cannabis useful for treating many different health conditions and related symptoms.

While some people find the effects of cannabis beneficial for their health and well-being, not everyone has pleasant experiences with cannabis. Some people get moody or down. High doses of THC can cause panic attacks and temporary psychosis, including paranoia and hallucinations, in some people. Anxious reactions occur most often in new users, or after eating cannabis.

Cannabis can alleviate anxiety and depression, but it can also make these conditions worse. Some people with schizophrenia may find relief from their symptoms by using cannabis, but others may find it increases their symptoms. Cannabis may also prompt an early onset of schizophrenia in those who are vulnerable to the disorder because of a personal or family history with the condition.

Cannabis is associated with temporary short-term memory loss. It is also associated with the regeneration of brain cells after a brain injury or stroke, and as the brain ages.

For a period of time after smoking or ingesting cannabis, users may experience some physical and cognitive effects, such as increased heart rate, slower reaction times and drowsiness, which can impair their psychomotor skills. Such effects occur most often in new or occasional users, or in people using large amounts of cannabis. These effects can last from two to four hours when cannabis is smoked, and twice as long when cannabis is ingested. Because cannabis is fat soluble it may be detected in the blood or urine for a month or more following use; however that does not mean any lasting effects will be experienced by the user. While smoking cannabis has not been found to cause lung cancer, heavy long-term use can cause respiratory problems, including shortness of breath and chronic bronchitis. The practice of inhaling cannabis deeply and holding it in the lungs may lead to greater lung irritation without significantly increasing the desired effects.

When Is Using Cannabis A Problem? Whenever a person’s cannabis use negatively affects their life or the lives of others, it can be considered problematic. As with other drugs, the potential for harm from cannabis use depends on various factors related to the substance, the person using it, and the context.

Using cannabis has the potential to be problematic when a person is:

  • Drinking alcohol or using other drugs—cannabis mixed with alcohol may cause vomiting and nausea and can amplify the effects of some other substances
  • Using tobacco at the same time—mixing tobacco with cannabis increases a person’s risk of developing serious physical health problems
  • Suffering from mental health problems—in some cases, cannabis can make existing mental health issues worse
  • Using large amounts—long-term heavy use can lead to health problems
  • Suffering from a heart condition—cannabis may increase a person’s heart rate and reduce blood pressure
  • Driving—cannabis use may lead to impairment which can negatively affect driving ability

Heavy cannabis use can lead to mild dependence. This means the person has come to rely on the effects of cannabis. Some people may develop a tolerance to cannabis. This means they need an increasing amount of cannabis to get the effect they want. Some users experience withdrawal effects when they stop using cannabis, such as irritability and loss of appetite. These effects are relatively minor, and most people who want to stop or cut down their cannabis use are able to do so without much effort. However, some people are more successful with support.

Compared to many other legal and illegal drugs, harms associated with cannabis are minimal. For example, cannabis use does not result in death by overdose. Most people who try cannabis do not continue to use it. Most people who use cannabis tend to do so moderately. About six per cent of cannabis users experience health, social or legal problems related to their use.Research suggests that the greatest harms from cannabis are not related to health effects, but arise from the consequences resulting from its legal status. These include restrictions on employment and international travel, and family discord caused by interactions with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.Sharing joints in ways that involve direct contact with the lips, or sharing other smoking implements without sterilizing them between use may increase the risk of transmitting saliva-borne infections such as meningitis or flu.

For more information on cannabis click here.


Sexual encounters, planned and unplanned, are a common fact of club life, and can carry risks. People who go out to party, unless they are 100% sure they will abstain from sex, should have a plan for managing those risks. Consuming drugs and/or alcohol not only increases the chance that people will have sexual encounters, but also that they will engage in risky sexual behaviours.

Many “club drugs” lower social inhibitions, increase feelings of self-confidence and emotional warmth and connection, and enhance sexual arousal, sensation, and performance, all of which can lead users to engage in sexual practices that they might not take up, ordinarily, or that may carry risks, including the risk of contracting or transmitting HIV, Hepatitis, and other STIs.

These risky behaviours include not using condoms, having sex with multiple partners or people unknown to you; over-using or combining certain drugs to enhance sexual experience; having prolonged or repeated sex, which can lead to physical injury that can increase the chance of STI transmission; among others.


Be Prepared, and Be in Charge of Your Own Protection. If there is any chance at all that you will have sex (planned or unplanned), carry condoms with you and use them every time you have sex. Don’t rely on your sexual partner to provide protection.

If you engage in sexual practices that are unfamiliar to you, or are unsure of the risk of a sexual behaviour, try to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting blood-borne infections and other STIs by using a latex barrier (condoms or dental dams), and avoiding contact between bodily fluids and cuts, sores, abrasions, etc.

Plan and Practice “Risk Avoidance Strategies,” Such as How to Talk to Sexual Partners About Risk, or How to Say No to Unprotected Sex.

If You Do Use Drugs and/or Alcohol, keep in mind that doing so can interfere with decision-making and increase the chance of engaging in risky behaviours.

LINKS and attribution:

The Body

Safety First


Harm Reduction for Alcohol


Safe Kit
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