These summer party tips could save your life

The summer festival season is finally here which means, for some people, big days and nights out fuelled by booze and illicit substances.

But the combination of hot weather, alcohol and drugs can easily become dangerous – that’s where programs like Red Cross save-a-mate (SAM) and Victoria’s DanceWize come in.

They put together teams of trained volunteers that you’ll often find at music festivals, providing Chill Out Spaces for festival-goers and friendly, non-judgmental advice about alcohol, drugs and mental health.

We asked DanceWize Coordinator Stephanie Tzanetis and Joshua Butson, a senior project officer at Red Cross Community Programs, what essential tips they have for people to look after themselves and their mates this festival season.

Obviously, the best way to avoid harm from alcohol and other drugs is to avoid taking them – “The use of any drug carries a certain element of risk, and no drug use is safe,” Butson says – but if you do choose to use alcohol or other drugs, including MDMA, here are some things you can do to reduce the risks.

#1 If you’re not in the right mood, don’t push it

DanceWize: “Think about your mindset: do you feeling like partying? Maybe you’ve been upset or unwell recently? If so, don’t push yourself – you may be setting yourself up for a bad drug experience. Drugs and alcohol can enhance the mood you are in, but if you’re feeling down or unwell you may just be magnifying those feelings.”

#2 Eat first and stay hydrated

save-a-mate: “If you’re active, aim to drink half a litre of water an hour, and a quarter litre an hour if you’re resting. Stick to these guidelines, though, as too much water can also be dangerous. It’s also important to remember to eat before drugs and alcohol, as your appetite might be suppressed or you might forget to eat when you’re under the influence.”

#3 Don’t double dump (seriously)

save-a-mate: “If you swallow a drug, it takes between 20-60 minutes for it to take full effect, so keep this in mind and take half, then wait and see what the effect is before taking any more.”

“If the gear is unknown, try a little bit first. You can have more later.”

DanceWize: “Pre-loading on drugs or alcohol can seem like a good idea to save money and not be sniffed out by a dog – but it can also wreck the good time you’ve paid a lot for your ticket to enjoy, if you end up peaking way too early, or feeling ill from having too much at once (or worse). If the gear is unknown, try a little bit first. You can have more later.”

#4 Taking a bunch of different drugs together increases your overdose risk

save-a-mate: “Mixing drugs is one of the main causes of overdose, as some drugs will hide the effects of others. Having a reliable source and testing your drugs beforehand can reduce the risks of taking an unknown substance.”

DanceWize: “If you’re taking more than one substance, look into the effect of such combinations, and think about any prescription medication you may be on and whether you can mix it with other substances or alcohol. The more different drugs you take, the bigger the burden on your body and the more likely the chance of overdose or feeling unwell.”

#5 Do some research into what you’re taking

DanceWize: “Have you had the drug before? Ask for advice from your peers if they’ve tried it before, or you can also research the substance online: DanceWize, erowid.org, pillreports.net and bluelight.org are great places to start. Novel psychoactive substances (like mephedrone, methylone, 2C-T-7, etc) are now increasingly being sold under false pretences – they may or may not be dangerous, but your expectations for your drug-taking experience can have a significant impact on your actual experience. It’s also worth investing in your own drug testing kit, to check for dangerous adulterants like PMMA/PMA.”

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