Drug Safety for Holiday Parties

December 21, 2018. Article by: Government of B.C.

Is it safe to try drugs? Is it safe to use drugs when drinking alcohol? It’s never completely safe and right now, in the middle of the worst public health emergency our province has seen in decades, it’s riskier than ever.

The number of overdose deaths in B.C. has been increasing since 2012. Many of these deaths are because of an increase in fentanyl and its analogues in B.C.’s illegal drug supply. Fentanyl has been found mixed with other drugs like fake oxycodone, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin. Many people don’t know what’s in the drugs they’re using – they might take fentanyl without knowing it.

If you or someone you know chooses to use drugs, lower the chances of things going badly – like having an overdose. Here are ways to stay safer and help others be safer too.

Never use alone.

People are at a higher risk of overdosing when they use alone. Look out for your friends.

Don’t mix drugs.

Combining drugs with other drugs or alcohol is dangerous and is more likely to cause an overdose.

Understand how drugs and alcohol affect your body.

Being informed can help you make decisions. Learn how different drugs can affect you.

Get your drugs checked for fentanyl.

Drug checking services give people who use drugs life-saving information about the drug they intend to use, like whether it contains fentanyl. Drug checking services are available at supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites across the province.

Go slow.

Use low doses of drugs. Test a small amount first. If you haven’t taken a drug before or have taken a break from using drugs, your tolerance will be low.

Learn the signs of an overdose.

A person could be having an overdose if:

  • they cannot be woken up or are not moving
  • they are breathing slow or not breathing
  • they are choking or coughing, gurgling, or snoring
  • they have cold or clammy skin
  • they’re experiencing dizziness and confusion
  • their lips or fingernails turn pale, blue or gray
  • their pupils are very small

Know what to do if you see an overdose.

If you see an overdose, call 9-1-1 immediately. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act was made law; this means people who call 9-1-1 to help someone experiencing an overdose will not be charged with simple possession. Follow the S.A.V.E. M.E. steps:

  • Stimulate (poke. Shout. See if they respond. Call 9-1-1)
  • Airway (open their airway. Plug their nose. Tilt their neck back gently.)
  • Ventilate (give 1 breath every 5 seconds.)
  • Evaluate (are they breathing?)
  • Muscular injection (inject one dose of naloxone in their shoulder or thigh. Continue to provide breaths until the person is breathing on their own and help arrives.)
  • Evaluate (if they don’t respond after 3-5 minutes, give another naloxone injection. Continue giving breaths.)

Get a naloxone kit and know how to use it.

Naloxone is a medication that can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids. Learn how to get a naloxone kit.

Stay connected and find help when you need it.

Look out for your friends and stick together when going out to parties or events. As part of your regular day-to-day routine, keep open lines of communication with your family or others you trust. If life feels overwhelming, know that you are not alone. Try:

  • Reaching out to a friend, student services or visit your school counsellor
  • Bounce Back: a free, online program to help people of all ages who are feeling depressed, stressed or anxious.
  • Foundry: an organization that supports people aged 12-24 with accessing care, dealing with anxiety or depression, and getting support for substance use challenges.