What are party drugs:

Party drugs are recreational drugs such as MDMA, Ketamine, and cocaine, taken to enhance people’s experiences at clubs, festivals, and parties. All party drugs are illegal in the UK. This includes so called ‘legal highs’ such as nitrous oxide, and bath salts, have been banned in the UK since 2016.

Why do people take party drugs:

The most common reasons people take party drugs is because they want to have a good time. A lot of the time party drugs are stronger than alcohol and you don’t have to take a lot to feel the effect. 

Some drugs can be cheaper than alcohol, but this varies. While they don’t leave you with a hangover, they can still leave you feeling unwell the next day, depending on how much you take. People also often mix drugs with drinking, allowing them to stay up longer, and this can lead to even worse hangovers.   Drugs such as MDMA also can leave you with a ‘come down’ where you may feel sad or depressed the next day. 

Sometimes people use party drugs to self-medicate, in order to forget their problems and even reduce the symptoms of mental issues.   If you feel like you need to reduce the symptoms of your mental health issues please see the on-campus GP, visit counselling services, or go to the student life centre for advice. Sussex University has a lot of facilities available for mental health issues.

People also take drugs due to peer pressure. Peer pressure is the influence on someone from members of their peer group. Some people think that everyone at university takes party drugs and therefore feel the need to take them in order to feel ‘cool’ or fit in. This isn’t the case- in the UK roughly two in five students are drug users (according to the National Union of Students). This means the majority of students do not take drugs.

Peer pressure can come from one’s social group as well; if your friends do drugs, you may feel inclined to do the same to fit in. If your friends make you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome for not doing drugs, have a chat with them and let them know how you feel, as friends who make you feel bad for not doing drugs are not your friends.

What are the dangers of party drugs:

A friend of mine, Sandra*, has experienced truly the worst that party drugs have to offer. Her close friend went to a gig, took too much MDMA, and started overheating. Her friends did not realise that she needed help, but after passing out they called the ambulance, and she ended up in the hospital. Unfortunately, she passed away before her parents were able to get there. This is the dark side of doing party drugs – they can be fatal.

Other dangers of party drugs include addiction, harmful side-effects, and horrible withdrawal symptoms. 

Annie* took cocaine for the second time on a night out clubbing. She had been offered it for free by a friend and thought it would be a fun new experience. The night went well, but as soon as she arrived home, she realised she was unable to sleep due to her heart beating so fast and loud. She panicked, and realised that because she took antidepressants, she could actually have experienced serotonin syndrome, which can cause heart attacks or strokes. 

The panic increased as she was unable to sleep, and the next 24 hours were a blur of being the most anxious she had ever been, and shaking uncontrollably. After the experience ended, she vowed never to touch cocaine again.

Gerard* went on a night out, got intoxicated, and then at around 5am decided to take 2 tabs of acid. He thought that they weren’t working due to the delayed onset, and went to bed. However, he woke up a few hours later, and his housemates noticed that he had soiled his mattress, destroyed his room, tried to run down his street nude, and threw up all over the kitchen floor. Later he had a meltdown and was crying hysterically, so his housemates called the ambulance and he was taken to hospital, and fortunately he was able to recover, and has not taken acid since.

A housemate of a friend, Lucinda* went on a night out in town, and was dancing in front of the DJ booth, and took out some ketamine, put it on the back of her phone and did three lines, even though normally she would only take one. About 5 minutes later she became paralytic and began to foam at the mouth. The friend had to fireman carry her out of the club, and held her hair as she threw up everywhere. She was unable to reply to questions, so he got her an uber home, and heard through her housemates that she recovered the next day, and still takes ketamine, as she did not recall the events of that night.

How to reduce the risks when taking party drugs:

Being at university is the first time most students have been independently living, and therefore able to make their own choices without the supervision or guidance of their parents. For many people this is the first time they will have access to or experiment with drugs. 

If you or your friends are trying drugs , then be aware of the risks, and remember these rules: start with a very low dosage and only increase it if you do not feel the effects after a few hours, and only increase by small doses. Make sure to test any drugs you purchase, and you can do this with a free drug testing kit from the Free Wednesdays at Falmer House reception. Also, make sure you let your friends know what you are taking, and take anything in a safe place with people that you trust. 

Other ways to lessen the risks of taking drugs are making sure to stay hydrated, with water, throughout the time that you are taking them. This is very important! Do not mix drugs either, as this can cause worse side-effects, even when mixing with prescription drugs. Always check that mixing party drugs with any prescription drugs you are taking is not going to cause any adverse effects before taking party drugs. 

Make sure you know everything about the party drug you intend to take before you take it- including but not limited to the short and long term effects it can have, and all side effects associated with it. A good website for this is TalkToFrank.com- as it has plenty of impartial information about any drugs you may encounter, along with safety tips and advice.

Avoid mixing drugs and alcohol, as this can also cause you problems. 

How to know if you are addicted and where to get help:

The strongest sign of addiction is being unable to stop taking drugs. You may also feel like you need to take more of the same substance to get a high from it. Thinking about the drug and taking it and where you can get it from all the time is another sign that you are addicted to a substance. For more information about addiction, drug abuse, and how to find help, the following websites can be very useful: Drugabuse.gov, gatewayfoundation.org, and helpguide.org.

If you think you or someone you know is becoming addicted to drugs, you can get help. The GP is a good place to start as they can help refer you or a friend to the appropriate treatment programs, such as therapy, detoxification, and support groups. If you or a friend feel uncomfortable talking to the GP, the Frank website has information on your local drug treatment services. You or a friend can also call the Frank helpline on 0300 123 6600, and they can help you discuss your options for treatment. 

*Names have been changed for anonymity.

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