A ‘Recipe for Disaster’: The UK Is Opening Up, and the Party Drug Deaths Have Begun

There are fresh warnings over drug safety as 18-year-olds head to clubs for the first time ever after COVID restrictions in England eased.
August 6, 2021, 4:12pm
A Recipe for Disaster’: The UK Is Opening Up, and the Party Drug Deaths Have Begun
Photo:  Rob Pinney/Getty Images

Two people have died and several others have been taken ill from drug-related incidents as clubbers returned to nightclubs in the UK.

Last weekend, a 21-year-old man died at The Cause in Tottenham, north London, while two others were taken to hospital before being discharged. In Bristol, one person died and 20 more were admitted to hospital over the weekend in drug-related incidents. It is suspected that the incidents could be linked to high-potency ecstasy that is now commonly sold in Britain.

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A spokesperson from The Cause said: “​​At present we are working closely with the police to assist in their investigation into last weekend's tragic events.

“We are absolutely devastated by what has happened and our thoughts are with the friends and family of [the 21-year-old].”

Some clubs have sounded warnings about a super-strong “blue Tesla” pill. Police said they were still awaiting the results of an autopsy following the 21-year-old’s death.

In England, most COVID-related restrictions lifted on 19th July, as nightclubs opened up for the first time since March 2020. For the thousands of young people turning 18 during lockdown, this month would mark the first time they were legally allowed to attend nightclubs. 

Despite the need for urgent harm reduction advice amid rising drug deaths in the UK, Facebook and Instagram have removed drug safety info put out by respected drug charities and organisations like the Loop and Pill Reports, citing a breach of their guidelines.

Now, drug organisations are warning that better harm reduction must be practised in order to reduce the risk of drug-related deaths, but also that clubs must not fall into the trap of increasing policing for fears clubbers could take all their drugs before entering and become ill. 

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“I think we can do better in terms of best practice with some venues,” Fiona Measham, director of drug charity the Loop said. “Some clubs are absolutely following not just the guidelines but also the best practice, and I think are doing a fantastic job [but] others are really doing the bare minimum.”

“We were predicting that there might be drug-related hospital admissions and maybes and some fatalities with freedom day and reopening of clubs,” she said. “But it's one of those predictions that you hope you're not right about.”

“It is disappointing to see social media companies delete harm reduction messages and block the health and harm reduction organisations that issue them, particularly at such a critical time as this,” she added.

Dedicated water stations, removing drug dogs and spaces for clubbers to relax are some of the ways Measham says clubs could reduce risk around drug-taking, which for most venues is an inevitability.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association told VICE World News COVID restrictions easing in England had created a “recipe for disaster.”

"It’s always extremely sad to hear of young people passing away due to drug use. Our industry has worked very hard to create a safe drug-free environment," he said. "The owners and staff which have experienced such a tragedy are without a shadow of a doubt devastated by a life being lost, especially given the measures taken by businesses to prevent this very situation. We continue to work with authorities through initiatives and protocols but realise this is a huge challenge, for policing and businesses alike."

"What is very clear is we are fighting an uphill battle, and with the release of over 850,000 new 18-year-olds with little experience of the world due to the lockdown, we are faced with a recipe for disaster, which needs some intuitive solutions to engage, educate and reduce the harm drugs have on our society."