Photo: Bob Foster
The shift from lockdown to “not lockdown” is going to be a strange one to get your head around. One moment, you’re deriving your daily serotonin boost from a trip to the Big Sainsbury’s, the next you’re back to clubbing like the last year didn’t happen – swapping sweat and saliva, and, for some, using a £20 note like it’s a COVID rapid test swab.
Clubs in England are theoretically – and perhaps optimistically – set to open on the 21st of June, which is just three months away. But from this week, six people are allowed to mix in private gardens, and by the 17th of May – if everything goes to plan – six people will be able to meet indoors, with up to 30 meeting outside. In other words, party season is so close you can practically smell it – if you're lucky enough to still have your sense of smell, that is.While this sudden shift might be anxiety-inducing for some, it’s also very exciting. Too exciting, in fact. Otherworldly levels of exciting. If you’ve not seen mates in ages, especially not in groups, it might be tempting to overdo it. And with use of party drugs like coke, MDMA and ketamine decreasing over the last 12 months, thanks to the closure of pubs and clubs, there’s a high probability that drug use in social settings will ramp up in the coming months as people make up for lost time. If you are going to do drugs, you should know how to take them in the safest way possible. With that in mind, I asked Professor Adam Winstock – psychiatrist, addiction specialist and founder of the Global Drug Survey – for tips on how to not completely overdo it with drink and drugs as lockdown eases.
Over to Adam:
“The yardstick for everyone is completely different. I think ‘overdoing it’ is when you don’t have a great night and you don’t enjoy catching up with your mates. When lockdown lifts, the thing that’s going to be precious is seeing your mates. You want to be present for that. Therefore, it’s about accepting that while drugs may intensify that emotional connection, the euphoria that people will naturally experience just being in those environments will be really significant as well. “For people using drugs, it’s about thinking: ‘How will my drug use enhance that experience?’ The point of going out and seeing your mates is to have a blindingly good time, and it’s a great opportunity to recognise the best way of using drugs. That’s what the Brits are not very good at doing.”
1. FIGURE OUT WHAT ‘OVERDOING IT’ MEANS FOR YOU
“Most people will have lost tolerance [to certain drugs]. Not just tolerance to the drug itself, but also there’s this thing called ‘behavioural tolerance’. Drugs affect you differently in different environments. So when you take drugs in a novel environment, you can sometimes be more sensitive to those drug effects.“A lot of people will be out taking drugs in environments that are now novel again. That’s also going to reduce the amount of drugs they need. You might not want to drop a pill and a half. You might want to stay way, way back from that.”
2. REMEMBER YOUR TOLERANCE IS PROBABLY LOWER NOW
“Mixing is more common among people who take drugs frequently. So if you take lots of pills, you get more tolerant to the effects of pills, so you might take some ketamine or something else. But because people will have not been out, there’ll be less need to combine drugs.“People will argue with me, but I’d say that MDMA, for example, is a drug best enjoyed on its own. One of the biggest risk factors of ending up in A&E or having a crappy night is being pissed before you take your first pill. So stay off the booze and focus on getting the most out of what you’re taking.“There are very few drugs that I think are genuinely enhanced by alcohol. I know it can take the edge off coke, but it’s about moderation. It’s about saying, ‘If we’re going to go out and party tonight, we could take a few pills and just have a beer or two.’ It’s the little things. That whole idea of, ‘We haven’t been out, so you bring the ket, I’ll bring the pills, someone else bring a bit of coke.’ It's like... no, no, no. That’s not going to be your best night out.”
3. AVOID MIXING LOADS OF SUBSTANCES
“People are probably going to be meeting a bunch of mates that they always used to party with. It's about going, beforehand: ‘We all want to have a great time, but no one wants to end up in the A&E department or have to look after someone who’s munted, so let’s talk about what we’re going to do, how much we’re going to take and when we’re going to take it.’ And be really honest. Say you want to have a long fabulous night, and that might mean less is more.
4. PLAN YOUR NIGHT BEFOREHAND IF YOU CAN
“You could even say that, for the first night out, you might not need drugs. I do think there will be a natural euphoria for so many people just being able to go out. If you think drugs are going to enhance that, then OK, but I would also say: ease yourself back into it.”
“Weed, I don’t think will be a massive issue. For trips and things, toxicity is fairly low. I’m less worried about psychedelic users. For things like nitrous oxide... I can’t see that being a massive issue. I think it’s ket, coke and pills. And again, ketamine is best used on its own – definitely avoid alcohol. Ket and alcohol are a lousy combination.”
5. GO SLOW WITH PARTY DRUGS ESPECIALLY
“It's about explaining to people that you need less to have a better time. You almost want to have a checklist of questions: What are you most looking forward to about going out? If it’s, 'I basically want to get fucked up,’ then this article has no relevance to you.“I want people to understand that drugs are a social activity for a really good reason: they can make socialising fun. But if you’re so off your face that you can’t socialise, then you’re probably using drugs for a different reason. You might be lonely or depressed, in which case, maybe you want to be thinking about something other than taking loads of drugs.”
6. AND FINALLY: REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE GOING OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE