This article is part of "Safe Sesh", a VICE UK harm reduction campaign. Read more from the editorial series here.
I've been to A&E once. I was 17 and jumped into a bush after a night on the Reefs at Maidstone Jumpin Jaks. I punctured a hole in my shoulder and, despite my protestations, got carted to hospital by some friends who thought the whole experience was hilarious. I've still got a slug-like scar on my right shoulder and, the older I get, the less I enjoy telling the story of its genesis.
As A&E admissions go, it was pretty harmless, and I didn't worry about how people would perceive me afterwards. But what about those who get taken to A&E after taking drugs, with more serious problems than a bloody arm? With a 57 percent rise in drug-related hospital admissions over the last decade, it's a question worth asking. What's the experience like for these people? How did they get there? And how are they treated by the staff?
I took to social media to find out.
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Clive, 26, Birmingham
I'd ordered some 2C-B off the dark web and went to pick it up from a friend's house. On the way there I bought some ketamine and, straight after I arrived at the house, someone offered me a flubromazepam. It's a benzodiazepine, and benzos always made me make foolish decisions. I took it anyway. I opened up the package and found a sample of 4-FA [a synthetic amphetamine substitute]. I started mixing the 2C-B in with lines of ketamine and passing them around, as well as consuming the 4-FA myself.
Disappointed that I wasn't tripping and already heavily intoxicated, I made myself up a huge line of 2C-B. Looking back now, it must have been somewhere between a 0.3G and a 0.4G line. Bear in mind the usual dosage for 2C-B is 0.025G. This was the worst decision of my life. The last thing I can remember is looking at myself in the bathroom mirror and realising how much I was tripping. After that, I blacked out. I have been told that I started being violent, trashing the house, unable to communicate, talking in tongues.
I came to in a hospital bed. I had been in a coma for ten days and my liver and kidneys had both shut down. I was completely delirious. I didn't recognise my own mother. After a few days I was transferred to another hospital, where I stayed for a few more weeks. Thankfully my liver repaired itself and I was discharged. I had to continue going into the hospital for dialysis. By some miracle, my kidneys managed to heal themselves, too.
A month after being discharged I went back to my old job as a chef. However, due to the mild brain damage I suffered I found remembering orders, recipes and dealing with the stress very difficult. I've had some neurological tests recently, though, and this is improving. My whole family and I were blown away by how hard all the nurses worked. They were so lovely. When I went in a few months later for a check-up, it felt like seeing family again.
Phoebe, 22, Canterbury
It was 2010, I was 14 and my home life was in bits. My parents were splitting up and I fell in with a bunch of emos and misfits who hung around doing MCAT after school. I bought some NRG1 [a former "legal high"] from a guy called Emo Rob who used to deal in our local park. My heart started beating out of control, so I rang my mum, who drove me to A&E with my uncle. I ended up fitting out and woke up in hospital with sticky pads on me, with just my mum there and a psychiatrist at the bottom of the bed. He told me I was depressed and I needed to take fluoxetine twice a day.
I ended up staying in hospital for two weeks; they wouldn't discharge me until my system was right. Sometimes I wonder if they kept me there to give me a break from home. The nurses were really friendly and let me smoke roll-ups out the back when I felt a bit better. I actually enjoyed the stay because it meant I wasn't at home. I think, at that moment, I wanted to stay in that hospital bed forever.
Ben, 27, Ramsgate
I was squatting in an abandoned train carriage near Deptford High Street. I had three bags of heroin, which would normally last me a day. I just decided to do it all and smoked it within, like, ten minutes. Normally you smoke it and you get really high, you feel euphoria, and then a bit later you get the nod. I started nodding off almost straight away. It wasn't unpleasant, but I started to think, 'Right, I need to slap myself out of this.'
The next thing I remember was waking up briefly and being moved by paramedics. I ended up getting sectioned. It was late Friday night and there weren't any proper doctors on. When I woke up in hospital I thought 'fuck this' and tried to leave. I got to the end of the corridor and there's fucking security guards there. They just bundled me back to my bed. I was screaming and being a right fucking arsehole. I just wanted to get by back to my train carriage.
At the time I was really depressed and half of me wanted to die. My parents split up when I was 13, on Christmas Eve. My dad found out my mum was having an affair with one of his mates and they hadn't spoken since then. I was heavily sedated with methadone in hospital, but I remember waking up and seeing them both hugging at the end of my bed. I think it made my parents understand that I was in a bad place. I'm clean now and, though it was a horrible experience, I now reflect on it as a poignant time in my life. I told people at the time the overdose was self-intentional, but I've reflected on it a lot since and I'm not sure it was.
Emma, 28, Brighton
I'd been taking four or five grams of ketamine a day for three years, and I ended up in hospital with cramps. They were piercing pains high up in your abdomen which occur when the bile ducts in your gall bladder are so crystalised and scarred from ketamine that you get horrendous cramps.
When I went, staff were totally unsympathetic, but I didn't help because I didn't tell them about my ketamine habit. I know I should have, but I was scared. They diagnosed with me a UTI and gave me some antibiotics. I'm sober now, but I had many worse cramps after this time and never bothered going into A&E. The only thing to ease them is a hot bath. I've had friends spend a week in hospital because of cramps, and it can give you bladder damage; ketamine crystals make your bladder lose its elasticity and you end up pissing jelly blood. I know a 16-year-old who had a bladder operation – I got off lightly.
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