Drugs

Can You Still Sesh During a Coronavirus Outbreak? A Practical Guide

Don’t share cigs, don't share keys – and always wash your hands!
11 March 2020, 9:00am
line of cocaine
Photo: Emily Bowler

UPDATE: A week-and-a-half after this piece was published, the UK government ordered the temporary closure of all bars, nightclubs and other nonessential businesses. As if you needed us to tell you, now is not the best time to get on it: drugs and alcohol can weaken your immune system, plus you shouldn't be leaving the house and getting wasted on a Zoom call isn't as fun as it sounds (and it doesn't even sound very fun). Wait until this is all over to get back out there.

As coronavirus continues to spread, various industries continue to feel the effects. Stock markets are crashing, airlines are going into administration and sports events are being cancelled – but no sector is suffering quite as badly as the hospitality industry.

According to trade body UK Hospitality, nightclubs are noticing as much as a 30 percent drop in attendance, while sales in bars were down 7 percent last week as people avoided crowded areas. While many bars and clubs are continuing "business as usual", the government's warning that we could be moving towards a containment phase is worrying for the industry. Soon, it could implement new policies that ban large social gatherings, like festivals, or events in bars and clubs.

However, the impending doom of a global pandemic doesn't mean you'll no longer want to go out and get messy. In fact, what's going to get you craving a sweaty little rave more than the prospect of being stuck inside for ages with no way to blow off steam?

Of course, during this outbreak, you're not just at risk of passing on your cold to someone when you share a key of ket, you could also be fuelling the spread of a deadly virus. So how do you sesh safely without contributing to a dangerous outbreak?

"People should think about their overall health before taking drugs in any situation," Kira Weir, a senior harm reduction worker with the Loop and a training and communications officer at drugs charity Crew, tells me over email. "Any considerations people are making are ones which they should have been taking into account anyway – do they have an existing health condition affecting their immune system or respiratory system?"

When it comes to specific drugs, Weir says you should apply general hygiene rules to your drug-taking, and try to avoid sharing equipment: "Give 'dabbing' from shared bags of drugs and sharing joints or cigarettes a miss," she says. "Avoid using notes or keys, which can harbour viruses and bacteria. Use a clean straw, post-it or piece of paper, and bin it after use. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after you handle, prepare or take drugs."

Are there certain drugs we should actively avoid taking? "It's difficult to comment about individual drugs, as different drugs impact [different users] in different ways," says Weir, "but 'seshing hard', not staying hydrated, staying up without sleep, not taking dance breaks while out, etc can all reduce the effectiveness of our immune system."

Photo: Adrian Choa

While it's important to remember that drugs could put you at higher risk of contracting a virus, it's equally important to remember that drugs like cocaine have absolutely no antibacterial properties. Misinformation around drugs and coronavirus has even led the French government to put out a public health announcement telling the public: no, cocaine will not act as a sanitiser for your nose.

If you do decide to take drugs during this outbreak, you've still got to find somewhere to take them. Luckily, many clubs are continuing with business as usual, even if some in the music industry are understandably worried.

DJ and promoter Josh Doherty, who performs under the name Post Human and runs the night "I Love Acid", thinks the music industry needs to be more cautious. "I've had a couple of cancellations come in for gigs elsewhere, which is kind of understandable," he tells me over the phone, "but I've been really wrestling with postponing my own events."

Even though Doherty will have to take a financial hit, he thinks it's the right thing to do. "I started sounding out a couple of booking agents and some of the other artists, and I've generally been met with derision that I'm overreacting and that things are actually fine," he says. "Most places are saying they're planning as normal, they're not expecting anything to change and it's business as usual, but I don't think that's the way it's going to happen."

For now, many events are still going forward, and until the government bans large gatherings it's up to the club or promoter as to whether the party goes on. Venues like The KitKat Club in Berlin have proved it's still possible to sesh while coronavirus spreads, sharing a post on Facebook detailing the precautions it was taking around the virus. It described how club staff would be taking everyone's emails on the door in case they found out about an infected visitor, encouraged those who were coming from infected areas not to attend and said it would be expanding the size of the club to allow for more distance between attendees.

In the UK, nightclubs are following suit. A spokesperson for Printworks in London, which has a 5,000 person capacity, said the club would be taking precautionary measures but that events would still be taking place.

"Public Health England have advised there are currently no restrictions on mass gatherings or community events, so the upcoming events will be going ahead as planned," a spokesperson told VICE. "Following the advice from Public Health England and an on-site coronavirus risk assessment, a number of precautionary measures have been put in place around the venue, including additional sanitary and hand washing provisions on site in both public and back-of-house areas."

Printworks also said they hadn't seen attendance drop at their two sold out events this past weekend.

With festivals like SXSW, Beat Hotel in Morocco and Coachella cancelling or potentially postponing, it's understandable to be worried about your potential to sesh. But, for now, clubs are still open, so it might be worth getting in a dance before everything gets shut down.

Just remember to bring your own post-it note.

@RubyJLL