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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 11:08 GMT
Safer Clubbing guide: Will it encourage drug-taking?
The Home Office is publishing a Safer Clubbing guide advising nightclubs on how to prevent drug dealing and cut the risk of drug-related deaths.

The guide urges club owners to take safety precautions such as providing adequate drinking water and having a quiet first aid room.

Of the estimated four million people who go clubbing in the UK every week, a significant number use drugs like ecstasy, amphetamines and cocaine.

In future, a club or dance promoter seeking a licence will need to meet the conditions set out in the guide.

Is the guide a positive step? Or will it encourage drug-taking?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

We've had this in the Netherlands for years now. You can go to a big event, bring your drugs and actually get them tested on the spot by a special organisation. It doesn't increase drug use at all. If anything, it makes it a lot safer because now you know what you're taking!
Jan, Netherlands

Drugs or no drugs I think it should be an offence to run an event and not provide access to free water. This is a public health issue not a drugs debate. With regard to "Chill out rooms", why not just have a medical room, or rather make it an offence to have someone die from drug abuse on your premises. I think we should reduce the risk of harm being done and take off the kid gloves.
Gordon, UK

Does having ashtrays encourage smoking in clubs?

Desmond Harte, UK
Does having ashtrays encourage smoking in clubs? If you removed them, would people stop smoking?

What we should be asking is why, with the vast array of legal sanctions, the numbers of people using recreational drugs is still rising? I hesitate to say young people as I'm a regular user and I'm 38!...

The truth, as always, is so much more complicated than the simplistic picture painted by the media. People take drugs in clubs and indeed pubs across the UK in vast numbers on a regular basis. Yet the number of them ending up in casualty departments every weekend is dwarfed by the vast number admitted for alcohol related reasons. The dangers of recreational drugs are much hyped and the rare, unfortunate and probably unnecessary incidents that do occur, greatly publicised. As a veteran clubber, I have yet to come across such an unfortunate incident. I have, however, seen many horrific and often violent incidents that were the obvious and direct result of abusing alcohol. None of those made the news. These rules are a half-hearted, if sensible, response to the situation. An even more sensible response would be to legalise these substances and ensure that what is available is made in controlled conditions. Perhaps then, we could stop wasting police time on what are victimless crimes and reduce the level of drug related gun crime on our streets. Better still, tax them, and have more money in the pot to pay our health workers and teachers a decent living wage.

I would add that I do not support the legalisation of all drugs, but it is time to drop the hysteria and have a realistic debate to decide which represent a clear danger to society as a whole as opposed to those which, while I'm sure are not harmless, do not represent such a threat.
Desmond Harte, UK

Humans have consumed mind altering substances since the dawn of their existence

David V, USA
Humans have consumed mind altering substances since the dawn of their existence and they are not going to stop any time soon. The only thing that makes any sense is to provide all the factual information that is available and let the individual make their own decision if they want to take drugs or not. If they choose to do so they should be able to do it as safely as possible. I read that the government in the UK is also going to try to increase penalties for club owners who allow drug use in their clubs. This will have the effect of the club owners not wanted to get involved with any of their customers who may be taking drugs and who actually need medical assistance. It's like an anti-good Samaritan law.
David V, USA

I feel that it is dangerous for people to claim that the government is going soft on drugs, after all the law has not changed. What they are doing however is facing up to reality. Drug usage is on the increase or at high levels, they are responding to this in a sensible way. If these suggestions help protect people then why are people complaining? The government is not suggesting that people do not get prosecuted but merely that there should be a safety net into which people can fall.
Paul, England

At last! I can't believe the government has taken so long to come to this logical conclusion. If this had been put in place instead of debating it for years, think of all the deaths that may have been avoided. It won't promote drug use - people aren't sheep who think that if there are safety facilities then it must safe and ok to take drugs, and take it from me, those who do take drugs will take them whether or not there is a first aider on hand. Those who are against moves like this are naive to think that extra tough laws will do anything other than increase their taxes when the drug users and dealers are clogging up our prisons, that is if those laws were effective, which would be doubtful. I truly believe that initiatives such as this, coupled with drugs education are the way forward.
Vic, UK

Narcotics are not illegal because lawmakers put a list of chemicals on a dart board and decided that everyone that got pegged had to be outlawed. They are illegal because they can hurt and kill people, and lawmakers decided people needed to be protected from these drugs. So how does denying people, who do consume these drugs, a safe environment follow the spirit of health and safety that outlawing them intended? The answer is that it doesn't! I lived through the rave explosion in San Francisco, and I have never seen, nor heard reported, a single death caused by a physiological reaction to abused substances. Every drug related death I know of came from either exhaustion, hyperthermia, or (most often) dehydration. If a building is used with out the presence smoke alarms, sprinklers, or fire escapes and people die in a fire in that building, the property manager is considered responsible. Likewise, I believe if a club owner doesn't provide water- 70% of our body and the essence of life - or a place for the adversely affected user to regain soundness of mind and vitality then he too is responsible for their ill health and/or death.
Cassidy, USA

I think that the club guide is a good idea for people who drink alcohol as well,

Vanessa, England
I think that the club guide is a good idea not just for people who take drugs but for people who drink alcohol as well, I have been in clubs where they deliberately put the heating on in the summer so that people are forced to buy more drinks also they will charge four pounds for a bottle of water. You can argue that people should not take drugs but I am a Youth Worker and a lot of the Young People around my area do use drugs, we work with them to educate them about the effects of drugs but if this guide keeps them safer in the meantime then I am all for it. I think it is a brilliant idea I am glad the government have opened their eyes.
Vanessa, England

Drug use is encouraged by the fact that they are there to be taken and unfortunately people enjoy taking them. It's a supply and demand thing. Where there is a demand society will generate a supply, in the case of drugs the supply comes from the criminal fraternity. In the case of alcohol and tobacco the manufacturers supply and the government makes a heap of cash through their sale. Steps to improve club facilities are a must, because drugs are sadly here to stay. The priority must be minimise the risk to users. Drugs are dangerous, but the moral drum bangers out there need to realise that by fighting a war against drugs you are giving the dealers and traffickers exactly what they want. The day prohibition is lifted will be a bad day for the criminals. Drugs are a reality and living in denial of this doesn't help. Legalise, tax, regulate, control and accept. Educate people calmly and scientifically about the risks. I am certain that over time you would actually see usage fall
Andy, UK

I have to say I am looking forward to a dedicated lane on roads for those who choose to speed, a dedicated carriage on trains for those who want to vandalise, dedicated seats for air rage passengers, a dedicated tax code for those who want to dodge taxes, etc, in fact a separate legal system for those who want to break it. Sounds like a good idea to me. NOT.

This mess is hard to take for those of us who want to bring our children up to be good law abiding citizens

Graham, Scotland
This government is unbelievable. Only last week we were all talking about fox hunting and listening yet again to the despair in the countryside. Now they are appeasing the law breaking drug takers by making sure all is well if anything, God forbid, should go wrong in the club. We have also heard today that a senior police figure has condemned the judicial system and tells us what we all know already, that the system, per se, is on the side of the criminal. This mess is hard to take for those of us who want to bring our children up to be good law abiding citizens.

You cannot help but feel that, amazingly, incredibly, you have to fight the government reforms (that should be in place to protect the people) to achieve that goal. All the sympathies seem to be with those people who perpetrate crimes or those who have complete disregard for the law. The argument that we have to be realistic about drug taking and accept it as a fact of life is a bit like saying we should be realistic about gun crime and accept that it takes place and let's not be too hard on them. It's silly but it is a silly government. Never mind, at least we're banning the hounds.
Graham, Scotland

Why wasn't this measure introduced 10 years ago? Why do governments take so long to realise the obvious? At this rate pot might be legal by 2050, and by 2200 we might have an effective and adult way of dealing with drugs!
James Davey, UK

Why should nightclubs have to pay to provide extra water and nice and comfortable facilities for groups of deadheads that need to drop a pill? This will result in extra door-prices, bar tariffs and resources being pushed onto the two million or so responsible and regular clubbers that have never felt the desire and indeed have the will power not to drugs. Not to mention the added burden on the ambulance crews, hospitals and police that have to pick up the pieces. If people choose to take drugs then you can only expect to take the consequences of your actions. One day the message will sink through and some of those taking drugs now will have children of their own. Will they still think it's cool when their son or daughter's temperature has hit 109 degrees, face is swollen like a football and clinically dead on a hospital bed.
Dennis, UK

Why do I get the feeling that some of the people commenting here have totally lost the plot! What planet do you live on? Apart from seeing the effects of drug taking on the sixth formers that I teach, there are the other, potentially more serious effects on society when people taking drugs crash into my wife driving to work or drive the train on which I am travelling to work or operate dangerous machinery in the workplace. Drug taking cannot be regarded as if it's simply smoking a cigarette or drinking the odd pint. The effects are long lasting and affect the majority of the rest of us who wish to go about our business and live our lives without the worry of the minority of sad idiots who could cross our paths and wreak havoc on us or our family! Perhaps those who brush the issue off so lightly might like to grow up and accept that we all have a 'duty of care' to each other in society as well as the right to do what we like.
Rob, UK

The government is finally adopting a sensible attitude towards drugs

Rich B, UK
It seems that the government is finally adopting a sensible attitude towards drugs and their use in clubs. Drug use in clubs is rising, and it seems that the government has recognised this and adopted a policy which offers a self help approach, rather than labelling drug use as evil.
Rich B, UK

It may be useless now but doubtless it's better than none. Why didn't the government take this step earlier?
Johnny, China

Who cares? My view is that anyone stupid enough to take drugs such as ecstasy is going to be too stupid to take sound advice.
Martina, UK

The government should be seeking to crack down on facilities for drug users, rather than promoting them. If people choose to take drugs, then there is no reason why clubs should bear the consequences.
Henry Jordan, England

Drug takers won't listen to this. It's the Government's way of showing they are doing 'their bit' for the prevention of drugs but they know they are fighting a losing battle. I used to take drugs but I saw the light and it was clearly my OWN decision. Not some useless Governmental influence.
Paul Gower, Rockingham, Western Australia

I think it incredible that there are calls for clubs to be forced to provide facilities for those who choose to break the law

James Whistler, UK
This announcement comes in the same week that a young girl was shown dead across the media after a heroin overdose. I think it incredible that there are calls for clubs to be forced to provide facilities for those who choose to break the law. I understand perfectly well the difference between ecstasy and heroin, but the point is that the law classes them both as illegal.

What right do those who knowingly choose to break the law have to force a law-abiding club owner to provide facilities for their illegal activities and why is our government supporting them?

The government should make clear its position - either these drugs are illegal or they are not. The best approach is to legalise these drugs for those who choose to take them - providing facilities for them to do so is then no contradiction.
James Whistler, UK

I don't think drugs will ever be eliminated, no matter how much money the authorities use to try and combat this terrible thing. What the government is now doing is recognising that this is a fight it cannot win. Remove money from the police drug-squads and put it into anti-drug education. This is the only way forward.
Andy W, UK

The ultimate mixed message to the young and concrete proof that the "war" on drugs is a farce.
Robert del Valle, USA

At last a problem is being tackled in an adult way.

Great Move, at last a problem is being tackled in an adult way. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows the risks, just as they do with driving, unprotected sex, smoking, and drinking. People pay tax, work hard and should not be told what to do by muppets who want to live in a nanny state. These precautions are great-BRING IT ON!

I agree with this in principle, and in my opinion the availability of drinking water is an absolute necessity. However, I doubt that having first aid rooms would be practical or advisable in clubs. When everyone is drunk it would become filled with raucous people being sick and shouting. I doubt any lives would be saved, as the first aiders would have to spend most of their time subduing drunks.
jd, UK

The kind of people that oppose these guidelines are doubtless the same people who suggest condom machines in public toilets encourage promiscuity. The fact is, we have to face facts and admit that people will take drugs - making the environment in which they are commonly taken less safe by refusing to admit anything happens there will clearly not discourage people from taking drugs in clubs. Come on, who goes to a club and thinks, "I would drop a couple of pills, but since there doesn't seem to be a quiet first aid room here maybe I won't!" And vice versa. In my opinion these guidelines are both sensible and long overdue - they should have been put in place years ago, if nothing else for the vast amounts of alcohol that are consumed in clubs. Far more deaths and hospitalisations are a result of alcohol than they are of drugs. Wherever these things are consumed, especially if both at the same time, there should be informed procedures to deal with them.
Ben, UK

Drugs should be licensed in the same way as Pharmaceutical Products. This means that they would be required to include patient information leaflets explaining the risks and benefits of taking the 'products'. This would allow people to rationalise the risks of taking the drugs against the benefits, and accept their fate if they meet it.
Jon, UK

Drugs are here to stay

Edward, UK
This seems eminently realistic, though the ostrich fraternity will doubtless suggest that it smacks of encouragement. Face it people, drugs are here to stay, and the sooner Government grasps the nettle, legalises and licenses everything, the sooner the fuss will die down.
Edward, UK

Well, am I being ignorant or didn't they say all this following the death of teenager Leah Betts?? It won't encourage drug taking though as those who do this do it anyway, irrelevant if there are facilities for them or not. It will just be a sensible step for the clubs to take some responsibility for the safety of their guests. Let's just hope they do it this time and not just talk about it and then forget to implement these bright ideas!!
Gill, UK

I think switching stances from a total clampdown to precautionary measures is a step in the right direction. The truth has always been that lack of knowledge and misinformation has killed more partygoers than the drugs themselves, especially with regard to over hydration and mixing alcohol and stimulants. The overriding message has to be that you don't have to overdo it to have a good time.
Joe, UK

This is a much better step than the chemical 'sniffer' also unveiled recently. If people are prevented from safely taking recreational drugs in a fairly controlled atmosphere, then they will move to locations where there are no medical or safety facilities. I just hope it won't take too many more deaths before it is realised that people WILL misbehave, people will cross roads, and people will climb mountains - the only option is to make it as safe as possible through provision of speed limits and safety harnesses.
James, UK

Clubbers will take drugs whatever the government says or does. It makes sense to make it as safe as possible. I don't expect society to condone the use of drugs, but I don't think we should pretend it isn't happening either.
Chris D, UK

For a lot of people clubs and drugs go hand in hand.

Sue, Switzerland
Of course it's a positive step, and no, it won't encourage drug taking. The fact is, for a lot of people clubs and drugs go hand in hand. The only way to help prevent drug deaths is to make sure the clubbers have got room to breathe, somewhere to chill out when they need to, and plenty of drinking water. Most dance drug collapses are caused through de-hydration. Many clubs charge exorbitant prices for water, (because people on E drink so much of it!) but this can lead to problems. I've seen kids who are off their faces, drinking pints and pints of beer because it's cheaper than water. Clubs should definitely look after their clubbers, whilst encouraging the clubbers to look after themselves.
Sue, Switzerland

It's certainly a step in the right direction for the government. At last they seem to realise that a more sympathetic approach towards recreational drugs thus paving the way to a safer and more responsible attitude by all involved. As many know in Holland many clubs actually test pills and other drugs to ensure safety and purity. With speculations of weekly drug abusers about the 1 million mark it is clear that the problem cannot be solved by a hardline out-dated approach.

One thing that would be nice though is cheaper bottled water on hand, I personally am fed up with some of the extortionate prices being charged by promoters and club owners. Remember folks have a Nice 'n Save Attitude and enjoy yer clubbin!
Darren Jackoby, London / UK

By making facilities you are saying it is ok to drug take, an ex addict I speak of the mistake this is... maybe the money should be spent on more narcotic squads and better laws detaining drug taking.
Liesl Alexander, UK

This is a positive step in terms of recognising that drug use in clubs does take place, but it does not condone such behaviour. Taking precautions can only be a good thing - its ultimate aim is to reduce the risks involved and avoid unnecessary loss of life. Why else is this such a big issue? If no one died, would people be so concerned?
Dave, UK

See also:

03 Mar 02 | Scotland
Drug policy to be overhauled
01 Mar 02 | Education
Heroin victim's death used as warning
14 Jan 02 | Health
Clubbers' mental health risk
09 May 01 | E-F
Ecstasy: The health dangers
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