Staying Safe

Checking out a music concert, going to the beach at night, or heading to a friend’s house for a party are all great ways of having fun. The last thing you want is for your night to get ruined by not playing it right with drugs and alcohol.

Here are some tips to help keep you and your friends out of a sticky situation and let everyone have a good time:

Plan your night: Think about how you’re getting back from a party and where you’re staying. Maybe call someone ahead of time for a ride. Decide ahead of time if you’re going to stay sober, then make a plan on how to say “no” and at what point you will leave. If you’re going to be drinking or getting high, set yourself a limit, especially if you have something to do tomorrow. Combine forces with a friend to keep each other in check.

Take it easy: It’s no secret that teens have some of the highest rates of binge drinking - among youth who drink, 39% binge drink.[1] And binge drinking can cause a whole host of unpleasant things, including increased risk of sexual assault, unprotected sex, vomiting, and blackout.[2] Being as high as a kite can be pretty unpleasant too sometimes.

So what can you do to make sure your night isn’t wrecked? Follow these guidelines:

  • Limit yourself to 2 drinks for females and 3 for males.[3]

  • Marijuana: wait 3-4 hours before driving, use small amounts and wait to feel effects. [4]

  • All other substances: use in small amounts, never use alone, drink water and if you’re dancing or feeling overwhelmed, go to a cooler location to cool down and relax.

Know where to find help: If you’re uncomfortable at a party, you can always leave. Calling someone you trust or a parent to come pick you up is a smart move. And bring your friends with you! If you see someone who may have overdosed, stay with them and call 911 immediately. To better understand your drug use, check out this cool site.

Avoiding a forgotten night: No one wants to forget their night out, or worry about what they may have done. Avoid a forgotten night by not accepting drinks from strangers and never leaving your drink unattended.

Have each other’s backs: One of the best things you can do as a friend is look out for each other at a party, especially one where you don’t know many people. Watch out for your friends and make sure they don’t go home with someone they don’t want to.

 

Drugged Driving

We’ve all heard “don’t drink and drive!” From not being able to focus properly and impaired perception, to slowing down your reaction time and muddling your thinking, driving after drinking can be deadly.[5] In Canada, alcohol is involved in thousands of car crashes every year which cause injury or death.

What about driving stoned? Studies have found that teens are more likely to drive high or get in the car of someone who is high than they are with someone who has been drinking alcohol.[6]

Although much is known about driving under the influence of alcohol, driving while affected by drugs is an emerging issue. Driving involves skills and abilities such as attention, judgment, perception, concentration, physical reaction time, and coordination, all of which can be impaired by use of any mood-altering substance. This includes operating other types of vehicles as well such as boats or ATV’s, or complex machinery. The risk of a driving collision is increased if a person is using more than one drug at a time.

In Canada, it is an offense to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. Even without evidence from blood or urine testing, police can lay charges based on behavioural indicators such as erratic driving, slurred speech, or lack of coordination.

It is difficult to determine the full extent of driving while impaired by drugs other than alcohol because our laws only allow for roadside blood or urine tests of drug-impaired drivers by police or medical personnel under limited circumstances. However, several studies to date have been consistent in finding that cannabis, benzodiazepines, and stimulants such as cocaine are the most commonly detected drugs in trauma victims or in blood samples sent for forensic testing.

“But I drive slower when I’m high”: Does slowing down make you a better driver? Driving high makes it more difficult and confusing to navigate a vehicle. Your perception of your surroundings, coordination, and balance becomes flawed.[7] Slower doesn’t mean safer if you can’t concentrate on the road. Combining alcohol and marijuana behind the wheel can be deadly. The effect of mixing is greater than using one substance alone.[8] Even if you think you’re not consuming a lot of either, you can still be impaired.

 

What can I do to stay safe?

  • For marijuana, wait 3-4 hours after your last hit, longer if you’ve consumed more.[9]

  • Never get in the car of someone who you know or think might be high or intoxicated.

  • Having any alcohol or drugs in your system and driving is illegal if you have your “L” or “N”. You may have to restart the driving stage you are in, you could get your license suspended, and you could be fined up to $500.[10]

Plan your night before you start. Think of taking public transport or call a friend you trust and get a ride. Check out this infographicHere’s brochure to check out how to be safe with marijuana.

 

Raves and club drugs

If you plan to attend a rave, night club, or music festival it is important to understand what are called “Club drugs”.  After MDMA and alcohol, there are three common drugs you need to know about: GHB, ketamine, and Rohypnol.

GHB: Short for gamma-hydroxybutyrate, this CNS depressant is naturally made in our bodies.[11] It was used in the past to treat sleeping disorders and as an anesthetic.[12] GHB comes in both liquid and powder form, dissolved in a drink it has a slightly salty taste that can easily be masked. [13] Effects start after 15 minutes and last for several hours.[14] GHB in small amounts produces euphoria, amnesia, vomiting, and loss of muscle strength. Large doses can cause seizures, coma, and loss of consciousness.[15]

Ketamine: This anesthetic is used mainly in the vet’s office for surgery. Ketamine is usually snorted or injected. Effects occur within minutes and last for about an hour. [16] This hallucinogen produces visual hallucinations at high doses, including feelings of floating outside the body called the “K-hole.” It can cause confusion, blurred vision, high blood pressure and heart rate, trouble thinking, and problems breathing. [17]

Rohypnol: No longer approved for medical use, this drug is used as a muscle relaxant, sedative, and anesthetic. [18] It comes in pill form and is undetectable when dissolved in a drink.[19] You can feel the effects after about half an hour, and it can last for 8-12 hours.[20] In small doses, you may feel your muscles relax and anxiety go down. Up the amount and you could lose consciousness, forget what happened during the night, and lose control of your body.[21] Mixing it with alcohol can be a lethal combination.[22]

 

Overdosing and what to do

An overdose of any drug is a dose that can cause serious and sudden physical or mental damage. An overdose may or may not be fatal, depending on the drug and the amount taken. Here as some signs to look for in case of a bad reaction or overdose:

  • Alcohol: vomiting, slow breathing, confusion, or trouble staying awake [23]

  • Marijuana: extreme anxiety or paranoia [24]

  • Club drugs: very high body temperature, sweating, dizziness, vomiting, and agitation [25]

  • Opioids (pain killers, heroin): slowed breathing, pinpoint pupils, and unconsciousness [26]

For more on opioid overdoses, check out this graphic.

Here are some symptoms that could indicate a fentanyl overdose:[27]

  • Labored or shallow breathing

  • Small pupils

  • Cold and clammy skin

  • Extreme fatigue and sleepiness

  • Inability to talk or walk normally

  • Confusion

  • Fainting, and dizziness

If you suspect an overdose, dial 911 immediately and then…

  • Move victim to a safe area with fresh air.

  • Remove obstruction from mouth.

  • If vomiting occurs, turn victim on side to avoid choking.

  • If no pulse, perform CPR.

  • If not breathing, perform artificial respiration (mouth to mouth).

  • Keep victim as comfortable as possible until emergency personnel arrive.

  • Collect information about victim for emergency responders.

 

Fast Facts

  • Those between ages 16-24 have the highest rates of impaired driving and are the most likely to be hurt. [28]

  • Driving high doubles the risk of a car crash. [29]

  • Marijuana is the most common illicit drug found in impaired drivers. [30]

  • Weed slows your reaction time, affects your attention span and your ability to make decisions [31]

  • Driving under the influence is unsafe, no matter how much you’ve had.

  • Each year, many individuals attending Canadian music festivals are treated for drug- and alcohol related harms. In the summer of 2014, five young adults died while many more were treated onsite or admitted to hospital. Alcohol or drug use or both was strongly suspected as a contributing factor. [32]

  • Both GHB and Rohypnol are known as “date rape” drugs since they can sedate and incapacitate someone.[33] They are tasteless and odorless when mixed in alcoholic drinks. However, it is important to note as well that alcohol is probably more responsible for date rapes than these other drugs.

 

 

  1.  Smith, A., Stewart, D., Poon, C., Peled, M., Saewyc, E., & McCreary Centre Society. (2015). How many is too many for BC youth? Alcohol use and associated harms. Vancouver, B.C: McCreary Centre Society.

  2.  National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,. Alcohol Overdose: The Dangers Of Drinking Too Much; 2015.

  3. Butt, P., Beirness, D., Gliksman, L., Paradis, C., & Stockwell, T. (2011). Alcohol and health in Canada: A summary of evidence and guidelines for low risk drinking. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

  4.  Hartman, R.; Huestis, M. Cannabis Effects On Driving Skills. Clinical Chemistry 2012, 59, 478-492.

  5.  Moskowitz,, H.; Fiorentino, D. A Review Of The Literature On The Effects Of Low Doses Of Alcohol On Driving-Related Skills; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Washington, D.C., 2000.

  6. Chamberlain, E. and Solomon, R. (2012). Drug-Impaired Driving In Canada: Review and Recommendations. MADD.

  7. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Young Brains On Cannabis: It’s Time To Clear The Smoke; Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics: Ottawa, 2015.

  8. Hartman, R.; Huestis, M. Cannabis Effects On Driving Skills. Clinical Chemistry 2012, 59, 478-492.

  9. Fischer, B.; Jeffries, V.; Hall, W.; Room, R.; Goldner, E.; Rehm, J. Lower Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines For Canada (LRCUG): A Narrative Review Of Evidence And Recommendations. Can J Public Health 2011, 102, 324-27.

  10. Solomon, R.; D. Perkins-Leitman, D.; Dumschat, E. A Summary Of Graduated Licensing, Short-Term And 90-Day Licence Suspensions, Alcohol Interlocks, And Vehicle Sanctions Across Canada; MADD: London, ON, 2015.

  11.  Gahlinger, P. M. (2004). Club drugs: MDMA, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Rohypnol, and ketamine. American Family Physician, 69(11), 2619–26. -

  12. Ibid.

  13. Teter, C.; Guthrie, S. A Comprehensive Review Of MDMA And GHB: Two Common Club Drugs. Pharmacotherapy 2001, 21, 1486-1513.

  14. Gahlinger, P. M. (2004). Club drugs: MDMA, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Rohypnol, and ketamine. American Family Physician, 69(11), 2619–26. -

  15. Maxwell, J. Party Drugs: Properties, Prevalence, Patterns, And Problems. Substance Use Misuse 2005, 40, 1203

  16. Gahlinger, P. M. (2004). Club drugs: MDMA, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Rohypnol, and ketamine. American Family Physician, 69(11), 2619–26.

  17. Ibid.

  18. Maxwell, J. Party Drugs: Properties, Prevalence, Patterns, And Problems. Substance Use Misuse 2005, 40, 1203.

  19. Schwartz, R.; Milteer, R.; Lebeau, M. Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault (‘Date Rape’). Southern Medical Journal 2000, 93, 558-561.

  20. Gahlinger, P. M. (2004). Club drugs: MDMA, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Rohypnol, and ketamine. American Family Physician, 69(11), 2619–26. -

  21. Ibid.

  22. Ibid.

  23. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,. Alcohol Overdose: The Dangers Of Drinking Too Much; 2015.

  24. Moore, T.; Zammit, S.; Lingford-Hughes, A.; Barnes, T.; Jones, P.; Burke, M.; Lewis, G. Cannabis Use And Risk Of Psychotic Or Affective Mental Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. The Lancet 2007, 370, 319-328.

  25. Baylen, C.; Rosenberg, H. A Review Of The Acute Subjective Effects Of MDMA/Ecstasy. Addiction 2006, 101, 933-947.

  26. World Health Organization,. Information Sheet On Opioid Overdose; 2014.

  27. "Fentanyl Overdose Symptoms and Treatment." Waismann Method®. 11 Mar. 2016. Web.

  28. Statistics Canada,. Impaired Driving In Canada, 2011; Minister of Industry, 2013.

  29. Li, M.; Brady, J.; DiMaggio, C.; Lusardi, A.; Tzong, K.; Li, G. Marijuana Use And Motor Vehicle Crashes. Epidemiologic Reviews 2011, 34, 65-72.

  30.  Hartman, R.; Huestis, M. Cannabis Effects On Driving Skills. Clinical Chemistry 2012, 59, 478-492.

  31. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse,. Young Brains On Cannabis: It’s Time To Clear The Smoke; Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics: Ottawa, 2015.

  32. "Drugs at Music Festivals." Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Web.

  33.  Schwartz, R.; Milteer, R.; Lebeau, M. Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault (‘Date Rape’). Southern Medical Journal 2000, 93, 558-561.