Harm Reduction: 5 Ways to Make Partying Safer

Posted on 1/21/2018 in Catalyst

Ahead of Catalyst Berlin's Dialogues panel talk on harm reduction, journalist Anna Codrea-Rado shares five invaluable safety tips for parties.

There’s no shying from the reality that recreational drug use happens in Berlin. Long club opening hours and a liberal attitude towards subcultures is what makes the city such a vibrant arts hub, and also contributed to widespread use of what’s known as party drugs – MDMA, ketamine, psychedelics and cocaine. But how do we make partying safer?

Partying is part and parcel of life in the city, even more so for people who live and breath the music industry. Students studying music production, as well as just music fans, love to go out, and being safe while partying is super important. While many ravers in Berlin know this, there are also people new to the scene who may not have an extensive education about drug safety.

Harm reduction is a principle based on the idea that drug use will happen, regardless of legal status. The goal is to provide people with education and evidence-based knowledge to inform decisions that will minimise their risks. The only way to guarantee safety is not to take drugs, but of course that’s not realistic advice. So here are five tips for staying safe while partying.

5 ways to make partying safer | dBs Dialogues (now Catalyst Dialogues) at Catalyst Berlin

The most common cause of drug-related medical emergencies in nightlife is dehydration and/or heatstroke. It’s easy for anyone, drugs or not, to get dehydrated if you’re dancing for long stretches of time in a club. People will often tell you that to stay hydrated you have to drink plenty of fluids. But what does that actually mean? A good rule of thumb in relation to partying is to drink one 500ML bottle of water every hour. There’s no need to go overboard on the water though, as drinking too much is just as dangerous. The key to staying hydrating is to replenish the body’s electrolytes, so eating a salty snack or drinking an isotonic sports drink will help. It’s also important to take regular breaks from dancing to let your body cool off; find a chill out spot and relax.

5 ways to make partying safer | dBs Dialogues (now Catalyst Dialogues) at Catalyst Berlin

If you’re taking drugs, it’s always good to use the buddy system. It might sound like something for school kids, but it’s applicable to all ages. Tell at least one person what you’re planning on taking and if you’ve never done it before, make a plan with them about what to do if you feel unwell. The buddy system is a particularly good idea at festivals and big parties, where getting lost is almost a given. Decide on a meet up spot you can reconvene at if someone gets lost.

5 ways to make partying safer | dBs Dialogues (now Catalyst Dialogues) at Catalyst Berlin

You can always take more of something but the same isn’t true the other way around. Start with a small amount of a substance and wait for it to kick in before taking more. For example, if you have an ecstasy pill start with half or even a quarter and wait at least an hour before taking any more. As tempting as it is to get the party started faster, you’ll have a much better time in the long run if you adopt a “less is more” philosophy.

5 ways to make partying safer | dBs Dialogues (now Catalyst Dialogues) at Catalyst Berlin

Drug checking, or pill testing as it’s also known, is a helpful way to figure out if the drugs you’ve bought are what you think they are. Although not foolproof and by no means a guarantee that your drugs are “safe”, it’s a good precaution to take. Some nightclubs and festivals offer the service on site, but you can also buy home testing kits. The way they work is by using a reagent to test the presence of the substance you’re expecting to be there. The test will tell you if the substance you’re hoping is in there is the predominant composition.

5 ways to make partying safer | dBs Dialogues (now Catalyst Dialogues) at Catalyst Berlin

If you or a friend are feeling unwell, don’t be worried that you will get into trouble – go and get help. If you’re in a club, ask someone who works there, like a bouncer or bar staff. If you’re at a party, call 112. If you do have to get medical attention, tell the doctors or paramedics what you or your friend took, they will be able to help you much faster if they have all the information. 

For more on harm reduction, watch the highlights of our Dialogues panel talk.