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Be careful what you let in

Our city centre is no longer silent and empty at night. Bars are open and everyone is keen to get back to socialising and enjoying Chelmsford’s excellent nightlife.

However, there’s a dark side to evenings out for some people. Last week, the BBC reported that drug deaths are the highest they have been since 1993.

The consequences of taking drugs can be catastrophic, especially when they are more potent or less pure than expected. Last weekend, a 21-year-old died and two others are in hospital after taking illegal drugs at a nightclub in Tottenham. Bristol City Council has issued warnings about a “lethal batch of drugs circulating in the city.”

Increase in ‘cut’ drugs in Chelmsford

The “SOS Bus” parks up in the city centre every Friday and Saturday night. Staffed by volunteers and trained medics, it’s a beacon of support for anyone whose night doesn’t go the way they planned. From giving directions to bandaging up cuts and stopping people who’ve drunk too much coming to harm, the SOS Bus always has plenty to do.

But in recent weeks, they have seen a worrying trend. Several young people have presented at the doors of the bus very unwell after taking, or having their drinks spiked with, suspected illegal drugs.

Steve Wood from Open Road was at the SOS bus last weekend. He said, “Each case presented to us as very intoxicated, with no signs of drug use until they had been with us for around 15 minutes. After this time, they quickly went downhill, showing little signs of consciousness, and were cared for by medics. Some foamed at the mouth, became very uncoordinated and were unable to speak for 90 minutes.

“Working in this field for years, I have not seen this level of ‘out of it’ for many years. 90% of those we saw were under 25.”

Tindal Square old

Protect yourself

Councillor Stephen Robinson, Leader of Chelmsford City Council, said, “As the father of a teenager, I am fully aware of how isolating the last year or so has been, for young people in particular. It’s great to see social interaction returning and central Chelmsford buzzing once again.

“However, people can’t throw caution to the wind. A good night out shouldn’t have to mean taking a dodgy pill or powder you bought off someone you don’t know. It shouldn’t have to mean drinking so much you don’t know where you are or who you’re with. Please, protect yourself, look out for each other and be careful about the choices you make.

“It’s great that we have fantastic people staffing the SOS Bus in Chelmsford, but I’d like them to be less busy.”

When you take illegal drugs, you’re taking something that’s been produced by someone you don’t know and sold for profit by someone who doesn’t care about you. There’s no quality control. You have no idea what’s in there. Any drug can make you extremely ill or even kill you, but when it’s been cut with other chemicals the risk is even greater.

Night Out (Credit Martin Lopez On Pexels.Com)
Photo by Martin Lopez on Pexels.com

What to do

If you feel unwell on a night out, get your friends to take you to a safe place like the SOS Bus or speak to the door staff at the venue you’re in. In an emergency, ring 999.

Look out for your mates and report any suspicious behaviour you see to staff or police.

Be alert for drink spiking. This is when someone adds something, like high-strength alcohol or drugs, to your drink without you knowing. This can make you sleepy, weak, confused, less aware of what’s happening around you or even cause hallucinations. Criminals do this for amusement, to steal from people or to abuse them.

  • Never leave your drink unattended and if you do, don’t drink from it again.
  • Drink from a bottle rather than a glass if you can – it’s harder to spike a bottle and you can keep your thumb over the top.
  • Never accept a drink from someone you don’t know and trust.
  • Don’t share, swap or drink any leftover drinks.
  • You can buy special plastic anti-spiking bottle tops from supermarkets and many pubs and clubs offer kits so you can test your drink if you think it’s been spiked.

If you need help or advice, contact Open Road or EYPDAS for free, confidential support with drug and alcohol issues.

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Julie Weight
Julie Weight

Julie writes stories and creates videos for Chelmsford City Council. Contact her at julie.weight@chelmsford.gov.uk or on 01245 606984.