The report highlights rising drug deaths in the UK since 2010 as it recommends the introduction of drug safety testing and an independent drug information campaign.
Night Lives: Reducing Drug-Related Harm in the Night Time Economy—a report by The Loop, Volteface, Durham University and The All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform—calls for publicly available drug safety testing services for nightlife districts across the UK. It also recommends an information campaign centred on drug harm reduction. Employees at licensed premises should be given training on responding effectively to drug use, the report adds, and venues should adopt drug policy already installed at UK festivals—Prevent, Pursue, Protect, or the 3Ps.
As the report explains: "The policy directs stakeholder priorities towards preventing drugs from getting on to the festival site, pursuing those suspected of supplying drugs on site and also protecting the public from drug-related harm." The report, drawn from 50 anonymous interviews, also proposes solutions for potential legal, cultural and industry-related barriers to change.
Ecstasy-related deaths in England and Wales have increased sixfold since 2010, the report says, with 63 fatalities recorded in 2016. (In the same period, the increase in Scotland was from one to 28.) Deaths linked to cocaine rose threefold in England and Wales, from 112 to 371, from 2011 through 2016, and quadrupled in Scotland, from 36 to 123, in the same five-year span. Overall prevalence rates among UK adults for cocaine and ecstasy use have remained largely consistent since 2010. The report points to several factors—increased substance purity, the changing nature of drugs supply and consumption, and inadequate access to information about harm reduction—that have all helped increase the risk to clubbers.
Professor Fiona Measham, the report's co-author, said: "UK nightlife makes a vital contribution to our economic and cultural life yet we have reached an impasse. Clubs risk closure if there is a drug-related death but they also risk closure if they attempt to introduce harm reduction measures. By contrast, UK festivals have been introducing evidence-based and effective measures to address the growing drug-related problems faced in the UK, including hospitalisations, deaths and contaminated supply chains. Drawing on festival drug policy and practice, this report makes key recommendations to bolster our nighttime economy and to protect the customers and venues within them."
Jeff Smith MP, co-chair of the parliamentary group, said clubbers' safety required more than "zero-tolerance rhetoric around drugs and outdated licensing laws." "This report offers credible and tested solutions to help protect people attending events," he said. "I hope that venues, local authorities, and the government will work together to make these recommendations a reality."
Read our 2016 feature on the way forward for UK nightlife.