The reality is that both legal and illegal drugs can kill you. It is better to act quickly and get emergency support than to wait.
If someone is unconscious:
- Call 999 for an ambulance
- Put them in the recovery position (see guidelines below)
- Tell the ambulance crew what they have been taking (if you know - remember health workers are not interested in legalities but saving lives)
If the incident is related to GHB/GBL use you can download this letter for A&E staff to take with you.
Project NEPTUNE has published clinical guidelines for the management of acute and chronic harms of club drugs and other novel psychoactive substances to help inform medical practitioners less familiar with these drugs. This can be accessed here.
If someone is panicking or breathing fast:
If someone you are with starts to panic and breathe fast, take them to a quiet place where you can sit with them and reassure them they’ll soon be OK. Get them to breathe deeply and slowly. Do not to leave them alone and ask someone else to get medical help. If they aren’t unconscious, try not to let them fall asleep or lose consciousness.
Knowing if someone has taken too many drugs or overdosed:
Look out for these signs:
- Feeling very confused, agitated or aggressive for more than 15 minutes
- Chest pain that feels like a heart attack
- A seizure (which may be like an epileptic fit)
- Pale skin, blue lips or fingernails
- Making gurgling, snoring or choking sounds
- No reaction to loud noise or being gently shaken, unable to wake up
- Breathing is shallow or disrupted
- Pulse is slow or very faint.
How to put someone in the recovery position:
If someone is no longer conscious don’t hope they’ll eventually come round or sleep it off –unconsciousness carries the risk of death so ring 999. Get the person into the recover position by:
- Lay the person on the floor.
- Roll them onto their side. The person should not be on their back - this makes it easy to choke on their vomit or tongue, which can kill.
- Check their mouth is empty. Tilt their head back slightly and lift chin back to open their airway.
- So that their head has something to rest on, take the arm they’re not lying on and place it under their cheek. Don’t put a pillow under their head.
- Take the leg that’s not being rested on and bend it up towards their chest at a right angle, to support the body and stop it rolling onto their back.
- Check the person cannot roll forward or back off their side.
- Check to see how their breathing is.
- Don’t give them anything to drink.
- If injuries allow, turn the person onto their other side after 30 minutes.
Although you might worry about calling for an ambulance by dialling 999, remember that health workers are not interested in legalities, they want to save lives. Not calling an ambulance may cost someone their life and put you in a far more serious situation. Don’t leave someone alone unless you have to get help, as while you’re gone they could move out of the recovery position. If you must leave them, make sure it’s not easy for them to roll over onto their back. When the ambulance arrives, tell them (if you can) what the person has taken.
For more information about the recovery position please visit NHS Choices.