We all know that #kedesembaboss means that throughout the country, more people are going to participate in nightlife, festivals, and day-party scenes. Bars, lounges, clubs, and festivals are a key part of the social and cultural fabric of everyday life. Music, dancing, and socialising and, to varying degrees, the consumption of alcohol and other drugs are all part of these scenes. While designed to provide entertainment and enjoyment, inevitably, they are not always free from harm.
New surroundings and excitement can lead to people experimenting with new ways to heighten their pleasure; in certain instances, these can include the use of drugs.
The climate of increased accessibility with the relaxation of the legislation on the use of cannabis in South Africa and with CBD products more easily available, more relaxed attitudes about casual use of drugs as part of revelry, partygoers must be equipped with the knowledge of the substances they might encounter, their effects, interactions with other drugs, and their impact on health.
The South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD) acknowledges that abstinence is no longer guaranteed when it comes to drug use. As people seek new experiences, SANPUD suggests fostering open conversation in a safe environment that ensures proper education on different drugs, their impact on the body, how to spot intoxication and overdoses, and what steps should be taken when these situations occur. By embracing this informative approach, we empower partygoers with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions while prioritizing their safety more than anything else.
‘In a safe environment free from judgment or stigma, people are encouraged to openly discuss their curiosity or previous experiences regarding various substances. This dialogue allows them access to valuable information surrounding different drugs, including stimulants like cocaine or MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), opioids such as heroin, and synthetic painkillers like fentanyl, which helps them appreciate both short-term effects and long-term consequences, according to Julie MacDonnell, Harm Reduction and Human Rights Consultant at SANPUD.
Venues, artists, and festivalgoers have a shared responsibility to ensure safety. This requires open discussion and an understanding of how to respond effectively to issues. Creating a safer party environment is a collective endeavour. Venues, organisers, and attendees must each uphold their part in nurturing a space that retains the joy and liberation of the festive scene.
Bars and event organisers should ensure that there are safety staff members who are easily recognisable and trained to identify and manage over-intoxication and substance misuse. Implementing drug testing facilities at large events can be an effective harm reduction measure. This would allow attendees to test substances for harmful adulterants and make informed choices. Furthermore, having medical professionals and harm reduction teams on-site can save lives in emergency situations. Venues can also provide better access to phones and charging stations. Ensuring that there are ample charging stations and access to phones can help attendees stay safe and connected. Venues and festival organizers can also create a help hotline. These lines can offer direct support and are an essential tool for those needing immediate assistance.
Revellers, on their part, can ensure their safety by always being aware of their surroundings and the location of the nearest security guard and safety ambassador. When they see someone in distress, they must not hesitate to check if they need help. Implementing the Buddy System involves picking a friend to stay with you throughout the event, ensuring mutual safety. They can also coordinate meet-up times with friends and consider bringing walkie-talkies in case of poor phone service.
Remember that vigilance and preparedness go a long way in ensuring that the festive season is a time of joy rather than misfortune. Whether you're a venue owner, an artist, or a partygoer, do your part to foster an environment where everyone can enjoy the festivities without worry.