Recreational Drugs – What to Look For

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As a security professional encountering drugs in one form or another is a given. But how many of us know about recreational drugs and what to look for.

In my own experience, I’ve had to deal with drug dealers, patrons displaying drug induced behavior and overdosed patrons. In any case, drug use is dangerous. From my own experience I’ll attempt to give you a guide to the world of drug use.

There has been mention that drug use including alcohol are showing a slight decline. Although, those stats might be heading in the right direction drug-related deaths are very much a concern. And the type of care offered to victims of drug abuse particularly mental health continues to be lacking and burdening health institutions and communities. The reality of drug use and it’s effects is evident in the increase of avoidable deaths and desperate users turning to crime to feed their addictions.

Personally if you want to put those substances in your body then that’s your business. But it becomes my business when your excessive consumption manifests in unsafe, unruly and disorderly aggressive and or violent behavior.

What types of Drugs are there?

There are a lot of different illegal substances available n the streets ranging from cannabis to heroin. They all have their own effects and dangers. Here is a guide of the different drugs you’ll encounter in your job


In my opinion Alcohol is the worst of all substances and the number one cause of the problematic and life threatening incidents you will have to deal with on a day to day basis. The Worst still, alcohol is legal.

Alcohol is the ingredient found in beer, wine and spirits that causes drunkenness. It is produced when yeast ferments the sugars in different food. For example, wine is made from the sugar in grapes, beer from the sugar in malted barley, cider is made from the sugar in apples and vodka from the sugar in potatoes.

Alcohol is classed as a ‘sedative hypnotic’ drug, which depresses the central nervous system when consumed in high volumes. In smaller amounts, alcohol can act as a stimulant, creating confidence and chattiness. However drinking too much alcohol will make you drowsy, slow your breathing, or cause alcohol poisoning which might cause you to go into a coma or even die.


Amphetamines (AKA speed, uppers, pick-me-ups) imitates adrenaline, which is a stimulant naturally produced by the body. People use this drug to stay awake for long periods of time. People also report increase in energy levels and confidence.

Using Amphetamine puts a huge strain on the circulatory system and heart, which can cause and long-term health problems and other symptoms, like paranoia, depression (suicide in extreme cases), exhaustion and suppresses appetite.


The most widely used illegal drug in the world is cannabis is also known as weed, grass, dope, Mary Jane, ganja and pot. It is the THC is the substance in the plant that gives it’s psychoactive property and the high experienced when it is ingested. Marijuana is most often smoked, but it can be taken orally as an oil and it can be eaten more commonly in the form of cookies or cake.

Arguably weed is safe in relation to other drugs. But cannabis also has a lot of hidden dangers. It can cause paranoia and panic attacks, increasing the likelihood of developing psychosis. The effects of cannabis vary from person to person and the development of its medicinal benefits, has seen a push for its prohibition.

I have my own opinion about Cannabis and I can tell you where I would prefer to work if it was between an event of amphetamine induced ravers or reggae loving pot smokers.However,er, as a security professional, cannabis should still be regarded as an illegal and potentially dangerous substance. This doesn’t mean to say your overzealous commitment to the craft should precede good common sense and discretion.


Cocaine creates a feeling of euphoria an alertness. Cocaine is indiscriminate and is a serious problem for members from all backgrounds of society.

Cocaine can also be administered a number of different ways. It can be taken orally, it is smoked, it can be snorted, and it is injected.

Cocaine is manufactured from cocoa leaves. It is a process which involves a process involving dangerous substances solvents and chemicals. It can come in the form of a powder and it’s most potent form which is in crack form. Is it any wonder why cocaine is bad for you. Among other things, Cocaine can cause symptoms like paranoia, heart damage and cardiac problems, respiratory problems and various cancers. Overdosing on this drug is often fatal.


E, MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), or as more commonly known ecstasy, is a drug prolific with raves and dance parties.Ecstasy creates euphoria and heightened sensual awareness. It does this by increasing the brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that make you feel energetic, sexually aroused as well as an altered perception of your environment.

What Ecstasy can also do is cause nausea, muscle cramps, blurred vision, chills loss of appetite and dehydration.

I’ve even witnessed what the drug can do after long term use. Depression and anxiety were and also caused low libido. There have been cases where MDMA inhibits the body’s ability to regulate temperature, it can cause a complete failure of the heart, liver or kidneys or as in one case caused a user to drown from drinking too much water. True story.

More recently there have been reports that tablets are mixed with other substances other than Ecstasy to make more profits. The trouble with this is, that the user has no way of knowing what those substances might be. It is therefore entirely possible to take a poisoned ecstasy pill. You’d think that alone would stop people right?


On the street, ketamine is also known as K, Special K, Kit Kat, or Vitamin K.

Ketamine was a drug we joked about in circles as horse tranquilizer. Why? Well, because who in their right mind would ingest something designed to knock out horse. In fact, Ketamine was a drug used by veterinarians to sedate horses.

The drug is being used for pain and administered to patients as well. However, it has been reported that schizophrenia-like symptoms and hallucinations developed. As a result, the drug is not widely used by doctors, although it is still used as a controlled anesthetic and for its coma induced properties.

Ketamine users talk about out-of-body experiences, causing nauseous highs and powerful hallucinations. A large enough dose of ketamine can cause the user to slip into what is commonly referred to as a “K Hole” which is a coma-like state. Known Ketamine health symptoms are bladder and kidney damage.


A drug that has had a huge impact on popular culture, heroin is easily the most famous addictive drug in the world. Claiming the lives of celebrities and influencing the works of actors, writers, artists and film makers. Can you think of a worse advertisement for being cool?

Heroin comes from morphine. A substance found in poppy plants. When this extremely addictive drug is administered, it causes a powerful euphoric rush, and numbness.

When it was introduced onto the market the drug was being used in any number of medicines you could get over the counter including cough syrups and tonics,

Today, opiates are commonly used as painkillers, despite their addictive potential and heroin is the number one addictive drug in the world. It is usually injected, but can be taken in other ways as well.


Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) commonly known as acid or trips is a powerful hallucinogen. It can cause hallucinations and altered states of consciousness. It promotes a sensory unfiltered perception of the world around you. Creating a powerful ‘psychedelic’ and spiritual experience.

However “Tripping” also has a major dark side. There is no way of knowing if the experience will be good or bad. It has been reported that a bad trip can cause an intense nightmare for 8 – 12 hours at a time. The usual time it takes for the effects of LSD to wear out. It’s been said that delusions, mood swings and clouded thought processes are common symptoms after a trip and even during the experience.


One of the most powerfully addictive and soul destroying drugs out the is methamphetamine. Also, known on the street as P, ice, or crystal meth. It can be smoked, injected, snorted, swallowed or inserted. It is indiscriminate and has major impact on communities, health and social conventions.

As I’ve mentioned, methamphetamine is highly addictive. The drug induces prolonged euphoria, increased energy, an insatiable sex drive and weight loss. When you consider the negative effects this drug can cause avoiding the drug at all costs would be your safest option.

These side effects include nausea, profuse sweating, increased heart rate, heart problems and tooth decay. Further, still you’re looking at risks of brain damage, cardiac arrest, hypothermia, kidney failure stroke and all matter of mental health problems.

Psilocybin Mushrooms

Mushrooms, “magic mushrooms” or “shrooms” contain psilocybin. A drug that induces a sensory high similar to LSD. The mushrooms can be eaten cooked in food.or used to make tea.

Magic mushrooms might have the least amount of negative side effects in relation to the other drugs mentioned hear. They are, known to amplify what ever mood you might be in. Good or bad. It can be extremely overwhelming and cause you to act out, potentially hurting yourself or others around you.

How to Spot the Drug User

One of our tasks is to spot the presence of illegal substances. If you believe somebody may be using drugs, take them to one side for a face-to-face conversation. I always ensure my demeanor is calm and collected, but firm.

You have to let people know there is zero tolerance to drug use on your premises. That starts with your searches at the entrance. Refer to my “Conditions of Entry and Bag Search” article here.

Despite the fact that each drug affects the body differently, here are some indicators of someone using drugs

The Warning Signs

Physical Signs

  • bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than
  • physical appearance
  • falling asleep or passing out
  • tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
  • frothing at corner of mouth
  • Grinding

Behavioral Signs

  • Incoherent
  • Unable to respond to simple instructions
  • suspicious behavior
  • erratic and rapid eye movement
  • interacting with hallucinations
  • Drowsy or clumsy

Psychological Signs

  • appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid for no apparent reason
  • appears lethargic or ‘spaced out’
  • sudden angry outbursts, mood swings or irritability
  • unexplained change in personality or attitude, particularly a negative change
  • unusually hyperactive, agitated, or giddiness for short periods of time

As security professionals we have a responsibility to everyone in our care. I’ve seen security guards turn away customers or public from their premises and think that’s the end of their job.

Well your job doesn’t stop there. You’ve got to ensure they are not a danger or liability to themselves or others around them.

There have been too many occasions where aggressive, drug or alcohol influenced patrons have been left to their own devices. Only to further cause havoc and danger to other patrons in proximity to the venue or club.

Keep in mind that it is possible that the person has not voluntarily ingested the drugs. ‘Spiking’ drinks (people putting alcohol or drugs in someone else s drinks) happens frequently. Sometimes, it’s a sick prank, but other times the motive is more sinister.

It makes sense that drug dealing takes place in busy, crowded nightspots. Try to be vigilantly observant and watch out for anyone handing money to somebody else.

Signs of an Overdose

After some time a user can develop a tolerance to a drug which means they need to administer more of it to get the same desired high. This also increases the risk of an overdose.

It now becomes important to be able recognize the signs of an overdose. Every drug I’ve listed her can cause an overdose. Yes that includes marijuana. However different drugs present different symptoms. Here are some examples;

Overdosing on Morphine, Heroin

  • will usually suffer weakness and dizziness
  • very low blood pressure
  • extreme drowsiness
  • pinpoint pupils and may present a
  • bluish tint to their nails and lips.
  • Nausea

Overdosing on cocaine

  • rapid increase in their heart rate,
  • irregular heart rhythms,
  • very high blood pressure and a soaring, dangerously
  • high body temperature.
  • nausea,
  • severe irritation, anxiety and even temporary
  • psychosis are also possibilities.
  • seizures, strokes and tremors

Overdose of Methamphetamine

  • enlarged pupils,
  • irregular heart rate (which could be slowed or rapid),
  • labored breathing,
  • chest pains (sometimes leading to a heart attack),
  • stroke,
  • kidney failure,
  • acute stomach pain,
  • high blood pressure
  • high body temperature.

In most cases of drug overdoses there is more than one drug in their system. The most common being alcohol, but it could be something else or a cocktail of drugs.

It might be that unknown or toxic substances, have been mixed into various drugs in order to make a profit. More recently there have been casualties even fatalities as a result of this dangerous practice.

Should you encounter an overdosed patron, below is advice offered by St John’s Ambulance website as to your best course of action.

How you can help

Some drugs create serious overheating of the body, and if this is noticed, remove unnecessary clothing to allow cool air to reach the skin’s surface.

  1. Assess the patient
  • Check the level of consciousness. If the patient is not fully conscious and alert, turn them onto their side and ensure they are not left alone.
  1. Reassure the patient
  • Talk to the patient in a quiet and reassuring manner.
  • Sometimes patients may become agitated. Enlist friends or family to calm and reassure the patient. Consider calling the police if the safety of the patient or others becomes threatened.
  1. Identify the drug taken
  • Ask what the patient has taken, how much was taken, when it was taken, and whether it was swallowed, inhaled or injected.
  • Look for evidence that might assist the hospital staff with treatment and keep any container, syringe or needle and any vomit to aid analysis and identification.

Some drugs create serious overheating of the body, and if this is noticed, remove unnecessary clothing to allow air to reach the skin surface to assist with cooling.

Call 111 for an ambulance.


In conclusion, we have to accept that drugs are part and parcel of the job. We understand that drug use is a criminal issue that impacts our health systems, overcrowds our prisons and overwork police. As security professionals it is our responsibility to mitigate the effects of drug use in our establishments by having good search measures and zero tolerance to drug use in our workplaces.

As usual I welcome your comments and feedback.

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