With more suspected drug-related deaths at festivals this summer, the debate around testing these illegal drugs to check their purity and for contaminants has flared up once more. But from a user perspective, when should a person seek help for themselves or a friend after taking a pill? What can ambulance paramedics do to help if you do?
What are these pills and what do they do?
Generally party drugs contain MDMA (ecstasy). Less commonly they may contain methamphetamine (speed) or cathinone (bath salts).
All of these drugs are taken for the euphoric side effects they produce. A person who has taken these pills may find themselves less inhibited and filled with energy.
It’s normal for the user’s heart rate and breathing rate to increase slightly. Their pupils will be wider than normal.
When to become concerned?
It’s normal for the heart rate to increase a little, if it increases a lot or if the user starts to feel tightness in their chest it’s time to get some help.
Likewise it’s normal to loosen up a bit, but the user should still be orientated to where they are and what is going on.
If several pills have been taken (or a single particularly strong pill) users can suffer something called “excited delirium”. This is where they become confused, very hot and sweaty, and possibly aggressive. If not treated, the condition can lead to death. If you see a friend who has taken a pill acting agitated and confused, it’s time to get help.
Pills are usually stimulants: they increase energy and alertness. If too much alcohol is consumed though, a person can still fall unconscious. When this happens the person can lose their ability to keep their airway open. They can lose the ability to breathe due to vomit in their airway or even their own tongue falling back into their throat. You should roll unconscious people onto their side and seek further assistance.
Sometimes when taking these drugs people can have seizures. This could be from a combination of the pill, the heat, the alcohol, and any underlying conditions the person has. Roll a seizing person onto their side and get some help.