GDS 2020: Creating a safer nightlife across the globe

Monica Barratt, Caitlin Hughes, Christopher Eassey, Phillip Wadds, Michala Kowalski, Larissa Maier, Jason Ferris, Adam Winstock

Millions of people all over the world participate in nightlife, festival and day-party scenes. Bars, lounges, clubs, festivals, they 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. In a few tragic cases they have been the setting of drug-related deaths.

We’ve recently seen increased policy debate across the globe about how to best manage nightlife and festival spaces, to balance their cultural and economic value with regulation that effectively reduces the health risks to patrons. In Australia, the NSW Coroner has just handed down findings from her inquest into drug-related deaths at music festivals, where she recommends the introduction of drug checking services, the decriminalisation of personal use of drugs, and the cessation of use of police drug detection dogs at festivals. This is just one example of what has been a longstanding global discussion of how best to reduce harm in licensed entertainment settings.

There is significant policy variation across the world relating to, for example, whether countries or states provide drug checking services and/or decriminalise the personal use of drugs (let alone how they design such policies). In such a complex and hyper-politicised domain, it is increasingly clear that developing better responses demands much better knowledge about the real-world experiences from people who are involved in nightlife and party scenes.

In this context, GDS2020 is the perfect time for us to take a deep dive into understanding what you get up to on a night out or at a festival. Developed with help from Global Drug Survey’s partner organisations, this year’s GDS will be profiling your last big night or day out. By ‘big’ we mean a session, event or celebration that is out of the ordinary – where you might have taken a larger than normal amount of alcohol or other drugs (not your normal night out).

The last time you had a big night out (or big day out, or big weekend out!), what did you get up to? Did you go to a club, a bar, a festival, a house party or all of the above? When did you start partying and when did you finish up? Was it planned or last minute? Why did you go out? Did you go out in your hometown or city, or did you travel abroad? Did you drink alcohol and/or take drugs, and if yes, which ones did you take?  Did you encounter police and security, and if so, what did they do? Did you have a good time, and did you have a come-down or hangover? Did you access medical services or any services to make your night safer or easier?

We also want to know about which services you would like licensed venues to offer. Some examples of the services you can choose from include free water, chill out spaces, access to food, clean bathrooms, medical services, drug checking services, public alerts at the venue of drug checking results and secure taxi ranks. We want to help make going out safer and more fun for everyone.

As well as describing tens of thousands of ‘big sessions’ from around the world and looking at patterns by country, we’ll create checklists about the services that people would most like to see at venues and share the data with venue operators, policy makers and other nightlife stakeholders. We hope that the results will help inform expanded service options in nightlife and festival settings. We invite you to help us create better responses to nightlife and festival settings by telling us about your last big session!

So if you have had a big night out in the last 12 months and want to help us make drug use safer, please take 20-30 minutes to take part in GDS2020 now: