Drug use information for hospitality and event managers

People use a range of illicit drugs, including ecstasy and methamphetamine, in settings such as nightclubs, pubs and live music events, including raves and dance parties.

This webpage is for people who manage premises or organise such events and provides information on how to prevent and reduce the use of illicit drugs and the harm that may result.

It is recognised that the places and environments covered in this information can differ markedly from each other. For example, the issues faced by a person managing a fixed-licensed premise such as a pub or nightclub will be different to a person organising an event such as an outdoor, one-off music festival.

While most hospitality services and events are licensed to sell alcohol, it is recognised that not all may be. Given the danger of consuming alcohol together with illicit drugs, this information is of particular relevance to people who work in a licensed premise or who hold a liquor licence for their event.

With the current concern in our society about binge drinking it is only natural that licensees and their staff will have a strong focus on alcohol. However, illicit drug use or drug dealing should not be overlooked as an issue.

The strategies and actions suggested below are not confined to drug use issues, but are the sorts of things that contribute to a safe environment for patrons and staff generally.

Risks associated with illicit drug use

Illicit drug use in and around venues and events can be associated with a number of health and legal risks to patrons and staff including:

  • violent and disruptive behaviour leading to people being injured and/or property damage
  • illegal activity including the sale and use of drugs
  • mixing illicit substances with other drugs, including alcohol, leading to overdose or other medical emergency.

Factors that increase the risks associated with illicit drug use in venues and at events are:

  • alcohol being readily available and its potential to negatively interact with other drugs
  • attention primarily on alcohol issues, and illicit drug issues being overlooked
  • lack of access to free or cheap drinking water
  • the potential for drink spiking
  • inadequate provision of chill-out areas
  • overcrowded venues making it difficult to access medical assistance in an emergency
  • inadequate training or communication between staff, making it difficult to respond to emergencies
  • inadequate lighting and loud noise making it difficult to detect signs and symptoms of adverse drug reactions and other medical emergencies
  • inadequate management of areas surrounding the venue, including car parks, beer gardens and access roads
  • outdoor events increasing the health risks associated with exposure to extreme weather conditions
  • events being held in remote locations, requiring people to travel long distances to and from the venue
  • lack of control over access to the event or venue
  • lack of licensee monitoring and vigilance.

Benefits of preventing and managing illicit drug use at events and within premises

By taking some simple actions the risks associated with illicit drug use at events or venues can be reduced and the following benefits will result:

  • Improved staff and patron safety - Developing operating procedures and training staff in these procedures will reduce the risk of staff and patrons experiencing harm as a result of illicit drug use at events and within premises.
  • Reduced risk of public liability claims - Through identifying risks and developing strategies to address risks, licensees will be more able to provide evidence that they are addressing their duty of care obligations.
  • Better relationships with key agencies - Relationships with key agencies, such as the police, local government, ambulance service and Consumer and Business Services, could be strengthened when a licensee is known to be caring for its patrons and community needs. Vigilance in managing illicit drug issues reduces the risk of breaching liquor licensing laws and addresses duty of care.

What licensees and event managers can do

  • Develop operating procedures that protect the safety and health of patrons and staff.

  • Train staff in how to identify and respond to unusual and suspicious behaviour by patrons.
  • Call for immediate ambulance assistance if a patron is suffering from a medical emergency.
  • Ensure key staff members are trained in an accredited first aid program (See Hospitality First Responder Training below).
  • Employ trained, licensed door and security staff.
  • Keep an incident register.
  • Inform staff that unattended glasses should be collected to reduce the risk of drink spiking, and alert patrons to this procedure. Let patrons know that unattended drinks will be collected for their safety.
  • Offer free, unrestricted access to drinking water.
  • Have adequate ventilation and ensure the ambient temperature is comfortable.
  • Provide a chill-out room or area for people to cool down (preferably supervised).
  • Discretely provide sharps containers to dispose of injecting equipment. These containers can be used by anyone who needs to safely dispose of injecting equipment, including people with diabetes.
  • Report drug offences and cooperate with police in the investigation of illicit drug dealing.

Support services

Other resources

Frequently asked questions

The following responses are provided to help deal with a situation where a patron has used illicit drugs.

Do I need permission to call an ambulance for someone?

If you believe someone is in need of immediate medical assistance, call an ambulance. The individual's permission is not required.

What should I do if someone is reluctant, or their friend is reluctant, to receive medical assistance?

Explain that you have duty of care obligation under common law to provide a safe environment for patrons. Inform them of the importance of seeking immediate medical assistance for any medical problem.  Inform them that police do not attend medical emergencies unless ambulance officers call for help or a death occurs.

What should I do if someone claims to have had their drink spiked?

Believe them. Notify management, ensure someone stays with the person, seek medical assistance and encourage the person to notify police of the incident.

What are my responsibilities as a liquor licensee under the law in relation to illicit drugs on licensed premises?

The Code of Practice under the Liquor Licensing Act 1997 requires a licensee to establish and maintain appropriate practices to guard against the licensed premises being used for the purpose of illicit drug dealing. A licensee should cooperate with police in the investigation of illicit drug use.

What key information should I provide to my staff in order to appropriately respond to illicit drug issues?

Staff should understand the legal obligations of an event manager/licensee or approved responsible person, and be vigilant and report any unusual or suspicious behaviour by patrons to management. Staff should cooperate with police investigating illicit drug issues. All staff should be aware of the premise’s procedures to ensure an immediate, appropriate and adequate response to any overdose or other medical emergency that occurs in or around the venue or event.

How will authorities view my request if I ask for help to deal with illicit drug use within my venue or event?

An event manager or licensee will be seen as taking a responsible attitude towards the safety, health and welfare of patrons and staff by acknowledging the possibility of illicit drug use on or in the vicinity of the event or venue.

What should I do if I identify someone dealing drugs on the premises?

Illicit drug dealing is illegal and should be reported to the police. If a person is detected dealing drugs on or adjacent to licensed premises, police should be notified.

How should patrons be dealt with who are violent or aggressive while under the effect of drugs?

To safeguard other patrons, staff and the person who is under the influence of drugs, event managers or licensees should request that police escort the person off the premises. It is important that any person suffering adverse effects from drugs is appropriately supervised to ensure they do not put themselves or others at risk of injury.

Can unattended drinks be collected to minimise the risk of drink spiking?

Yes, however, to avoid disputes with patrons, signs should be prominently placed throughout the premises advising patrons that in the interests of their safety unattended drinks will be collected. Signs are available from the Consumer and Business Services.