Cracking down on drugs

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Related tags: Drug addiction

Drug use on the premises is a danger to your staff, your customers and your livelihood. Drug training specialist Bill Fox looks at ways you can...

Drug use on the premises is a danger to your staff, your customers and your livelihood. Drug training specialist Bill Fox looks at ways you can tackle the problem.

It's a statistical fact that drugs lead to crime, vandalism and death. So how can you stop your pub adding to these statistics?

Traditionally, nightclubs and pubs with late-night music licences have been popular targets for drug dealers. However, the problem goes much wider. Pubs, restaurants and fast food venues are increasingly affected and have seen their toilets frequented by drug users. The problem is going to get worse before it gets better. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens has publicly admitted that society is currently losing the war against street drug dealers - when one is arrested another takes their place.

Managers in the hospitality industry need to aim to keep drugs off their premises for the protection of their customers, their staff and their licence. The latter is increasingly relevant in the light of new police powers arriving in the autumn to close "problem" venues.

Managers can make a difference through increased awareness among staff and the adoption of clear policies and strategies. Inevitably, at some venues door supervisors are asked to take a lot of the responsibility - which is why dealing with drugs is an important part of the door supervisor's training - but it is unfair and unrealistic to expect all the work to be done on the door.

Whether you have the luxury of doorstaff or not, the lessons can be shared. The starting point is sending out a clear message. Good signage should be placed at the entrance, in bars and toilets expressly saying that drugs are prohibited. This alerts users to the fact that the business has a strict policy - and it will be enforced.


All staff need to be vigilant. An absolute priority is to keep dealers out. This means paying attention to frequent visitors to the toilets or dark corners, exchanges of money and paper wraps, and other paraphernalia that may be left behind. Novice users are most likely to be spotted through their body language. These will usually respond well to being asked to stop and leave. The more regular users are harder to detect - and will often take the drug before they come in.

Peter Boucher of the Door Supervisor's Training Organisation, Bournemouth, has a huge amount of practical experience and understands the balance between calling in the police whenever drugs are found and acting firmly and fairly where only small quantities are involved.

He says: "It is important that customers know drugs are not tolerated. They must believe that if they are caught they will be arrested. In practice this does not always happen."


Dealing with any drugs found on site poses a particular problem, as substance security has to be balanced with the realities of running a busy venue. Mr Boucher has found the "two-key safe" system very effective. Keys to the safe are kept by the manager and the police, which provides a useful way of removing unwanted items during a hectic night. If a person is caught, the drugs can be put in the safe while waiting for the police - although venues should seek police advice with regard to ensuring continuity of evidence, which can be important in ensuring a conviction.

Also, evidence of drug use, such as wraps, foil or needles can be put together, to help the police gather intelligence on what might be happening.

Mr Boucher adds: "It is very important that all the staff work on this together. For instance, if a glass collector found a whizz wrap, it could actually be shown to come from the same page of a magazine as some more paper found by a cleaner. This might then indicate that a dealer was working in or around the club."When there is believed to be a problem door supervisors can be asked to search everyone coming in. While this is a useful deterrent, small quantities are difficult to find. Determined individuals will get through this line of defence.

As with any issue of avoiding potentially dangerous incidents, prevention is better than cure. Layout of venues, staff working patterns, observation and behaviour all play a vital part in preventing drugs becoming as issue in your premises.

Personal safety first

Bill Fox of Maybo urges caution when dealing with drug dealers and users. There are many substances in use - each having a different impact on the individual and their behaviour.

Bill advises: "Staff need to recognise that alcohol and drugs make communication difficult and increase the risk of violence - inhibitions are reduced and behaviour becomes unpredictable."

When dealing with those suspected to be involved with drugs Bill suggests:

  • Think carefully before confronting individuals - consider how, where and when you will do this.

Never go it alone - it may be better to gather and pass on information and evidence than to put yourself, staff and customers at risk.

Remember that as well as being unpredictable, those you are dealing with may carry syringes, weapons and nasty infections that they can use against you.

Treat everybody with respect and courtesy - even when you need to be firm.

Identifying drugs

Drugs most likely to be taken or dealt on licensed premises include:

  • Heroin. Also called smack, horse, gear, H, junk, brown, stag, scag, jack. Usually injected, snorted or smoked

Cocaine. Also called coke, charlie, snow, C. Snorted in powder form or injected

Ecstasy. Also called E, XTC, doves, disco biscuits, echoes, scooby doos. Usually in tablet form

LSD. Also called acid, trips, tabs, dots, blotters. Swallowed on tiny scraps of paper

Cannabis. Also called hash, dope, grass, blow, ganja, weed, shit, puff, marijuana. In a pub, most likely to be rolled with tobacco in a spliff, joint or reefer and smoked. Can also be smoked in a pipe or eaten

Barbiturates. Also called barbs, downers. Can be swallowed as tablets or capsules, or injected from ampules

Amphetamines. Also called speed, whizz, uppers, billy, sulph, amp. In powder form can be dissolved in drinks, injected, sniffed or snorted

Poppers. Akyl nitrates, including amyl nitrate, with brand names such as Ram, TNT, Thrust. The vapours from a small bottle of liquid are breathed in through the nose

Other misused substances include crack (the crystal form of cocaine), magic mushrooms, tranquilisers, anabolic steroids and solvents. These are less likely to be misused in a pub setting, but may be dealt.

Some information taken from the HSE booklet Drug Misuse At Work.

Related topics: Property law

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