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Drugs and Licensed Premises

Identifying someone on drugs

There is not a common list of symptoms that you can use to tell if someone is misusing drugs. That's because drug use affects different people in different ways. Signs to look out for can be one or more of the following;

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviours
  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason

Dealing with someone on drugs

If you suspect anyone of being under the influence of drugs then you must notify your Manager/ Supervisor/ Door Staff of your concerns immediately.

You may refuse to serve the suspected individual and/or ask them to vacate the premises immediately. If they do not cooperate or they become abusive or aggressive then you must contact the police for assistance.

Dealing with someone suffering the effects of drug abuse

Look for signs of drug abuse. These can be one or more of the following;

  • Problems with vital signs (temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure) are possible and can be life threatening.
  • Sleepiness, confusion, and coma are common and can be dangerous if the person breathes vomit into the lungs (aspirated).
  • Skin can be cool and sweaty, or hot and dry.
  • Chest pain is possible and can be caused by heart or lung damage. Shortness of breath may occur. Breathing may get rapid, slow, deep, or shallow.
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea are possible. Vomiting blood, or blood in bowel movements, can be life threatening.

If you notice someone having any of these symptoms and they are unconscious or semi-conscious then move them into the recovery position and call the emergency services as soon as you can. Await their assistance, but make sure there are no sharp or dangerous objects around the individual.

Preventing drug misuse in licensed premises

It is a fact that drug dealing takes place in a large percentage of licensed premises. The best run public houses are not immune to this problem. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 heavy penalties can be imposed on those who permit drug related activities to take place on their premises, including supplying and smoking cannabis.

Why should you be concerned?

  • Damage to the trade or reputation
  • The potential for other criminal activity, violence etc.
  • Risk of losing your licence and career


  • High standards of service and cleanliness are a powerful deterrent to drugs trade. This shows that you care about your venue and look after it and all who use it
  • Low standards indicate the 'don't care management style'. Dealers will look forward for a poorly-kept venue, because if it is not looked after, then it is most likely not being monitored
  • Dealers will not take any unnecessary risks - high profile management will make them uncomfortable. Bar staff are your eyes and ears when you are not around, so they need to be alert too.

Materials to look out for

  • Torn up beer mats/cigarette packets/bits of cardboard left on tables or in ashtrays
  • Foam stuffing from seats/foam left lying around
  • Roaches (Home made filter tips from cannabis cigarettes)
  • Small packets made of folded paper, card or foil.
  • Empty sweet wrappings left in toilets
  • Payment with tightly rolled bank notes, or notes that have been tightly rolled
  • Traces of blood or powder on bank notes
  • Traces of powder on toilet seats or other surfaces in toilets
  • Very clean surfaces in toilets
  • Syringes (Caution: can carry infection. Do not touch)
  • Spoons or burned tinfoil in toilets

Signs of dealing and monitoring

  • A person that stays a while and has a lot of friends that only stay for short periods
  • A person making frequent trips to the toilets, garden or car park followed by different people at the same time
  • A person seeming to hide in corners talking very quietly
  • Lots of hand or body contact with members of the same sex

Dealers are not identifiable by appearance - they may look very respectable.


The following provide a good excuse for 'surveillance' of individuals you are wary of:

  • Frequent glass collections
  • Emptying of ashtrays
  • Cleaning and wiping tables


The Site - Drugs and the law

BBC - Drink and Drugs

Talk to Frank - Drugs The Facts