On Tuesday night, Fabric nightclub was forcibly closed as a result of two teenage deaths earlier this summer. Islington Council removed their license on the grounds that there was a 'culture of drugs' associated with the venue.
The deaths of these teenagers highlight not only problems at Fabric, but the greater problem of substance misuse throughout London. With the rising strength of these drugs, we should be focusing much greater efforts on educating young people about their harmful effects.
A recent report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found that there has been a "recent resurgence in the use of MDMA in Europe and increased availability of high-strength MDMA tablets and powders". Furthermore, ONS statistics noted that the number of deaths caused by ecstasy or MDMA has risen from eight in 2010, to a staggering 50 in 2014. The danger of drug use is a nationwide problem that must be addressed.
In closing Fabric, we lose the opportunity to make the club a beacon of best practice in managing drug use among young people. Closing Fabric will not mean that usage will decline, or that drugs will disappear from our streets. Instead, it may lead these young people to new, unregulated venues unknown to the police.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently revealed that more than half of London's clubs have closed in the past eight years. This steep decline of licensed venues, due to forced closures, could cause more harm than good by encouraging clubbers to attend unlicensed venues, including illegal raves. These unregulated environments lack the appropriate security, and health and safety measures to manage potential drug misuse.
A number of venues throughout London have begun employing methods to keep people safe, including a recent festival in Cambridgeshire which offered festival goers free substance identification testing. The Manchester Warehouse Project club has introduced a similar scheme, testing drugs that are circulating amongst their patrons, to keep them up-to-date about dangerous batches. Additionally, the club has introduced a welfare area which gives anyone who is feeling unwell after taking drugs the opportunity to seek treatment or advice, without having to be worried about being arrested.
It is of paramount importance that young people understand that it is okay to ask questions about drugs, without being punished. Initiatives such as drug testing, providing drug workers on site, or providing information on drugs available does not encourage drug use, but rather works to prevent future tragic instances. We want people who use drugs, or who are thinking of using drugs, to make informed decisions. It is important that we provide on-going support and advice to young drug users, rather than making one-off examples of institutions that have had problems with drugs in the past.
Yasmin Batliwala is chair of the WDP