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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

North East agencies tackle craze of drug and alcohol fuelled student 'super-parties'

Written by Tom White

A new wave of drug fuelled student super-parties held in houses could lead to a "perfect storm" of mass casualties, it has been warned.

Organised through social media and often unofficially sponsored by drinks companies, the new phenomenon is posing huge risks to the students involved.

With bouncers on the door, a DJ and doors and windows blockaded with furniture, authorities say they fear the worst for the hundreds that attend.

They also often involve drugs such as cocaine, ketamine and a strain of MDMA health workers say is the strongest they have seen in 20 years.

As a result, a new partnership in Newcastle has been established to try and tackle the craze, after 136 of these parties were recorded in the city during the last eight months.

Involving Northumbria Police, Newcastle City Council, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and the North East Ambulance Service, a series of videos have been produced called Safer Partying to try and raise awareness.

Alan Robson, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, said there was a high chance the floors could collapse with the sheer weight of people.

"The safety of young people is of paramount importance to us," he said.

"You potentially have hundreds of young people involved which could become a mass casualty incident, which is a horrific outcome for us.

"It's a real recipe for disaster, the properties were built for families not for these large scale parties. It creates a perfect storm."

The authorities say there is anecdotal evidence that drinks companies are sponsoring the parties by providing drinks and then benefitting from the attention the resulting videos receive on social media.

The parties have also been rated on student news site The Tab, increasing their notoriety.

Claire Dean, training co-ordinator at Lifeline, a drug abuse and prevention organisation, said they are getting two to three self-referrals a month but the actual number could be 50 times that.

She said: "This last year MDMA referrals have shot up, previously it would not have been on the referral form.

"Imagine if you are taking MDMA, cocaine and ketamine, you could have a four day come down.

"On top of that drinking vodka and you will be walking round like glass."

Chief Superintendent Neil Hutchison, of Northumbria Police, said: "We don't want to be seen as the fun police but students need to recognise that lives are being put at risk.

"Alcohol, drugs, loud music and hundreds of party goers is a recipe for disaster."

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