Promoting welfare in the night-time economy and New EU Drug Trends Report.

On 19th February 2024, Harm Reduction Malta, in collaboration with People and Dancefloors (UK) and Correlation European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN/NL), held a workshop on promoting welfare in the night-time economy, sponsored by the University of Greenwich, UK. Insights from focus group discussions on new drug trends were presented at the workshop, which gathered together 14 stakeholders from different backgrounds and provided an opportunity to discuss ways to promote safer festival and night-time experiences for all.

In 2021, Malta Business Weekly reported that, globally, the creative economy is estimated to generate $2.2 trillion in revenues and creates 30 million jobs. In Malta, the creative industries account for 7.9% of total Gross Value Added, exceeding the direct contribution of the construction and civil engineering sector and the accommodation and food services sector. Interestingly, the UN Conference on Trade and Development explains that the creative industries are the lifeblood of the creative and night-time economy. They are also considered an important source of commercial and cultural value. The contribution of festival and night-time tourism and creative industries to Malta’s night-time economy is significant and cannot be overlooked.

As Malta gears up to obtain the Purple Flag, an international accreditation programme that aims to foster safe and thriving locations at night for all users, the interactive workshop highlighted the value of facilitating dialogue between stakeholders from the health and entertainment industries, while also giving a voice to those mostly affected by policy developments and change: the people who work in and attend night-time venues.

The workshop was facilitated by Dr Giulia Zampini and Karen Mamo and included the guest participation of Mr Daan van der Gouwe, a seasoned sociologist from the Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands and lead researcher at C-EHRN. Mr van der Gouwe presented results from the civil society-led monitoring exercise mapping the emergence of new drug trends in the EU. Drafted under the framework of an EU funded project, the research was conducted in the form of focus groups gathering information from 18 different European cities. The report explained that there are clear indications that ‘nitazenes’, a high-risk sub class of synthetic opioids, are being detected in heroin and benzodiazepines. The report also indicated that a wide variety of substances have been reported, including 3-MMC, tusi, 2C-B, and relatively new drug combinations, such as candy flipping (mixing MDMA and LSD).

Participants from Malta observed that candy flipping, along with Ketamine use, are becoming more popular among young people attending clubs and music festivals. Participants also mentioned an ongoing surge in cocaine availability and use, especially in non-traditional drug using environments such as religious festivities and family gatherings. The increased use of crack cocaine was also identified as an emerging trend, particularly among marginalised communities.

During the workshop, participants engaged in productive discussions about new drug trends, thinking about how to respond to an increasingly diverse and unpredictable illicit drug supply. In the concluding session of the workshop, participants collectively came up with several recommendations aimed at promoting safer festival and night-time experiences. Workshop participants recognised that constructive policy and behavioural changes are intrinsically linked with multidisciplinary tools that prioritise public health principles and practices.

Recommendations for a sustainable night-time economy:

Research and data:

  • Develop better tools to monitor prevalence levels among different groups of people who use drugs.
  • Deeper understanding of emergency and ambulance calls, including monitoring of seasonal patterns.
  • Cost benefit analysis comparing spending on law enforcement aimed at curtailing drug use as opposed to public health provisions promoting a harm reduction approach.

Night-time industry:

  • Provide harm reduction and welfare first aid training for staff, including security personnel.
  • Multidisciplinary welfare teams to be present for events catering for more than 1,000 people.
  • Provide harm reduction information and education on site, including standard operational procedure to respond to a health emergency.
  • Access to early warning alerts issued by national and international groups involved in the monitoring of drugs and new psychoactive substances (NPS).
  • Protect people’s right to privacy in club venues using stickers to obscure phone cameras.  

Legislators and policymakers:

  • Promote a public health and harm reduction approach for the night-time industry, with a particular focus on education and training for staff.
  • Establish socially and environmentally sustainable practices through the licensing of events and venues.
  • Create a more efficient, socially and environmentally responsible system to access drinking water at events catering for more than 1000 people, fostering shared responsibility for water provision between central government, night-time industry, and those attending events.
  • Promote multidisciplinary and human-rights tools aimed at enhancing dialogue and cooperation between prevention services developed for the general population and harm reduction services designed by and for people who use drugs, further ensuring complementary policy frameworks.
  • Invest in informative harm reduction campaigns targeted to specific groups, including how to respond to a drug emergency.
  • Broaden educational and outreach tools, particularly to support parents and young people.
  • Explore the possibility to establish free, anonymous, and accessible drug checking services for people who use drugs in Malta.
  • Invest in public health and harm reduction training for law enforcement, particularly for those who are stationed at large events, including local feasts.
  • Adopt EU standards for Decibel Levels, mandated for all large music events.


  • Promote factual reporting and non-stigmatising language when speaking about people who use drugs and the night-time industry.
  • Adopt standard guidelines for drug related reporting, particularly when involving a health emergency and/or an overdose case.

This workshop involved participants from various public health and prevention services, NGOs, people who use drugs, and representatives of the night-time and events industry, including Mr Philip Fenech, Chairperson of the Paceville Town Management Committee.

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