You're here! You're queer! And what better way to celebrate it than to get totally ripped for two or three days straight, maybe do a few recreational drugs, hang out in a crazy crowd and, oh yeah, stand under the blazing hot sun for an afternoon? Oooh, and if you're really lucky, maybe there will be some sex. Yes, Pride is an awful lot of fun, but things can easily get out of hand. You don't want to wind up lying in a gutter or making the sort of error in judgment that can change your life forever.
Needless to say, our experts don't condone excess of any kind, but if you're gonna do it, don't forget to eat, stay hydrated and, for god's sake, keep your sex safe (condoms, condoms, condoms, people!) so the emphasis stays on the "fun" rather than the "awful."
What the experts say
"The number-one thing people need to do is drink a lot of water. Coke, ecstasy and crystal meth are stimulants. Alcohol, special K, GHB and things like valium are depressants. It's a bad idea to mix depressants with depressants. If you mix GHB with alcohol, it's really easy to become over-sedated. This can depress your entire physical system, and you could lose consciousness or stop breathing. If you start to feel dizzy or sick, you could fall into unconsciousness. If you feel sick or panicky, let someone know and move to a calm area. It's easy to lose your judgment, and you might not choose to have safer sex, so always have supplies like condoms and lube. If you're doing coke, it's a good idea not to share straws. There could be a micro-abrasion in your nose, and hep C is a really durable virus."
STEPHANIE MASSEY , client support worker, Shout Clinic, Toronto
"Heat wave hydrator is an herbal iced tea that packs a lot of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It makes a great all-day drink for your water bottle. Take 2 teaspoons each of rooibos leaf , alfalfa herb , stinging nettle leaf , cilantro leaf , ginseng root , rosemary leaf , oatstraw tops , rosehips and hibiscus flowers . Combine and cover with 10 cups of boiled spring water . Add 1 teaspoon of grey sea salt and a sliced lemon . Steep for 20 minutes. Strain. Chill. Drink throughout day. Or take 1 teaspoon each of dandelion root , gentian root and wormwood leaf with a small amount of water every two hours, as required. Apply pure aloe vera gel or jelly (it's thicker) if you've had too much sun."
CELINA AINSWORTH , clinical herbalist, Toronto
"There's a lot going on at Pride. You might want to take some time beforehand to set an intention about what you want out of it. Ask yourself, 'Do I want celebration? Connection? Sensuality, sexuality? All of that?' If you are indulging, I would suggest really taking care of yourself before and after, working out, doing meditation or whatever is your individual practice. If you're going with a friend and going to be indulging, talk about ways you can support each other . Take a little time to be with yourself during Pride, even if it's five minutes. Go off on your own, do some deep breathing, some focusing - however you connect with your inner self. Setting an intention also means coming prepared, which means having condoms or dental dams ."
NAN KEYSER , psychotherapist, Toronto
"Safe sex ties into safer drug use. If you're incredibly impaired, you're not going to be making the safest of choices. Even if you don't think you're likely to be doing anything, go well prepared . That way you'll be more likely to use a barrier method. If you're using drugs, use them with people you trust and make sure any sort of experimentation is happening in a safe context. If you can purchase from the same supplier you normally use , you're more likely to know what you're getting. If you have sex outdoors, find a safe spot so you won't be targeted by the police."
SARA CRAZE , outreach worker, Youthlink Inner City, Toronto
"It's more dangerous to mix drugs than it is to take just one. I wouldn't mix ketamine with alcohol. That's a recipe for vomiting. The classic problem people encounter with ecstasy is overheating. Take breaks and go to air conditioned rooms . But the lesser-known possible complication is drinking too much water. I would recommend one half-litre bottle an hour . Some people on E don't pee, and if they're drinking a lot of water and not urinating, it starts to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Water can be absorbed by the brain and other organs and cause coma and even death. You have to negotiate a fine line. If you're peeing, you can drink more. Stupor, a mute state, slurring or weird behaviour may be symptoms of water intoxication. If someone has overdosed or passes out, turn them on their side (and get help) . If someone is having a freakout on hallucinogens, sometimes you can snap them out of it by simply changing the environment . Remind them that they're on drugs and it's not going to last forever ."
ALLISON McKIM , director, Dancesafe NYC, New York