Home Page > Advice > Advice for Licensees > Preventing Drug Use-1

Preventing Drug Use

Design and Layout

When planning the design and construction of licensed premises, extensions or changes to the premises, there are a number of general principles and practices that should be considered:


  • Access Control
  • Lines of Sight
  • Lighting
  • Signage
  • Toilet Areas – Construction Materials
  • Toilet Areas – Fixtures and Fittings

Hertfordshire Constabulary offer an advisory service for designing out crime through the offices of the local Crime Prevention Officer or the Constabulary’s Architectural Liaison Officer. To contact your local officer call 101 or email contactus@herts.pnn.police.uk.

Access Control

  • Consider employing security staff where appropriate
  • Refuse entrance or service to anyone suspected of participating in the sale or use of illegal drugs on the licensed premises. Eject the person and contact the police
  • Provide training for your staff on how to deal with challenging situations. Contact your local council licensing officer to find out more about ‘ServeWise’ training
  • Research has shown that where problems have occurred in toilets, either due to drug use or the handling of stolen goods, the use of an entry key or token system that has to be obtained from a member of staff can be helpful in preventing this.

Officer outside bar


Lines of Sight:

• Avoid alcoves or recessed areas. Secluded parts can become a magnet for drug users and dealers wishing to operate unseen.
• With a clear view all round, staff should quickly be able to assess for possible problems.






  • Suitably designed lighting should be provided to avoid dark corners or areas throughout the premises
  • Parking areas and outside service areas to be well lit and managed
  • Some organisations recommend placing fluorescent lighting in toilets to deter intravenous drug use. Hertfordshire Constabulary does not recommend this style of lighting as a means of preventing injecting behaviour. It has not been proven as a deterrent to drug users and may have a negative effect leading to poor injecting practice and medical complications. It also has the added disadvantage of making the toilets look dark, unwelcoming to lawful users, and suggesting that there is an established drug problem.


  • Consider the use of signage in the premises stating the management’s stance on drug use in the premises; e.g. ‘ Drug use will not be tolerated on these premises and anyone suspected or found to be using drugs will be asked to leave and police may be informed’
  • Consider erecting signs in toilets informing customers that facilities are regularly checked for cleanliness and security. A ‘visited/checked’ chart on a wall will help to show that staff visits are carried out.

Toilet Areas – Construction Materials

  • Avoid the use of easily moveable ceiling, wall tiles or panelling as the void areas behind can be used to conceal drugs or discarded drugs
  • Ventilation covers should be robust with fine mesh covering, securely fitted to prevent the space being used for disposal purposes
  • Flooring should be concrete, tiled or smooth industrial quality linoleum covered. Avoid the use of carpet or carpet tiles due to hygiene and cleaning problems
  • Avoid flat smooth areas that can easily be used as a worktop to divide and prepare drugs, or used as a platform for sniffing
  • Improvements can be made to flat surfaces within toilets by applying a rougher surface coating to these areas
  • Consider the use of graffiti and vandal resistant materials, such as stainless steel, laminates and plastics.


Toilet Areas – Fixtures and Fittings


  • All toilet cisterns should be secured and hidden behind panelling. This prevents people using the flat surfaces for the preparation of drugs or for administering them and using the cistern for the disposal of syringes or other drug paraphernalia
  • Toilet roll dispensers, towel holders and drying machines can be purchased with smooth rounded surfaces to prevent drug preparation
  • Many companies now manufacture wash basins and urinals with sloping tops and sides, again with a view to making it difficult to use as a platform to operate from
  • Avoid placing chairs or benches in toilet areas that encourage users to remain longer than necessary
  • The style of cubicle door locks should be considered. Research shows that the less secure, flimsy locks are better on cubicle doors as drug users are made to feel more vulnerable under these conditions
  • Toilet seat lids can be removed, but this may leave the toilets feeling ‘seedier’ as a result. Suitably shaped lids could be considered as a preventive measure
  • Toilet cubicles should be constructed to allow for a minimum 200mm space from the floor with a reduced top height. This measure discourages drug taking and helps with staff checks.