The Manchester University Students’ Union Advice Service has recently announced that they will be the trialling the offering of single-use drug testing kits to check whether any other substances or harmful adulterants have been added in to the illegal drugs students are buying and consuming.
The move encourages the safer use of drugs amongst their students, which seems to be an inherent challenge in itself, following a survey conducted by The Tabs to show that over 80% of students revealed they had taken ecstasy. Their broader annual survey highlighted that 84% of all university students said they had taken some form of drug during their time at university. This is a startling statistic that highlights the casualness of the drug culture at university, as well as the broader risk of harm to those who take them, during their education and also following this in later life.
A way to test illegal drugs helps provide some element of safety to those taking them, but does not tackle the ingrained culture of taking drugs at university. Student leaders themselves have said that it allows them to uphold their duty to protects their students in a “realistic and proactive” way.
In response to the announcement of their new drug testing kits, they said, “we believe it’s part of our responsibility to look after our student members to make these tests available to students across Manchester,” a union official told the Manchester Evening News. “We will continue to campaign to policy makers to make changes to drugs policy that reflect a more realistic and proactive attitude.”
What the student leaders believe is that the move advocates a “more adult conversation around drugs policy” and they join Newcastle and Sussex who have run similar schemes in the past.
We feel, however, that more needs to be done in the education surrounding drugs, especially following another record year of drug related deaths in the UK, many of which occur at university and festivals. The lack of information out there is also staggering, with students unsure of how to take drugs, how much to take and understand what they are even taking. This shouldn’t promote drugs, but be there as a resource so that people understand the full implications of what they are doing and what they are taking and what could then happen.
Whilst many universities do not offer drug testing kits, but do provide counselling services and well-being support for those concerned about addictions or their health, opening up dialogue before the drugs have been taken is now key. This will not only help to educate students for their own safety, but also potentially start to discourage them in the first instance due to the risk, health issues and potential for addiction, developments of anxiety and the moving on to “harder” drugs.
It will be interesting to see how policy makers drive change in the law to reflect the current culture and world we live in, as the challenge of tackling drug-use is becoming larger and larger, not only among students, but also amongst young professionals. Our Experts will be providing their opinion on this later in the week.