Students taking drugs is not news to most people, but contrary to popular belief students are not as involved with illegal substances as the media and popular shows like skins would have you believe.
Only about 2 in 5 students are regular drug users, and the most commonly used substances are weed, cocaine, ecstasy and nitrous oxide.
Despite the moral panic of students bingeing on class A drugs the most frequently used is cannabis, a class C substance.
The report issued by the NUS argues that universities should stop penalising students for seeking help relating to drugs or reporting drug use to the university.
Source: NUS, Release (the national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law). Base: 2,810 UK-based students.
The report by the NUS describes student drug use as ‘complex’ some students suggest taking drugs has helped them attend lectures and complete work, while 60% claim to have missed a lecture due to their drug use.
The findings show punishing drug use or involving the police does not reflect the students wants and needs, in fact 50% of students who took the survey said they disagreed with the statement “My university/college’s drugs policy does not do enough to punish students who take drugs”. This compounds that in many cases universities may act as a barrier to students seeking help surround substance abuse.
Current university drug policies range from effective to completely invasive, some of the universities found wanting used sniffer dogs, surveillance and swabbing. Although some miss the mark, some equally get it right, they try to not involve external authorities when possible, they help give the student information to make informed decisions and they clearly distinguish between addictive drug use and recreational drug use.
Study drugs, like Adderall, where also reportedly used by about 1 in 10 students. These drugs can actually help students concentrate and motivate them to work, so its hard to brandish all controlled substances as harmful to academic success.
Harm reduction techniques have be sighted as beneficial, this method aims to reduce the harms that are often linked to illegal drugs. The report states this approach helps ‘reduce negative health, social and economic consequences of these activities’
The context of drug taking was study in depth in the report, its often unknown as to why people experiment with drugs and what context the associate them with. For students who recreationally take drugs it seems to be a social activity, 39% say they use only in a social context. Some students reported feeling more confident when under the influence of drugs and more significant bonding with friends. Of course some also reported negative social impact of taking drugs, even regretting the sexual interactions they had while under the haze of narcotics.
Although socially fuelled drug taking may be the case for some students, another more problematic catalyst could be self medicating mental health conditions.
Any illegal substances taken frequently or in a problematic way will have a harmful effect on an individual health and well being. The positive take away from the report is that students are not all hedonistic drug users that is often popularised by the media, however it has highlighted how marginalised groups often have a very different relationship with illegal substances than cis gender, mentally well students. It has also shed light on how universities need to reform how they deal with students drug use.