By Luke Footman
It’s an old cliché that university is the perfect social setting for taking illegal drugs.
University is the place most students are leaving home for the first time to start their independent lives as young people. After moving into their new university digs Fresher’s Week begins and a week of partying commences. This now sounds like the start of the social epidemic where drug misuse can begin.
According to a study involving 3,000 students by the National Union of Students and the Drug Information charity, revealed that 56% of students had used drugs at some point while 39% said they were currently using substances.
The University of Buckingham has taken measures of deterring drug use at their institution. Vice-chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon, is spearheading a new initiative to acquire drug pledges from each new incoming student promising not to take drugs while at the university. He announced the plans in a column in the Daily Mail, saying it is “insane” to allow drug-taking in universities to continue.
Other universities have taken a more lenient approach to the war on drugs at their institutions. The University of Sheffield has given advice on their Student Union website about the safe ways to use drugs and information on safe dosages.
A spokesman said: “The university and its Students’ Union does not condone substance misuse in any shape or form. We do however understand some students may try drugs during their time at university. With this in mind, we think it is important to ensure that … if a student does choose to take drugs, they are as informed as possible and take steps to take reasonable precautions.”
It is a truism that university is a breeding ground for drugs and an NHS study also showed that the prevalence rate among students who ingested any drug is significantly higher than that for non-students aged 20-22.
Although, both universities have taken two differing drastic measures to tackle drug misuse at their institutions it can, however, be argued that both universities have left out one major aspect in their defences. The war on drugs at university is not actually tackling the real reasons students are looking to misuse drugs. Arguments have been made that universities are only doing damage control of further accidents happening in the future involving drug-related problems.
Seldon is right to say that illegal drugs are connected to mental health problems among young people. He fails, however, to understand that illegal drug use is not a cause of this social epidemic, but a symptom.
Whereas Sheffield university has taken the measure to educate students on the importance of taking drugs safely, it also fails to protect their students from the use of drugs in the first place. We must ask ourselves, what exactly are UK universities teaching young people about drugs?