It’s time for a grown-up conversation about drugs and alcohol.
Today we announce the launch of our Harm Reduction Campaign, getting the conversation started about student drug and alcohol use at Birmingham.
We recognise that many students use drugs - a National Union of Students survey, Taking The Hit, indicated that as many as 56% of respondents had taken drugs at some point, and 39% were currently using drugs. The survey also stated that, of those students who use drugs, 53% of them do so to deal with a form of poor mental health. It would appear that students are now turning to drugs and alcohol to aid their mental health, in the face of continued underfunding of NHS Mental Health services and institutions, such as universities, slowly responding to growing mental health crises on campus.
Why we’re running the campaign
We want to change the way students talk and think about drug and alcohol usage and ensure that they know how to support themselves, and others, when they require it. Over the years, there have been a number of student deaths, across the UK, related to drug and alcohol misuse. We want to ensure that students in Birmingham are equipped with the facts and know-how to reduce harm to themselves.
Our Harm Reduction Campaign has three main branches
1. Drugs Policy
Often, drug policy is out-dated, as zero tolerance policies punish students without trying to understand the reasons they use drugs. We want to make sure the University’s policy is fair to its students. We want to ensure that the University has a policy which supports those who fall victim to drug or alcohol use. Drug addiction is a barrier that prevents students from achieving their true potential at University and we should be supporting victims of drug addiction with their recovery.
2. Drugs: Reducing the Harm
With drug use, our biggest concern is that, when taking a completely unregulated substance, you’re never really sure what it’s going to be. Many drug related deaths are due to people taking something that is different, stronger or more toxic than they expected; with drug manufacturers and dealers cutting substances with anything from household products like sugar and starch, to synthetic opioids and other anaesthetic and psychoactive ingredients to increase their yield.
The Guild of Students has been working with West Midlands Police and the West Midlands Police Commissioner, who have successfully trialled harm reduction campaigns; most recently at MADE Festival 2018. We will also be working with Birmingham City Council and local venues to run a city wide scheme in the coming months.
Learning from the success of other students’ unions across the country, we will soon be making drug testing kits available free from the Guild. While this won’t completely protect you from drug-related injury, it will reduce the risk of using drugs, by helping you identify the contents of the substance you are testing, allowing you to make a more informed decision.
We also want to make it clearer to students where to go if you do become dependent on drugs. We want to make it as easy as possible to access the support you need, whether at the University, the NHS or through local charities in the area.
3. Alcohol: Looking after your mates
Alcohol plays a role in the lives of many students during their time at University. We want to support those who are worried about their own, or a friend’s, unhealthy drinking habits. Over the course of the campaign, we will give you the tools and confidence to support any friends in need - whether they’re intoxicated on a night out or you think they may be drinking too heavily more regularly. Ultimately, we want to reduce the harm that alcohol misuse can cause to students.
This campaign will be an ongoing project. We will be hosting speaker events on the subject, continuing our work with the Police and City Council and, most importantly, keeping you updated on the work that goes on behind the scenes.
Reece Patrick Roberts, Guild President
Adam Goldstone - Education Officer