Almost a quarter of students at Edinburgh University have taken cocaine, according to a survey by a student newspaper, writes Olga Wojtas.
The survey of 500 students was drafted by Sam Friedman, co-editor of the Student newspaper. He said the responses were likely to reflect the habits of those studying in Edinburgh as a whole, as well as those in other higher education institutions.
The survey showed that 59 per cent of students had smoked cannabis at some stage, 36 per cent had taken ecstasy, 28 per cent had tried magic mushrooms and 23 per cent had used cocaine.
Neil McKeganey, director of Glasgow University's Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said that although the figure on cocaine use was "a little bit above" what would be expected for the age group, the findings may reflect the fact that many Edinburgh students come from well-to-do backgrounds.
Helen Symons, National Union of Students vice-president for welfare, said that the figures seem to be reasonably in line with those for young people in general.
Asked whether he had taken illegal drugs, Mr Friedman said: "I'd say I'm a typical student, looking at these statistics, without telling you the ins and outs of my social life."
Cocaine and ecstasy were easily available, he said. He was unaware of them being bought on campus, but added that taking drugs was something people did in their leisure time. The survey found that 96 per cent of student respondents said Edinburgh did not have a drugs problem.
Although 75 per cent of those who took ecstasy said they had enjoyed the experience, more than half had not enjoyed cocaine. "Some 97 per cent of students describe cocaine as dangerous, and many complain of its inflated price and short-lived highs," Mr Friedman's article says.
Ali Grainger, Edinburgh University Students' Association vice-president of societies and activities, said he was not surprised by the reported cannabis use. He was, however, concerned by the growing popularity of class-A drugs.
Professor McKeganey said the survey revealed the need for clearer guidance from the Government on how universities and colleges should respond to illegal drug use.