Carry on campus

October 18, 1996

Drinking binges, pill popping and cannabis smoking feature with alarming prominence in undergraduate life, according a University of Newcastle upon Tyne study.

Some 3,075 second-year students from ten universities completed anonymous lifestyle questionnaires on consumption of alcohol and caffeine, use of cannabis and other illicit and prescribed drugs, participation in sports, sleep quality and smoking habits.

The results, reported in The Lancet, showed that illegal drugs had been sampled by 59 per cent of the students. The most commonly used substance was cannabis, with 20 per cent reporting regular use.

Two or more illegal drugs had been taken by 34 per cent of students, with 19 per cent having used four or more. After cannabis, the most popular drugs were LSD (18 per cent), amphetamines (19 per cent), Ecstasy (13 per cent), magic mushrooms (16 per cent) and amyl-butyl nitrate (15 per cent).

"Sensible" drinking levels (14 units per week for women and 21 for men) were exceeded by 61 per cent of men and 48 per cent of women, and hazardous drinking levels (36 units for women and 51 for men) were reported by 15 per cent of drinkers.

Binge drinking was a health risk courted by one-third of men and a quarter of women (31 per cent and 24 per cent respectively).

About a quarter of men and women in the survey smoked and the same number consumed high levels of caffeine every day (over 400mg) and reported only five or six hours of sleep nightly.

About a third said they rarely took exercise. But as a possible antidote to all that was unhealthy in their lives, about a quarter of subjects said they took vitamins and mineral supplements.

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