UK universities seek ‘common approach’ on tackling drug abuse

Task force to draw up sector guidelines once survey results are collated

February 9, 2022
teenager buying drug at club
Source: iStock

New guidance designed to set out a “common approach” to reducing harm from drug abuse across UK higher education providers is to be drawn up.

Universities UK said the “evidence-led” recommendations, which will also seek to introduce better controls on the supply of drugs, would be “firmly based on harm reduction”.

They come as institutions express “concern about the impact of student drug use with associated risks of learning and mental health problems, of damage to future job prospects, of addiction and avoidable deaths”, according to the representative body, which will work on the project in partnership with GuildHE, Independent HE and accommodation provider Unite Students.

A task force has been set up, chaired by Nic Beech, vice-chancellor of Middlesex University London, which will bring together government, sector agencies, student organisations, public health bodies, charities and the police.

Later this year, UUK and Unite Students will publish details of a major survey and report on student drug use, which will help to shape the guidance and highlight best practice.

Alongside concern about the use of recreational drugs, there has also been mounting concern about the use of “study drugs” on UK campuses.

“Drug use is still largely an unspoken issue across UK universities despite the fact that it may impact on learning, on mental health and on students’ future job prospects,” Professor Beech said. “The launch of this work signals our firm intention to develop a proactive approach with student safety and health at its heart to help universities understand and address drug use.”

Dame Carol Black, the former principal of Newnham College, Cambridge who recently led an independent review of drug policy for the government, will act as one of several special advisers to the task force.

“One of the key findings of my independent review was the rise in recreational drug use and associated harms among young adults. The government’s 10-year drug strategy responded to this finding with a commitment to reducing drug use among young people,” Dame Carol said.

“I am pleased to support this university sector-led initiative and particularly welcome the emphasis on better understanding student drug use and what works to address it.”

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