Students want to see universities take tougher action against drugs on campus, with a large majority believing that recreational drug-taking has harmful effects on both individuals and society as a whole, new research has found.
A study by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the University of Buckingham, which revealed widespread disapproval of drugs on campus, found that 71 per cent of students said they had never taken drugs at university.
Of the more than 1,000 undergraduates polled, 53 per cent believe their university is not doing enough to stop students taking drugs while 62 per cent said they want to see university authorities take a “stronger line” on both dealers and users of illegal drugs.
A significant majority of students believe both users and society are harmed by drug-taking, according to the study, which found 88 per cent of those polled say that usage of illegal drugs causes problems “for the mental health of the user”.
— HEPI (@HEPI_news) June 11, 2018
Only two per cent of respondents answered ‘No’ when asked whether drug use “can cause longer-term problems”, with 68 per cent saying illegal drugs cause harm “for society in terms of contributing to criminality” and a further 62 per cent believing they damage society with related healthcare costs.
Commenting, HEPI director Nick Hillman said the research “provides an important corrective to some of the wilder ideas about today’s students”, noting that “a majority recognise the dangers of taking illegal substances”.
“Some people blame universities when they become involved in students’ personal lives. Others blame them for not doing enough. Our survey shows most students support their institutions taking a tougher, rather than a more relaxed, line on the use of illegal substances by fellow students,” he said.
The findings on student attitudes to drug use contrast to a report published by the far left National Union of Students (NUS) at the end of April which urged universities to take a liberal approach to drugs, with claims a large proportion of students are users and that illegal drug usage is “widely accepted”.
Conducted by the ‘NUS Trans Campaign’ and ‘NUS Welfare Zone’, the study said mental health plays a large factor in students’ usage of illegal drugs, asserting that 31 per cent of respondents reported using them to deal with stress and 22 per-cent to self-medicate mental illnesses.
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But according to the HEPI survey, just 6 per cent of drug-takers polled said they used illegal drugs to cope with exam stress while 81 per cent reported their drug usage was for recreational purposes. Worryingly, 47 per cent of students who have taken drugs while at university said peer pressure played a role.
The NUS, which reported that 56 per cent of students have taken illegal drugs while 39 per cent said they were current regular users, demanded universities stop taking action against students caught with illicit substances.
Excluding students for drugs possession or reporting them to police is “archaic and harmful”, according to the union. The NUS also asserted in its report that ethnic minority drug-taking is “interconnected with the oppression/s they face”, and claimed “lesbian, queer and nonbinary students… reported greater positive impacts on their health from drug use”.
Noting that methodology differences were likely behind the contrast between the studies, HEPI pointed out that while the NUS survey targeted specific groups such as ‘Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK Channels’ and Release — a charity urging an end to punishment for drugs possession — the latest research weighted results to reflect the body of full-time undergraduate students.