Drug use is nothing new in university culture, but recently the UUK (Universities UK – an advocacy board representing 140 universities and places of higher education) has set up a new taskforce to tackle the issue.
The UUK has set up a partnership with other higher education bodies such as Independent HE, GuildHE, and United Students to create what they term a ‘common approach’ to handling drug use in universities. The goal of the partnership is to attempt to reduce the harm that drug use is causing within universities, and to create more effective ways of addressing the supply of drugs.
Why Has The Task Force Been Created?
Other than attempting to reduce the amount of drug use within universities, as well as halt or decrease the supply of drugs to students, there has also been growing concerns within higher education institutions that the current level of drug use among students may negatively impact people’s mental health, their ability to learn effectively, their future job prospects, their chances of developing future drug addictions, and of course, the concern that some students might die as a result of drug misuse.
What Will the Task Force Do?
The task force will aim to demonstrate that student drug use should be considered a ‘welfare and health issue’, whereby students realise that drug misuse can lead to problems with their ability to learn. It can lead to the development of mental health conditions, and it can cause a range of other problems for them as well. It will seek to make these considerations clear to students, so that they are fully aware of the dangers of drug misuse.
The task force will attempt to create a clear understanding of how drug use should be dealt with according to the law and various policies on drug use within the UK. It will also seek to provide a clearer understanding of what the supply and demand of drugs within universities looks like, and this should help to provide a better understanding of how to tackle the issue.
The task force will also carry out surveys that examine the current approaches to drug misuse among the UK student population, in order to highlight the positives and negatives of the current approaches, and then attempt to address the problems that exist.
Finally, the task force will act according to ‘evidence-led sector guidance’, meaning that they will take action in accordance with the feedback and information they receive from the various different stakeholders involved, including teachers, students, parents, etc.
The key members of the task force as well as the chief executive of Unite Students made the following statements in relation to the task force.
Professor Dame Carol Black stated that her own review of the student drug use issue revealed a surge in the amount of recreational drugs being used by students at university. She stated that the UK government has effectively responded to this problem with the introduction of its 10 year strategy for drug handling, which included a commitment to addressing the drug use among students, and reducing this number. She continued that she was happy to see that this initiative was being put into effect, and was intrigued by the findings and then used this information to better tackle the issue.
Professor Nic Beech stated that he was very happy to be the lead of this new task force, emphasising the fact that student drug use is not often spoken about, and this is concerning considering how drugs can have a dramatic effect on student’s mental health, their ability to learn, and their future job prospects. He suggested that the launch of this initiative represented a commitment to tackling the problem with an appropriate and developed approach that would ensure the safety of students, whilst also helping universities to better understand and tackle the problem.
Richard Smith, Chief Executive of Unite Students, stated that since Unite Students is the go-to student accommodation provider within the UK (the leading institution), it must prioritise the welfare and wellbeing of students at university.
Richard Smith then stated that Unite Students was proud to be a part of the new task force, suggesting that Unite Students is keen to fully understand how the supply and extend of drug within UK universities is affecting students in terms of their mental wellbeing, together with their overall progress and ability to be successful during their studies.
The UUK and Unite Students will co-publish a report they have been working on later this year, with the research having been collected from a UK student survey, as well as other sources. This report will reportedly help the UUK to create guidelines and best practices for how student drug use should be tackled in universities and places of higher education across the UK.
Getting Help For A Drug Addiction
There are many different forms of drug addiction treatment, as well as resources and advice that students can gain access to with ease, should they be facing an addiction to drugs. Addiction can be tough, and it’s a journey that will often include several steps that users must take in order to overcome their addiction.
Residential treatment programmes offer people the opportunity to receive all, or the majority, of their treatment within one medical facility. This can be advantageous if the user is heavily dependent on drugs, and would benefit from physically being away from environments that might increase the likelihood of them experiencing cravings for drugs, or being tempted to use again.
In addition, it can also simply be more convenient, since everything that the patient may require can be available in one place, whenever the patient may need it. However, given that rehab can take a considerable amount of time, this could potentially interfere with studies.
Therefore, students might want to use a combination of inpatient and outpatient treatment programmes, in order to help them to manage their studies, whilst also being able to overcome their drug addiction.
Students could, for instance, choose to undergo the detoxification programme in a residential treatment centre, after which they could choose to take part in weekly sessions at an NHS clinic or medical facility (perhaps even a medical centre on campus), which would give the student the ability to manage their schedule effectively, without stress, and allowing them to safely and gradually work on their recovery process.