Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Cocaine + Alcohol = Cocaethylene

Drink and Drug News take a look at the winners of the Frank awards, which has been trying to educate students in Nottingham about the dangers of using cocaine and alcohol together:

The campaign’s overall intention – alongside alerting people to the dangers of cocaethylene – was to deglamourise the drug for its target audience. ‘The reality is that you’re in some khazi, snorting cocaine, hiding from the bouncers, and it’s really not very glamourous. It’s a grubby drug and its impact on the user and the people around them can be catastrophic. This isn’t about telling people what they should and shouldn’t be doing – it’s about offering information and provoking debate, producing information to help change attitudes and behaviour.

‘Young people experiment with drugs, whether it’s a rite of passage or whatever,’’ he continues. ‘People have to make their minds up – at no point in our leaflets does it say “you shouldn’t take cocaine”. The fact is that drugs meet people’s needs – this campaign is trying to understand what’s in it for the user as well. If the first time people took cocaine it made them feel terrible no one would take it, so it’s very much about trying to strike a balance and hopefully this has. Certainly the feedback is that it did.’

Read the whole story here and download the resources from here.

Filed under: alcohol, cocaine, university

Tee-Total at University

The BBC take a look at those who choose not to drink when they’re at university:

And the teetotallers should take heart from the knowledge that they are not alone. A study last year at Lancaster University noted that there was evidence the number of teetotallers aged 16-24 was rising.

Of course, even for most people who are vehemently against binge drinking, the norm is drinking in moderation rather than giving up completely. But for a lot of student teetotallers it is difficult to envision going on a night out, having a drink or two and then stopping. And then there are those who simply do not enjoy even the smallest dose.

By contrast the Guardianlook at the consequences of a film made of students in Gloucester who appear to have been involved in an initiation ceremony. 

You might remember that universities appear to be trying to use behaviour contracts with their students which ask the students to “avoid academic and general misconduct”.

Filed under: university

Website logs student drinking habits

E-Health Europe

Health researchers at the University of Leeds have developed a website that encourages students to keep track of their drinking.

Unitcheck encourages young people to check how many units they are consuming, how this affects their health, and how their drinking compares with that of their peers.

You can see the website this story is about here. Looking at the FAQ it’s clear that the site isn’t aimed at those under 18, but they do say elsewhere:

A new project is about to be launched which will allow Leeds Sixth form students access to Unitcheck. If you are interested in finding out further information please contact the Unitcheck team (unitcheck@leeds.ac.uk)

Filed under: alcohol, university,

The party’s over

The Guardian:

Heard the one about the student who gets so drunk that he swallows his door key? Or about the undergraduate so pissed that he breaks into a stranger’s home thinking it’s his friend’s? You have?

What about the one about the student who doesn’t drink at all? Thought not.

It doesn’t fit with the stereotype or the current hype about “binge-drinking youths”, but there’s now significant evidence to show more university students are turning teetotal than have done so for 10 years.

The research comes from an analysis of the General Household Survey, the NHS and other sources and has been published in Health Education Journal and suggests it’s not just university students that are turning away from alcohol:

There are more teetotallers aged 11 to 17 now, too. The number who don’t drink rose from 36% in 1990 to 46% in 2006.

Measham says: “There is evidence to show that, in recent years, this heavy sessional consumption by youth and young adults is starting to level off.”

As we know the problem is that amongst those who do drink there are a proportion who are drinking more alcohol.

Filed under: alcohol, university

The fine print on serving alcohol at universities

The authors of the Nudge blog ask:

Why do bars serve peanuts and pretzels? It is because they are cheap? No. It is because they are salty, and salty foods make you thirsty. (Read the abstract of a paper about women, salty food, and alcohol here.) At the University of Chicago there is a twist on this relationship between brackish finger food and alcohol. Student groups that want to hold events that serve alcohol must agree to guidelines that include the following restriction: “Adequate quantities of non-salty food must be served.”

I wonder if the NUS and their affiliated unions have any similar policies?

Filed under: alcohol, university

Cocaine found at university bars | Bristol

The BBC:

Drugs testing by students at the University of Bristol has suggested cocaine is used at most of its bars.

Journalists for the college newspaper, Epigram, used swabs to reveal traces of the drug at six of the seven hall bars they tested.

But news features editor Georgia Graham said it did not necessarily indicate widespread drug use.

Filed under: illegal drugs, university,

Don’t criminalise my students for smoking cannabis, Mr Brown – Birmingham

Writing in the Birmingham Post Chris Game, a lecturer at the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham, decries the intention to reclassify cannabis.  He argues:

In short, recreational use of cannabis and to a lesser extent ecstasy and amphetamines is today part of the range of behaviours – sex, drinking alcohol, smoking, diet, exercise – that most young people regard as normal and about which they have personal choices.

Drug advice, however, is made harder for university authorities by the general demonisation of any and all ‘drugs’ and drug users by the media and society at large, and by the wretched ABC system that treats them all – except, of course, alcohol and tobacco – with zero tolerance.

Students are understandably hesitant to admit doing something that they know has officially to be regarded as illegal.

See also:

Filed under: cannabis, classification, university,

Behaviour contracts for students

I’m a bit uncertain about whether this BBC report is our territory, but it looks like it:

University students are facing “legalistic” contracts when they begin their studies – which can include requirements on dress and behaviour.

Teenagers do not realise what is in these lengthy documents, says the adjudicator of student complaints.

I’ve been to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education’s annual report where there’s more detail on the issue, but it’s still not entirely clear to me whether drug and alcohol misuse would be covered:

Typically, the student contract contains terms covering the issues that tend to be referred to the OIA in complaints – discipline, accommodation, bursaries, computing and so on.

Later the report sets out the sorts of responsibilities the contracts cover which led me to think this was something we’d be interested in:

A contract usually set out the university’s responsibilities by way of teaching hours, provision of facilities and student support, while student responsibilities were to attend, submit work on time, avoid academic and general misconduct, pay fees and use support services

Further reading:

Filed under: university, ,

Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Among First-year College Students

A paper from The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention in the US on the issues around drinking and drug use in the first year of college:

Although any new undertaking is exciting because of the opportunities it may bring, the transition to college life also brings new pressures and uncertainties. From the shelter of home, young people emerge into a new culture, with a new environment for success. Here they are their own masters, often far from the vigilance of parents and the strictures of tightly scheduled school days. As they take this step toward independence, they face the temptation to celebrate their newfound freedom, test limits, and perhaps escape from new pressures through alcohol and other drugs.

This guide addresses three questions:

  1. How serious is the problem of alcohol and other drug use among fi rst-year students?
  2. What developmental and environmental factors make the fi rst year of college a time of greater vulnerability?
  3. How can prevention professionals help students successfully negotiate the sometimes perilous transition from high school to college life?

Filed under: university, USA,

‘Taking drugs regularly is normal’

The Times on student drug use:

Students take drugs. As headlines go, this is probably up there with “Dog bites man”. But it is the way that many take drugs, and the volume, that may well put the fear of God into their parents. The drill for a night can routinely be “cocktailing” – Ecstasy while getting ready to go out, more Es and MDMA powder while out, then chilling with ketamine, the horse tranquilliser, before bed.

If you think this sounds histrionic, think again. Though it is impossible to quantify exactly how many students are now “using”, anecdotal evidence suggests that drugs are more easily available within the university population than ever. The 2006-07 British Crime Survey estimates that nearly half of 16 to 24-year olds have used one or more illicit drugs in their lifetime, 24.1 per cent have used one or more in the last year and 14.3 per cent in the last month.

One of the things that strikes me reading these paragraphs is that there are different understands of what “normal” means.

I wonder if we asked the student population to estimate how many of their peers had ever used illegal drugs, or had used them in the last month whether we’d get anything like the same sort of picture.

Certainly those I’ve spoken to about normative messages suggest that young people regularly over estimate the number of their peers that are “at it”, and the theory then goes that this creates a sense of permission for young people to use drugs.

You’ll remember that we covered the evidence base for normative messages changing behaviour here.

Further reading:

Filed under: university

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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July 2021