Drug use less prevalent among students than thought, poll suggests

Drug use less prevalent among students than thought, poll suggests

A survey of illegal drug use among students has suggested it may not be as prevalent as indicated by earlier research, with almost three-quarters of those who took part claiming not to have used drugs at university.

The small-scale survey conducted on behalf of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), a thinktank, raised the possibility that students may be more disapproving of drugs than previously thought.

Of the 1,000 undergraduates who took part in the poll, 71% said they had not taken drugs, 88% thought drugs caused mental health problems, and 68% believed they led to problems for society and contributed to criminality.

More than 60% said they would like their university to take a tougher stance on students who repeatedly use drugs, and the same proportion said they would like to see tougher action taken against drug dealers in higher education.

In April, a study by the National Union of Students and the drugs information charity Release involving 3,000 students painted a somewhat different picture of student drug use, with 56% having used drugs at some point, while 39% said they were currently using substances.

The latest survey, sponsored by Hepi and the University of Buckingham, and conducted by the research company YouthSight, found one-quarter of those who took part in the survey had taken drugs in the past year.

Male students were more likely to have used drugs, with 68% of male respondents saying they had not used drugs, compared with 74% of female students. Of those who had used drugs, 6% said it was to cope with exam difficulties. About 40% said there was a problem with drugs at their university, but marginally more, 44%, said there was not.

Hepi claimed the NUS/Release survey was targeted at specific groups such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK, which may have influenced its findings. Nick Hillman, the Hepi director, said the latest survey was “an important corrective to some of the wilder ideas about today’s students. They are more hardworking and less hedonistic than is often supposed”.

Jess Bradley, the NUS trans officer, defended the union’s research. “While we do not claim our survey in April was a prevalence study or aimed to represent the views of all students, it is important to recognise almost three times more students participated in ours than in the survey released today by Hepi,” Bradley said.

“The survey by Hepi is purely opinion-based, whereas we also sought to understand students’ experiences of drug use and the impact that has on their lives. Our survey was made available to all students, through all of our channels. Not just specific groups that hold a particular view on student drug use.”

Guardian

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