Discover the importance of drug awareness and education and how this can take place, with examples from universities and students' unions.
A university and students’ union can organise and hold events with a focus on drugs to educate students. Such events could include a drugs Q&A where students can listen to information associated with drugs, workshops that students can attend to discuss and ask questions about drugs, but also where students can be educated and informed about harm-reduction.
In terms of sports events, a university and students’ union can ensure that drug use is considered, this can be done by including in a code of conduct that drug use will not be permitted prior to or during the event, meaning that it is deterred.
Running engaging events and/or campaigns regarding drugs can be a very beneficial way to reach and engage with a large number of students to increase drug awareness and education, encouraging them to make informed choices around drugs.
The universities and students’ union’s that we work with regularly organise and run their own events and/or campaigns in this regard, see examples below.
University of Leeds and Leeds University Union
• Wellbeing event reps were introduced, along with additional staff attending the Leeds Ball event (a large annual end of year ball with 6,000 guests) to offer support ad intervention services at the event.
• The university also participates in the Christie Championships (a tri-university sports event), they introduced a code of conduct for the societies/groups taking part to sign and adhere to, within which it states that possession, use or being under the influence of social drugs and/or performance enhancing drugs at the event is strictly prohibited. As a result of this, the event had almost no operation issues stemming from an unhealthy alcohol culture as was previously the case.
Keele University and Keele University Students' Union
• Keele University organised and ran a Harm Reduction Month campaign wherein they aimed to raise awareness of types of drugs and their effects along with to raise awareness of support available for substance misuse issues. All Keele University students were reached via email, social media and physical presence of stands, and communications were targeted to 2,800 student residents living in university halls of accommodation. It was found that 745 students actively engaged with the activities during this campaign.
• Keele University also ran ‘Exam Plus’ wherein activities were organised for students to attend during exam periods with the aim of stress reduction and the promotion of wellbeing, which may prevent students seeking to use substances to reduce stress and/or manage wellbeing. The activities available included origami, ask the experts, tote bag decorating, late night craft and chat, clay workshop, hand massages, board games, meditation and mindfulness, yoga, understanding and dealing with stress, relaxation activities, anxiety and low mood session, and more.
UWE (Bristol) and The Students' Union at UWE
• The students’ union successfully ran a video campaign titled ‘Let’s Talk About Drugs’ to encourage discussion around substance use whilst educating students.
These videos were a targeted drug harm reduction campaign and an example of proactive communications. Within these videos, their Senior Drug and Alcohol Practitioner, along with other staff, discussed some of the topics, this allowed students to visually recognise who they can go to for information and/or support, being confident that they are reaching out to an appropriate person. Along with the video, they included detailed written information regarding the particular drug, also where and how students can access support. Each of the videos had a specific topic, for example cocaine or ketamine, meaning that students can search for and access the video(s) most relevant to them if and when they would like to learn more. These videos are accessible via Youtube and the students’ union website.
This campaign has enabled the university and students’ union to deliver drug education to students in a relatable way and the videos are accessible at any time and place.
• Arranged and held a virtual event called ‘All About Drugs Q&A in collaboration with Bristol SU’.
The event was running in collaboration with the Students’ Union’s Student Living Officer, UWE Bristol Senior Drugs and Alcohol Practitioner, and Club and Festival Harm Reduction Lead at Bristol Drugs Project. It was a live Q&A session on drugs including alcohol and harm reduction. The team gathered questions from students, answered them and signposted students to helpful resources if they partake in drug and alcohol use. Within the session, taking drugs in combination with other substances and the impacts this may have, referring TRIPSIT (a very valuable webpage and app that allows students to input different combinations of substance to see what combinations may be harmful and in what ways) was heavily discussed. Following the event the video was released on the students’ union’s website, social media channels and their YouTube channel, as a result it was accessible to a large number of students and could be re-watched as and when needed.
• A ‘Drugs including Alcohol Student Workshop’ was organised with Drug Awareness and Harm Reduction Sessions taking place also. The intention was to offer students current drugs including alcohol awareness and harm reduction advice and information, along with a safe space to ask questions and consider how to keep themselves and others safe.
• The UWE SPACED team (UWE’s in house drug and alcohol service) at UWE Wellbeing attend key events in the welcome programme to raise awareness of their service available to students and information on drugs and alcohol use. They attended the fresher’s fair and used a numerous engagement tools to capture the attention of and communicate with students.
Some of the engagement tools used include:
1. Drugs & Effects Wheel – Students encouraged to look at effects wheel and choose where certain substance would fit in the drug wheel categorisation.
2. Drugs Box – the educational drugs box provides visual examples of drugs which they have to guess what they are
3. Drug Combination Chart – Spaced uses TripsitDrug Combination Chart as an engagement tool and conversation starter around mixing drugs (including alcohol).
4. Unit cups & Harm Reduction information – 100 unit cups provided to students –including Cocaethylene leaflet, SPACED Harm reduction Leaflet, condoms