Following on from our ongoing Students and Alcohol survey and last year’s Students and Drugs survey, this 2021-22 Students, Alcohol and Drugs survey is part of research completed as part of the Alcohol Impact and Drug and Alcohol Impact programmes. The programme is a whole-institution approach and embeds the social norms of responsible drinking on our higher education campuses. It refocuses the conversation on drugs to be about reducing harm, and building healthier, safer, more productive student communities. This involves action by local partnerships of students’ unions, universities and community organisations. The programme includes this annual ‘Students, Alcohol and Drugs’ survey, designed to identify students’ relationships with alcohol and drugs at institutions that take part in the programme and also UK students more widely. Additionally, it provides a means to understand changes in attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol and drugs.
A total of 1631 responses were achieved in 2021-22 through promotion of the survey locally by universities and students’ unions. The survey was promoted by universities and students’ unions participating in the Drug and Alcohol Impact and Alcohol Impact programmes however the survey was also promoted by NUS to students in the TOTUM database.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the time the survey was completed in – against the ongoing pandemic but restrictions easing and life slowly resuming to pre-Covid, respondents are unlikely to be experiencing ‘normal’ student life as it was pre-Covid, yet probably experienced a significantly greater deal of freedom than the respondents who completed the surveys the previous year.
The research covers the following issues:
- Patterns and practices of alcohol consumption/student drug use
- Perceptions of alcohol consumption/student drug use on campus
- Non-drinkers/drug users
- Impacts of alcohol consumption/drug use
- Reducing impact through responsible consumption/drug advice, support and university drug policy
- Safety and Covid-19
Key findings include:
- Respondents overestimate drug use amongst their peers, with 55% respondents reporting that prior to starting university they thought students used drugs occasionally, and since starting university 56% say they think students use drugs occasionally. Only 13% of survey respondents reported currently using drugs.
- Despite perceptions of fairly high levels of drug use, this isn’t always seen as problematic or culturally embedded at their place of study with 51% saying they don't have a problem with students taking drugs recreationally, 31% say student drug use isn't as problematic as is widely thought and 46% disagreeing that taking drugs is a part of university culture.
- The main reasons cited behind drug use are recreation (61%), enhancing social interactions (23%) and boredom (22%).
- Cannabis was reported as the most frequently used drug, with 11% of respondents indicating that they use it every day.
- The majority of drug users say they know what to expect from the drugs they use (81%), but less than two thirds are certain on the content (59%).
- A third of respondents don't know if their place of study has a drugs policy (35%).
- 43% say they feel confident that if they turned to their university for support with drug use that it would be dealt with appropriately.
- Respondents who currently use or have previously used drugs say that it has helped them make new friends (43%) but has led to missed university class commitments (26%) and taking risks with personal safety (19%).
- Before going to university, 50% of respondents thought students got drunk most of the time.
- The majority of respondents think that drinking and getting drunk is part of university culture (81%) and over half report drinking alcohol more than once a week (53%).
- Nearly two thirds of students drink at home or at a friend’s house before going out for the night (61%).
- Around half of students think that getting drunk will ensure they have a good night out (51%), but 78% say they don’t have to get drunk to have a good night out.
Significant changes from 2020-21 year:
- Students still overestimate drug use, but less so – 85% said that after starting university they thought students used drugs in 2020-21 compared to 56% in 2021-22. However, only 13% reported using drugs in both years.
- Top reported reasons for drug use were recreation, stress relief and boredom in2020-21 compared to recreation, enhance social interactions and boredom this year.
- In 2020-21, 17% of respondents said that taking drugs led to missed university commitments the next day compared to 26% this year.
- The percentage of students that think that getting drunk will ensure they have a good night out has increased from 38% in 2020-21 to 51% this year. Additionally, 61% drink at home or a friend’s house before going out compared to 43% in 2020-21.