Emma Shanks caught up with a sample of mainly students ahead of University of Manchester’s Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week, to talk about the ongoing issue of substance abuse
It’s no secret that students love a big night out, but when does two or three drinks, or the occasional line, become cause for concern? In aid of the University of Manchester’s Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Week we spoke to some people about their own experiences, ranging from one-time users, continual consumers, to recovering addicts.
In many cases, drugs and alcohol were described as taken to satisfy a craving for “curiosity”. Depending on the strength of the substance, it was agreed that they can “make going out a more intense, special and exciting experience — you feel more involved and connected to everyone around you”. For others, they give reason to relax and “unwind after a week at university doing coursework and exams”.
Few confessed to being worried about their consumption and believed that, despite occasional bad experiences, being well-informed made their intake safer. One claimed that “micro-dosing LSD actually improves my work”, while another felt that these products can often “have a positive impact on my mental health by changing me to be more positive about myself, the world and others”.
One individual however, whose first encounter with alcohol was at home around the age of fourteen, explained how such experience can spiral out of control — “I was probably the last to know I had a problem”.
“I had a high powered and stressful job and I was in a relationship with another user”, which came to an end after ten years due to addiction. “I have not had a drink or touched drugs now for many years but the consequences of my behaviour have had a lasting impact on my life, particularly from a career or financial point of view”.
Everyone agreed that drugs and alcohol consumption is a worsening problem for young people, particularly students facing a new-found “freedom from parental control”, but the ideas offered to improve the situation were very varied. While some emphasised a need for improved education, with “realistic and non-biased campaigns at school and university”, others felt that it was a lost cause: “I don’t think it would make much difference anyway — young people will always experiment and a proportion will always get into trouble for it.”
Most judged drinking alcohol as the gateway into substance abuse, as did the majority agree on the benefits of legalising all other drugs “to take away the cool-factor” and “allow quality checks and taxes while reducing crime.” In doing so, despite potential short-term spikes, “the no-doubt huge government revenue generated could be spent on treatment centres for those who do develop a problem”.
“It would make it easier for researchers to undertake trials on the impacts of drug use” and, by removing the taboo, we could move one step closer to creating a safe space “for people to speak comfortably” on the issue. After all, “drug use is a health issue — criminalisation only targets the most vulnerable and desperate people in society”. When invited to give advice to someone currently suffering from addiction, one person said “just accept you can’t handle it yourself and get help”.
For more information on the week’s events, check out the Facebook page.