In a move to ensure greater drug safety on campus, Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU) has become the first SU in the UK to offer kits to test for the contents of drugs to students.
For only £3 at the Union’s Advice Service students can buy a kit which can test for adulterants in drugs, using a colour changing substance that can be compared against a chart to find out what substances are really present, as part of the campaign ‘Test Your Drugs, Don’t Test Yourself’.
Each kit has tests for ecstasy and ketamine which flag up other foreign substances if they are present in the drug so as to alert the user if their drug contains a chemical other than what they were expecting, and are on offer at less than half of the retail price.
The movement to introduce these was achieved by the Newcastle arm of Students for Safer Drug Policy (SSDP), a nationwide organisation aiming to create “an open platform of discussion for drug-related issues and to develop sensible drug policies.” It recognises that unknown substances mixed in with drugs can often be more dangerous than the illegal substance itself.
“We aim to put the lives and wellbeing of young people first”, said Holly Robinson, SSDP President.
“Although drugs are illegal, statistics suggest lots of young people still use illegal drugs, and that the prevalence of this use is even higher within student communities.
“We recognise the safest way to take drugs is not to take drugs but, as some individuals will always choose to take them, we believe it is important to make information and services available to minimise the risks.”
Newcastle University reversed its zero-tolerance policy on drugs in 2015 after lobbying by SSDP. University management have welcomed the new, cheap testing kits, reinforcing that it is not condoning drug use but contributing to safety.
In recent weeks Manchester clubbers have been repeatedly warned to take extra care buying or taking drugs, following a number of incidents. Last week a 17-year-old died after taking a pink ‘Mastercard’ pill, which allegedly contains twice as much MDMA per tablet as normal. Only a few days later, two 21-year-olds were hospitalised by a red ‘Lego’ pill.