The Students Union (SU) has announced that they will be offering free drug testing kits for the first semester of this year. The SU’s activities and development officer, Camila Florencia Rusailh, made this announcement on Instagram, with the kits being handed out along with the help of the Students on Sustainable Drug Policy (SSDP).
Manuela Memi, the main coordinator of the SSDP, told Fuse FM that the kits will be available throughout the semester on the first floor of the SU building.
Rusailh’s post mentioned that on the 13th of September the SU’s Executive Team met with the Senior Leadership Team to discuss the University of Manchester’s (UoM) zero tolerance drug policy. She believes the current policy is outdated and patronising, with excessive punishments that stigmatise drugs. As the policy states:
“All illicit drugs are banned across campus, […] ResLife have no a strict zero-tolerance policy towards drugs and the University undertakes random checks using canine detection support services. Students in the past have been caught with these substances and were consequently expelled from halls.”Manchester Accommodation: Alcohol and Drug Awareness
Rusailh believes that this policy is sub-par.
She said, “Suspensions, evictions, and surveillance are not the answer to a welfare issue, and have had no measurable success in addressing the real issue at hand.”
UoM is also believed to provide a lack of advice and support to the students. Further to this, an article by The Tab has previously mentioned that the university only spends £1000 on awareness, per student in the last year.
As a reaction to the lack of awareness and excessive punishments, the SU and Student for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) have partnered up. Memi told Fuse FM that the SSDP are an organisation “focused on drug education, drug harm reduction and changing the policy to a more sensible policy based less on punishing people who use drug and more supporting and rehabilitation.” Together they would be providing free drug testing kits to students for the first semester. This campaign wishes to reduce the harm of drugs and provide education on rather than stigmatising them, with Rusailh saying:
“Harm reduction does not condone drug taking, it accepts (for better or woser) that legal and illegal drug use is part of our world, and takes steps to minimise its effects, rather than ignore or condemn them like the university’s current zero tolerance policy.”Camila Florencia Rusailh – Activities and Development officer
An article posted recently by Jess Walmsley on MDMA at Parklife has suggested that drugs currently being sold may have some adulterated and high-potency substances. Memi mentions the dangers of these substances and wants these kits to reduce the harm that such substances could do to students as they could test the legitimacy of the drug that they have been offered. In turn, she believes that the kits would end up increasing awareness and education on drug use.
In 2018, the National Union of Students (NSU) conducted a study, which showed that 2 in 5 students have used drugs. According to the study, students have been given sub-standard education on drugs and substance abuse. Given all this, this is why the SU feels it’s important to spread more awareness on drugs and calls for a change in the University’s policy.