University is usually the first time that young people will have lived away from their parents. For some, that new freedom from parental constraint - coupled with opportunities for recreational drug taking - can lead to experimentation. This is demonstrated by the fact that university students are almost twice as likely to have used an illegal drug in the last year compared with other people of the same age.
The university setting therefore provides an ideal opportunity to deliver educational information aimed at helping students stay safe - whether by abstinence, encouraging moderate use, or reducing the demand for so-called recreational drugs among young people.
The Staying Safe Programme (TSSP) is a documentary-style video education project which has been designed to reduce demand for drugs by deterring or delaying the onset of their use, preventing the transition to heavy or problematic use, and equipping students with the knowledge required to reduce the harms associated with the use of recreational drugs.
The programme, which is being piloted at The University of Manchester and the University of South Wales, was developed by experts in the fields of medicine, addiction, psychiatry, policing and sexual assault, alongside student and university welfare bodies. It is being backed by The Department of Health and Social Care’s £5 million Innovation Fund to reduce recreational drug use, and will be able to bid for further funding in the future.
Dr William Floodgate, Professor Judith Aldridge and Lydia Swann from The University of Manchester, and Professor Katy Holloway and Shannon Murray at the University of South Wales, are undertaking an evaluation of the programme with the aim of refining it and then rolling it out to other universities around the country.
Our project will refine a new evidence-based, harm reduction-focused drugs education programme which can be used at other universities across the UK. Its introduction at Manchester dovetails nicely with the University’s shift from a zero tolerance to a harm reduction approach to student drug use.
"TSSP has been designed to equip young adults with the knowledge required to reduce the harms associated with recreational drug use. We will use a range of methods to establish the appropriateness of the programme, its in-built assessment of learning, and its effects on the students who complete it."
"This is a really positive step towards expanding the evidence base on this important issue," said Professor Lucy Chappell, Scientific Advisor for the Department of Health and Social Care and NIHR Chief Executive Officer. "I hope that I look forward to seeing the outcomes of these projects."