Whilst the University of Manchester does not condone the use of illegal drugs or the misuse of prescription drugs, we acknowledge that some students may choose to use or try them whilst at university. It is paramount that if our students choose to engage in any risky behaviour that they are aware of the dangers in order to make informed choices and have the opportunity to greatly reduce the risk via easy access to education and support. Therefore, as an institution, the University believes a harm reduction stance is in the best interests of our student body, as it reduces barriers to accessing support and advice.
The best tools to fight addiction and death from drugs are education and treatment. However, students are currently disincentivised from accessing these existing services at the University when they have to admit that they have, and might continue to take, illegal substances. A zero-tolerance policy adds to the harmful and damaging stigma that prevents students from accessing the plethora of support available on campus, fearing being removed from their course or accommodation. Student welfare is the top priority in a harm reduction policy.
A harm reduction stance does not mean antisocial or criminal behaviour is acceptable. Any such misconduct will continue to be addressed robustly through the Student Disciplinary Regulations. Substance use is not to be regarded as the same as being involved in the supply of illegal drugs. Any student found to be involved in the supply of illegal drugs will be referred to Greater Manchester Police for consideration of criminal prosecution.
Alcohol and other drugs increase the risk to students’ short- and longer-term physical and mental health, academic studies and relationships. Additionally, future career prospects can be damaged if students are involved in criminal activities. We will never eradicate recreational drug use at university, just like the world at large, but what we can do is help to lessen suffering in young lives through effective harm reduction education and removing any stigma in seeking support for substance use and misuse.
Whilst we work on developing a formal harm reduction policy, we want to remind students that support is available on campus, such as the SU Advice Service‘s harm reduction support. With comprehensive training from Change Grow Live, the Advice Service offers a safe space for confidential support, resources, drug testing kits, and direct referals to specialist support. Furthermore, the Counselling Service hosts weekly drop-ins from Eclypse, a free and confidential drug and alcohol service for young people under 25 and families in Manchester. Students can book in to speak to an advisor every Wednesday from 1 – 4PM.
This announcement comes as a direct result of the grassroots campaign work from the Students For Sensible Drug Policy Manchester’s ‘Just Say Know‘ campaign. To find out more about their work and have your say involved in the next-steps of policy changes, join SSDP Manchester.