Harm Reduction approach to student drug use

What is the issue conference is looking at? 

Harm Reduction approach to student drug use 


Which Students’ Unions have been involved in proposing? 

Heriot-Watt University Student Union 


What’s the issue and how does it affect students? 

Drug use is increasing across Scotland’s students and students across the UK according to the ‘Take the Hit’ NUS report. Across the tertiary education sector in Scotland, current policies for student drug use are punitive, a punishment-first method where monetary fines are issued if a student is caught in possession of drugs.  

These fines place unnecessary harm on students when support and help are needed. Especially when it has been shown that punitive measures are the main reason students do not seek help with drug use, which has resulted in fatalities previously. 


What changes would we like to see in society to change this? 

There needs to be a multiple-pronged approach involving harm reduction policies, de-stigmatising drug use, and an increased budget for mental health services across Scotland. 

In society, we want to see an approach to manage the drug crisis in this country.  

These are all changes and suggestions backed by the Help Not Harm campaign and were highlighted by the Scottish Government Drugs Task Force. 


Impact Assessment 

How does it impact FE students / Apprentices?   

This can impact students from any background. Still, young students, often apprentices, can be more vulnerable in life. They need to know there is support at their educational institution and that they will not be punished for seeking that support. 


How does it impact on International Students, Postgraduate Students, Part Time and Mature Students? 

This policy will benefit all students who are impacted by drug harm. International students, in particular, also appear more likely to suffer from drug harm and the harms of university policies than other students. There must be efforts to correct this and change policies, so these students are catered for. 


How does it impact on black, disabled, LGBT+, trans and women students? 

Students in these categories are much more likely to experience drug harm, according to the ‘Take the Hit’ survey published by the NUS. These students also show a higher percentage in a similar study of Irish students at university. It is vital these students are supported. 


Does this apply across the UK or specifically in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland? 

This motion would suggest this as a blanket policy across all unions in the United Kingdom. Some student unions are already implementing harm reduction policies, such as the University of Stirling Student Union, which also provides drug testing kits. 

It is assumed that the action proposed by this motion could be implemented within the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament. It should be noted, however, that criminal laws relating to the misuse of drugs are reserved to the UK Parliament and would require UK-wide campaigning. 



Amendment 1 - PASSED

This motion would mandate NUS to campaign for honest drug safety information, and work with the Help Not Harm campaign alongside other organisations campaigning for a harm reduction approach, advocate for change in policy at a university and college level, and establish a fund to provide drug testing kits to students.