u s l o h & alco
01 6 2 y e rv
12th January 2016
Editorial What is your age?
What year are you in?
The Concrete Drugs and Alcohol Survey is a yearly affair. Drugs and alcohol form an important part of university life, whether you take them, or are affected by them, so it makes sense that we try to provide an accurate picture of that side of university life. Previously, the supplement had been a statisticians dream, and whilst this year will still have lots of information, we have room for people to add their opinions, and tell us why they do what they do. They offer opinion and insight that might challenge your own views: give them a read, you might be surprised. Concrete neither condemns nor condones the views found inside, and we would never seek to judge based on choices. We hope you enjoy the supplement, and would like to thank the 439 of you that took part in the survey. Sam McKinty News Editor
How Nightline can help you Sean Harbottle External coordinator, Norwich Nightline
What is your gender?
Whether you’re a regular user or completely teetotal, drugs are always there at uni. And whether you feel you or your friends are addicted, or you’re able to control your intake, they’ll always have some sort of effect on your experience there. Here at UEA, we’re lucky to have a dedicated night service that supports students who are struggling with drugs in any way. Of course we’re lucky to have a 24/7 security service, and our Links service on LCR nights to ensure the physical wellbeing of each student. I’m fortunate enough to work for Norwich Nightline, a student listening service which helps with the emotional wellbeing of students. Our service works on CANNN principles: being confidential, anonymous, non-advisory, non-directive and non-judgemental. This basically means that the call comes down to you - however much you want to disclose, however much you want to talk. We act to let you talk through your problems in a safe space without fear of judgement. In fact, a significant percentage of those who drop in or call us are involved with drugs in some way: whether they’re looking after a friend under the influence, coming to terms with the possibility of addiction, or even just using a bit of Dutch courage to talk about issues that have been affecting them for a while. As a confidential and non-judgemental service, we aim to make sure you never feel that there’s something you can’t talk about. We’re there to listen every night from 20:00 to 08:00- you can drop into our office on campus at Suffolk Terrace Block A, email, text, IM, Skype or call us about anything you’re through with drugs (and anything else). Stay safe, and give us a call if you need us, at 01603 503504.
Where to get help
0300 123 6600 www.talktofrank.com
01603 503504 norwich.nightline.ac.uk
12th January 2016
Smoking Do you smoke, either regularly, socially or infrequently?
ANALYSIS Sam Mckinty Smokers at UEA are relative few and far between, with just 169 (39%) of the 439 students that took the survey admitting to smoking either regularly, socially or infrequently. Of those that don’t consider themselves to smoke within these degrees of frequencies (260, 59%), 62% (167) had smoked a cigarette at some point in their lives, with 36.6% having never tried a cigarette. 1.1% of the 268 students that don’t smoke, regularly, infrequently of socially, are unsure of whether they have tried a cigarette. This represents a fairly significant change from the 2015, when we last completed this survey, where 71% of students admitted to smoking a cigarette at some point in their lives. In addition, the amount of cigarettes that regular smokers consume has changed, reflecting a changing landscape of smoking habits at UEA. Although one to nine cigarettes per day remained the modal category of the number of cigarettes smoked, there has been a resurgence in the number of people smoking between ten and 19 per day. In 2015, 92% of regular smokers
Young people more susceptible to “thrill” of smoking
What kind of smoker are you? One-off 20.6%
How many cigarettes do you smoke in a typical day?
To try it out 12.4% Peer pressure 7.8% Group acceptance 10.1% Risk-taking behaviour 7.0% Parental influence 2.3% Stress release / relaxation 68.2% Addiction 27.1% I smoke when I drink 66.7% I enjoy it 50.4%
A new study has suggested that young people are internally hardwired to crave cigarettes. This means that, according to scientists, younger brains are more susceptible to the “thrilling” aspects of smoking. Using MRI scans, scientists at the University of California discovered that teenage smokers have a different response to seeing young people smoke than the rest of the population; A heightened brain response observed within the areas of the brain with high quantities of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The scientists suggested that this leads to a greater “reward” response within young people towards cigarettes. Dr Adriana Galvan, one of the co-authors of the study, told Reuters that, “we interpret
Why I smoke
Why do you smoke?
smoked between one and nine cigarettes per day, and just 7% smoked between ten and 19 per day. In 2016, however, 66% of students smoked between one and nine cigarettes per day, while 31% of students smoked between ten and 19. The reasons for smoking have also been subject to a number of changes. Last year, smoking whilst drinking was the main reason for smoking at UEA, with 58% of students pointing to this as a reason for smoking. Whilst drinking remains a significant reason for smoking, with 67% selecting this as a reason, stress release and relaxation has overtaken this as the main reason for students smoking at UEA, just, with 68% identifying this as the reason for their smoking habits. This could represent a renewed pressure students feel to achieve highly at university. Given the cuts to maintenance grants, it may be the case that students feel a renewed pressure work harder at university. One of the key similarities between our previous survey and this years is the worry of the health risks of smoking, with 63% of students last year, and 64% this year, worrying about the risks. This year, perhaps most significantly, the proportion of students wanting to quit smoking has increased, with 34% wanting to quit, compared with 16% last year. However, most students (39%) would suggest that they don’t smoke enough to warrant quitting.
This question allowed more than one response, so the percentages do not add up to 100
Flow Lacy There are few, if any, benefits of smoking. The health risks are severe -and economically it is a huge cost. Why would anyone do it? What is the point when it is impossible to see any positives among many dangers? Despite this, there are approximately ten million smokers in Great Britain, according to ash.org.uk, and I am one of them. I find it difficult to say why I smoke, I couldn’t justify it to anyone, and yet I justify it to myself on a daily basis. In fact, just before sitting down to write this I went to have a cigarette. I am a regular smoker, and have been from the age of about 16. Smoking is common among my peers, and stupidly, this always seems a sort of justification. If they do it, why shouldn’t I? And I have previously thought: “if they are doing it, why should I avoid it?” Out of those I hung out with at school, I was one of the last to start. Now, five years on, I am one of the biggest smokers of those that
these data to mean that the teen brain is more responsive to the rewarding and thrilling aspects of smoking, thus making craving more psychologically salient to them. The dopamine system undergoes significant maturation during the teenage years rendering the teen brain more reactive to rewards and perhaps more vulnerable to addictive substances”. The scientists involved with the study analysed the MRI scans of 39 teenagers and 39 adults, with the scans being taken after the participants in the study watched several brief video clips of actors smoking cigarettes. Nearly half the participants in the study were smokers, with those who reported that they were already smokers experiencing greater cravings when watching the videos. Although teenage smokers reported the same level of craving, this, according to Galvan, can be attributed to a “much briefer smoking history”. Teenagers may have also responded to the videos more because, during adolescence, parts of the brain that react to pleasuringseeking cues develop faster than those involved in impulse control; “teens are generally more interested in seeking out new, exciting and pleasurable experiences than adults, which could generalize to addictive behaviors like smoking” said Galvan. started before me, many of whom have since quit or now solely smoke socially. I have always said I would like to quit, and after university I honestly intend to do so. I have tried, but living with smokers, going out with smokers, working with smokers, makes this difficult; it has become part of my routine and I enjoy it. I think the social aspect is one of the most significant reasons as to why myself and others like me smoke, whether we want to or not. Nowadays, smoking has become a useful break for me. At the library I will go for a cigarette when I am bored, or when I get bored of a club, the smoking area is a way to break up a night out. I don’t think I can really justify ‘why’ I smoke, and yet it seems almost impossible to quit. It is, after all, an addiction, in my opinion not only a chemical and physical one, but a social one. If I could prevent my younger self from taking it up, I would, and I also feel that quitting is a goal I would like to stick too. Fundamentaly, I know the risks of smoking, and I still continue to do it. Perhaps if my friends, both at UEA and home, didn’t smoke, things would be different. However, this is where I am, and I guess I’m okay with it.
12th January 2016
Alcohol Do you drink?
How many units do you drink a week?
Responses from people who answered no begin on page 7
How often do you have an alcoholic drink? Daily 4.7% Every few days 43.8%
Do you think that you drink an acceptable amount?
An acceptable amount (56%) Neither an acceptable nor an unaccepatble amount (25%) An unaccepatble amount (16%) Unsure (7%)
Weekly 36.9% Rarely 16.7%
ANALYSIS Dan Falvey The results from this year’s Alcohol and Drugs survey not only reveal some interesting figures in regards to how much and how often students at UEA drink alcohol, but also highlight some growing trends at the university. 73.2% of participants drink under 21 units a week. The maximum weekly recommended units of alcohol for women is 21, and 28 for men. Consequently, the vast majority of students at UEA do not drink an excessive amount of alcohol in a week. Further, the large majority of students who drink at UEA believe that up to 21 units a week is an acceptable amount to drink in a week. However, despite the majority of UEA students drinking less than the weekly recommended units, the results of the 2015 Survey highlight that in recent years there has been a small increase in the number of students at UEA who drink more than once a week. Concrete’s 2014 Drugs and Alcohol survey indicated that the number of students studying at UEA who drank more than once a week dropped to a low of 45.4%. However, since then there has been a slow rise in this number, with this year’s Drugs and Alcohol survey indicating 48.4% of students drink alcohol more than once a week, representing a 1.2 percentage point increase on last year.
The trend showing a small rise in frequent drinking at UEA in recent years is in contrast to the number of young people drinking more than once a week nationally. A report by the Office of National Statistics last year indicated that between 2005 and 2013, the number of people “frequently drinking” fell by two thirds. The number of people who do not drink alcohol has also risen since last year, with the number of tee-total students more than doubling. While the results of Concrete’s 2015 Drugs and Alcohol survey highlighted that 2% of UEA students were tee-total, the results from this year’s survey indicate that number of people who do not drink alcohol is 4.5%. Almost all students (98.5%) who drink state that they have participated in drinking games and just over half believe that drinking games, increase the pressure to “perform” by drinking to excess. However, in spite of this, 62.8% of people believe that they themselves have not drank to impress others therefore implying that a significant number of people believe that while they are not peer pressured into drinking, they believe other people are. Given that these results clearly indicate that people believe drinking games peer pressure their friends to binge, it is interesting to note that the majority of students do not believe that this means their friends drink excessively as a whole, with 11% of respondents believing all of their friends drank acceptable amounts of alcohol and 44.8% believing the majority of their friends drank acceptable amounts.
Do you think that your friends drink an acceptable amount?
They all drink an acceptable amount (11%) The majority drink an acceptable amount (45%)
They drink neither an acceptable nor an unaccepatble amount (16%) The majority drink an unaccepatble amount (23%)
They all drink an unaccepatble amount (3%) Unsure (2%)
Has drinking had an effect on your degree?
12th January 2016
Alcohol What do you drink most often? Beer 22.8%
How often are you unable to remember what happened because of drinking?
Wine 20.3% Cider 13.0% Vodka 27.1% Whiskey 2.2% Gin 4.3% Rum 3.8% Alcopops 1.9%
When did you start drinking?
Drink less, Britain: it won’t kill you Meg Bradbury According to the first full new alcohol guidelines to be released since 1995, any level of drinking can put a person’s health at risk. Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s chief medical officer, has advised that no amount of alcohol consumption can be classed as “safe”, based on scientific evidence demonstrating that drinking even a relatively small volume can increase the risk of developing cancer, along with other associated health problems. As a result of this, the recommended number of units men are advised to consume per week has gone down from 21 to 14, bringing it in line with the recommended consumption for women; in case anyone thinks the women have got off lightly, expectant mothers are now being advised to avoid alcohol entirely, whilst previously, it was suggested pregnant women could safely consume one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week. For anyone who might be confused about the specifics, 14 units of alcohol is approximately the equivalent of: 14 single measures of spirits (37.5%); seven pints of average-strength lager (4%); nine and onethird 125ml glasses, seven 175ml glasses, or four and two-thirds 250ml of average-strength wine (12%). Obviously, the exact units will depend on the specific drink in question. Many people, no doubt, will be none too pleased with these new recommendations. Certainly, if you compare Britain’s new advised weekly intake to those of other countries around the world, it’s not difficult to see why. In the US, for example, the level is set at 22 units for men 12.3 for women; in Ireland, it is 21.2 and 15; in Spain, 35 and 21. In Japan, there is no recommended limit for women, and perhaps most incredibly, in France, there is no government guidance on levels of alcohol consumption at all. By contrast, Britain’s latest stance on the issue seems to verge on the puritanical. It could
also be argued that people will continue to drink as much as they have done, regardless of the recommended reduction. If you take smoking as a case study: we have now known for decades that smoking causes cancer, and is generally harmful to your health. Every year seems to bring a new bout of antismoking campaigns, featuring increasingly disturbing images of diseased lungs and children breathing in the smoke from their parent’s cigarettes. Yet people still smoke, because it is addictive, and because, by and large, we live our lives as we see fit. The same can be said about drinking; if this is true, then the impact of these new guidelines is likely to be negligible. Nonetheless, what for many people will be a knee-jerk reaction – ‘the state can’t tell me how to live my life!’ and the like – fails to take certain factors into account. It operates under the assumption that our actions only affect ourselves, which, of course, is not the case. Excessive drinking, and elements of the behaviour associated with it, can cause a lot of harm; drink driving is one particularly extreme example of this. That isn’t to say that everyone who binge-drinks will go on to drink and drive, or that these guidelines will eradicate drink driving nationwide, but if they turn out to play any role in bringing those statistics down, surely it will have been worth it? Similarly, whilst developing cancer as a result of drinking too much would not directly impact the health of anyone other than the individual, what about the emotional repercussions for those who love and care for them? Our principal responsibility may be to live our own lives, but we cannot exist in isolation; nor can we consider our decisions, and the effect they have on us, as entirely divorced from the people around us. According to Davies, the tougher new recommendations are not “scaremongering”; they are “fact, and hard science”, and it is her belief that many other countries will soon follow Britain’s example. It may well prove to be “hard” for some people, but the fact is, the guidelines have been adapted to fit with new research that shows alcohol to be more dangerous to our health than previously realised. As a consequence, you might find you’re now expected to drink less, but so what? It won’t kill you.
Do you feel that your health has ever suffered as a result of drinking?
12th January 2016
Alcohol Have you participated in drinking games?
Do you feel that drinking games increase the pressure to perform by drinking to excess?
Have you ever drunk to impress others?
My New Year’s: working for those drinks Sam Naylor Though I’d like to say that my New Year’s plans were extravagant and full of debauchery, akin to a F. Scott Fitzgerald-style fictional blow out, that scenario remains firmly in the fantastical. Even before my manager had asked me to work the bar on New Year’s Eve I had resigned my evening to a tame family gathering, perhaps watching a bit of Alan Carr or the London fireworks on the telly box (the festive period had torn my bank account to tatters anyway). At 18:00 on the 31st December, my arrived NYE bonanza began. Perhaps not all Gatsby dreams were dashed; the evening centred on a swanky black tie dining event, a world away from the country pub setting I was accustomed to. The restaurant was filled with people dressed in their best while happy drinkers brought the bar area to life with New Year frivolities. It wasn’t until the band started to play that the alcohol-induced jollities really began to get underway. Dancing and singing mingled with black tie sophistication producing an infectious form of happiness. I quickly began to realise that the combination of a universal reason to drink and lashings of libations made customers generous when ordering at the bar; my night was ignited with drinks being bought for me and horded
In defence of student drinking James Turner An article published in the Observer at the start of this year, described students shunning opportunities to be drunk seven nights a week in favour of, let’s say, more cultural and less sick-in-a-corner inducing activities. All too often, student drinking habits are ridiculed and slated in the media, much to the embarrassment of students up and down the country. However, according to the stats, this isn’t actually true. According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics, there has been a 40% increase in young adults saying no to alcohol between 2005 and 2013, and the proportion of 16-to-24-year-olds who drink has fallen by two-thirds. Now, I would never be so monstrous as to criticise people for not drinking, but let’s not pretend that the people that do drink are not so monstrous themselves. It’s perfectly acceptable to drink, and just because students drink more, we don’t automatically become the bane of the existence of the rest of society. Maybe, for us at UEA, that’s easier said
till a more appropriate time later on. Alcohol in all directions but not a drop to drink, yet. Ever-increasing drunkenness also saw smoke emanate from the centre of the pub while confused and concerned looks flashed across the faces of my co-workers. Pimm’s pitcherfull of water ready, I was prepared to tackle the flames only to discover that the locals had triumphed sending the ablaze Christmas reef out into the night. NYE crisis averted. One table turned a negative into a win when they arrived with only four out of six of their party. With the evening pre-booked they transformed a potential loss of £100 in no-show friends into £100 of drinks for the evening -it’s the only sensible British option after all. The general drinking trend for the night started with the more sophisticated and classy beverages: bottles of prosecco (and even champagne), red wine over £25 a bottle in value, with names I didn’t even attempt to pronounce, and the classic G&T with slimline tonic. This quickly descended into anything goes; prosecco was traded for shots of jager and bottles of wine gave way to vodka Redbull’s. New Year’s had arrived. The strike of 12 brought glasses of bubbly for the staff and dancing on both sides of the bar. Alcohol flowed far more freely while the volume of entertainment bred exponentially. than done. We live on a campus with a bar and nightclub situated on the same campus, so it’s difficult for us to cause much trouble for the non-student population of Norwich. Even with that in mind, it’s easy to see how people who don’t normally drink could be pressured to drink here at UEA, given the easy accessibility of a bar literally a stones-throw away. At universities in general, the prevalence of drinking among young people is always going to make life difficult for people that don’t drink. But, with all the best intentions, that’s not actually my, or anyone else that likes a drinks problem, so it’s only right that people who choose not to drink should have other events put on for them to ensure that they aren’t left out. All the same, people that do like to drink, and want to go to events that involve drinking throughout their time at university shouldn’t feel a responsibility to ensure that those that don’t drink have a good time. It’s difficult not to sound unpleasant in writing this, but ultimately I’m just looking for every one to have a good time. There’s nothing wrong, socially, with drinking too much, and to use people that don’t drink as an argument for drinkers to change their habits is unfair and wrong. Student drinking culture isn’t bad, it’s fine. There are people that behave badly when drunk, but there are plenty who don’t. It’s just down to the person.
Working on NYE was turning out to be enjoyable, and much less like work than expected. Fast forward to 02:00 and the story alters; the majority of happy customers had fled the scene, stumbling cheerily to their warm respective houses, but throughtout the night, the behaviour of certain individuals left something to be desired. As those who work in bars know, keeping to track of who to serve next remains the probably the most difficult thing, but that didn’t stop the punters voicing their anger the amount of time they’d been shouting, swearing, and being not particularly pleasant. As the end of the night loomed, the few stragglers that remained slurred and belched, nursing the dregs of their last orders; the multitude of empty glasses and the sheer
horror of the aftermath of the party began to come to realisation (though there was a saving grace in the form of twenty chicken nuggets from McDonalds and a chocolate milkshake topped up with Bailey’s). Would I have rather been on the other side of the bar, with friends, having a great time? Absolutely. But what I’ve seen from working this evening is that, for every person having a great time thanks to their alcohol, enjoying the company of their friends and family, there’s someone failing to have such a good time, and that could be for any number reasons. Was this the perfect way to see in 2016? Probably not. Was it the best way end 2015? Almost certainly. Any circumstance that allows you to understand why people behave as they do is worthwhile, and I’ll keep it in mind as I move back to UEA after Christmas for 2016.
Have your drinking habits changed since coming to UEA?
In what way?
12th January 2016
No, I don’t drink...
Why did you stop?
Did you used to drink?
I had a bad experience of drinkingons
I was worried about my health I never really enjoyed it I wanted to save moneyasons
Why do you not drink?
Have you ever tried an alcoholic drink?
I don’t like the taste of alcohol I want to save money Religious and/or moral reasons I’m worried about the impact on my health Other
Your thoughts and comments on alcohol
Been too hungover to submit work on time, not good.
Failed a year due to personal reasons and began drinking more to cope with the feeling of failure - became more isolated and depressed as a result.
I drank too much in my 1st and 2nd years of uni meaning I had to work harder during my 3rd to get the grades I wanted. A 1st is out of the question due to 2nd year.
When one of my friends was absolutely too drunk and couldn’t take care of himself, I looked after him, which added another level to our friendship and bought us closer together. I have some anxiety over social situations but I feel like drinking can help me relax. and if everyone’s drinking it’s easier to socialise. Then once you’ve gone out with friends a few times, you feel comfortable talking to them when you’re not drunk! Which sounds kind of bad but I reckon if you drink in moderation and have a fun time then there’s not much of an issue.
Productivity the day after drinking to excess is noticeably lessened.
Having nights out before certain days has led to issues with professionalism.
Alcohol > assignments #Priorities
Occasionally acts as a trigger for depressive/ anxious episodes which prevent me from attending university.
I’ve met some really good people out drinking, hardly ever have a negative night Some of my friends get aggressive when drunk and after being questioned on this whilst sober, arguments have occurred. Boyfriend hasn’t approved of how much I’ve been drinking, so I cut right down to nearly nothing. Now I’m back at uni, it’s rare for me not to drink on a night, and I don’t really care what he thinks about it any more. I don’t know how he feels about my drinking now, but it bothers me not, it’s my little bit of pleasure on a night, and I work hard for it.
I’m going to do better because [I’ve stopped drinking]!
I turned up to a Seminar drunk from Mulled wine and promptly fell asleep.
Got into regrettable situations.
More confident when drinking, more sociable, able to talk to others and build friendships.
I do less work because I go out and get drunk too much. It can be hard to motivate yourself to work when you are hungover!
12th January 2016
Drugs Have you ever taken drugs?
Which drugs have you taken LSD 15.5% Cannabis 95.9% Cocaine 38.0% Crystal meth 0.8% Ecstasy 61.6% Heroin 1.2% Ketamine 20.8% Magic mushrooms 21.6% Poppers 21.2% Amphetamines (speed) 18.8% Benzodiazepines (eg Valium) 20.8%
Responses from people who answered no begin on page 11
Why did you take drugs?
How would you describe your experiences?
Fun 81.8% Curiosity 81.0% Peer-pressure / fitting in 13.6% Self-medication 12.8% To increase performance 4.6% Relaxation 41.7% Loosen inhibitions 26.0%
ANALYSIS Sam Mckinty The proportion of students at UEA that admit to having taken drugs has remained exactly the same between this year and last, with 62% of students answering yes to the question of “Have you ever taken drugs?” Drugs commonly taken by students at UEA have also remained broadly similar. Cannabis remains the most commonly used illegal drug at UEA, with 96% of students (the same proportion as last year) who confess to having used drugs admitting to using cannabis. Second most common is Ecstasy/MDMA, with 62% having used the substance (a 9% increase on last year), and third is cocaine, with 38% admitting to trying the substance. This indicates that the drug taking habits of UEA has remained very similar in the past year, including the drugs used and the prevalence of drug use among students. The reasons for drug use has, broadly speaking, remained very similar too, with ‘fun’ and ‘curiosity’ remaining the primary reasons for drug use at UEA. However, last year ‘curiosity’ was the most common reason, and ‘fun’ second, whereas this year the the positions have reversed, with 82% of students indicating they take drugs for ‘fun’, and 81% out of curiosity. There has, however, been been a slight increase in the proportion of students who indicate that they
have taken drugs as a result of peer pressure, or in order to ‘fit in’; 14% this year compared with 12% last year. Medical problems as a result of drug use at UEA has remained low, with 5% of students experiencing medical problems this year and last, indicating a consistent quality of drugs in Norwich and UEA. Problems indicated in the survey included ‘anxiety’, ‘depression’ and ‘slight heart pain’. One of the most interesting findings to come from this years survey lies in UEA students’ perceptions of the potential risks and consequences of drug use, and how it affects their decision regarding whether or not to take drugs. 56% of students that admitted to taking drugs said that they do worry about the potential risks and consequences of taking drugs, however the majority of students asked (52%) did not then feel that said risks and consequences provided a sufficient deterrent to drug use, compared with 37% who said they did. This indicates a willingness on the part of students to ignore the risks associated with drugs, but given the lack of medical problems associated with drugs use at UEA, could indicate that students here are careful when it comes to drug use. Among students that don’t take drugs, very few have had their opinion of drugs changed since arriving at UEA, with just 19% of students indicating that their opinion has changed, with 81% indicating that they have made a conscious decision not to take drugs. Among UEA students, Heroin is perceieved to be the most dangerous drug, followed by Crystal Meth.
Have drugs caused you any medical problems?
Has using drugs affected your degree?
12th January 2016
Drugs are vilified by the media: it’s time we challenged perceptions
Do you have friends who take drugs?
Ruth Elms If you ask where babies come from, you get told a lie. A swan carries it along, or you get them in Waitrose. But if you ask why drugs are illegal, you don’t get a lie or the truth, because no one really knows. I’ve probably taken Class A drugs once a fortnight, on and off, since I was about 17. I won’t go into the details of why I take drugs, or why I like them, but generally speaking, taking them gives me new lease of life, and I feel a deeper, more personal connection with the people I’m with than listening to them slur over “how many bloody essays” they have to do. The pure forms of Class A drugs, taken in moderate and controlled amounts, are hardly dangerous, and, according to David Nutt, the government’s former drugs adviser, they are “barely addictive”. The earliest drug vilification can be traced back to the US, with Black Americans being stigmatised on account of heroin use in the 1950s. In the 1960s hippies and psychedelics were targeted because they opposed the Vietnam war. This translated into a media hate campaign in the UK targeting drug use, masqueraded as concerns for the health and wellbeing of people, and in particular, young people. So, as young people seek out other ways to enjoy an ‘altered consciousness’ without experiencing the addictive and toxic nature of alcohol, the media seek them out as well, hoping to have them banned, with politicians in tow, highlighted by the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Bill. This ban is predicated on more media hysteria about legal highs such as nitrous oxide and the “head shops” that sell them. Lies about the number of legal high deaths abound, with Mike Penning, minister for policing and justice, quoting 129 last year in the bill’s second reading. The true figure is about five, according to drugscience.org.uk, as the “head shops” generally now sell safe mild stimulants because, funnily enough, they don’t want their regular customers to die. The attack on nitros oxide is a weird one, given that the gas has been used to treat and numb pain for a long, long time. When young people are inhaling a nitros oxide balloon, then it’s a public health hazard, and once again the media helped to bring about the ban by helpfully renaming it ‘hippy crack’ – what could frighten the older generations more than hippies, on crack? This ongoing attack on drugs needs to stop or, at the very least, the media can’t be allowed to determine the drugs policy of the country because they fancy it. Some of my closes friendships have been made whilst using drugs. It’s difficult to describe without coming across as boastful, but drugs give you a far greater connection with the people around you. You’re more inclined to share common experiences, realise common understandings and, as a result, grow your friendship to greater levels than you previously had. Of course, drugs can be nightmare. It’s easy for me, someone who hasn’t had a bad experience with drugs, to harp on about their benefits. As a middle-class white person from a middle-class predominantly white area, who has never been stopped by the police and has a distant non-social relationship with their drug
Does it affect your relationship with them?
If yes, how?
We are better friends because of weed. My friend has started injecting and using opiates and won’t listen when people try and dissuade him. Frustrated at the mess they make while high. Generally I find it builds a stronger bond with them although I feel more pressured among my friends who do not participate in drugs as I cannot relax or talk about it in the same way as I know they disapprove/don’t understand. Some of my good friends have started taking chemically based drugs like coke, Mandy (mdma), acid/lsd and cet. It bugs me because firstly they comment constantly on my spending habits but think wasting maintenance loans on some columbian baking powder is somehow fine. Secondly, I worry because they are inexperienced users so could get some bad stuff that will harm them beyond repair. Positively! I find MDMA is great for bonding with friends. It loosens social inhabitions in a way alcohol doesn’t! Don’t do drugs anymore. They annoy me when they do it, all they do is talk about it. Boring.
I don’t feel that comfortable around them when they’re doing things that make them act unpredictably. They also seem too obsessed with drugs and spending all their money on them rather than actually doing stuff. It has effected our relationship very negatively, I don’t want to hang out with them as much, if at all. You just see a different side of people, get to know a bit more about them. Everyone’s always happy and looking out for each other. Even if it’s just the brain chemistry talking, you do become closer and more comfortable with others from then on.
dealer, I’ve never really had any problems. For many people, drugs aren’t something they can dip in and out of and separate from their lives. People entangled in the economic and legal realities of drugs – dealers, those convicted of possession, addicts – don’t have the luxury of my relaxed attitude. Until we stop pretending that getting high is inherently bad – that drugs can never be brilliant, can never enhance human experience for the better – then there can never be a truly open and honest discussion about drugs. As long as the media, with politicians in tow, dictate the drug law of this country, without proper scientific debate, then the benefits of drugs will never come to light, and their effects always villainised. Whilst it would be fundamentally wrong of me to sit here and say that nothing bad has ever happened as a result of drugs, it would also be wrong to say that drugs can’t touch and improve lives. What is needed is an honest look at how addiction can be avoided and treated, and an end to trial by media.
Do you feel under more pressure to take drugs since arriving at UEA
12th January 2016
Drugs Have you ever taken more than one drug at a time?
Taking multiple drugs at a time: a new trend or an accident? Sam Naylor
One of the responses from the 2015 Alcohol and Drugs Survey that particularly captured my attention was in relation to multiple drug usage in the same night. 44% of respondents answered yes to the question ‘have you ever taken more than one drug at one time?’ meaning that almost half of those that answered yes to taking illegal drugs at some point in their lives have taken more than one type of drug at the same time. I asked two people a few questions to garner why this is more common at UEA than I might have assumed. The interesting thing that I found when asking what the appeal was in multiple drug usage is that it is often not an intentional act rather “it just sort of happens and it’s when I’m already drunk so don’t think about the consequences”. The potential risks and consequences of illegal drug use is also something that I found intriguing in this year’s survey was that as 52% of those surveyed did not feel that the risks and consequences are a sufficient
deterrent when sober, never mind when drunk! So if there isn’t a particular appeal for multiple drugs hits in one night then the appeal for drug use in general is perhaps not too surprising as “an easy way to feel happy” and a “way to take your mind off things”, not that this is a justification but more an understanding. With the pull factors out of the way I wondered if there were particular combinations of drugs that had specifically negative or ‘positive’ effects. The responses were fairly complimentary in this respect; once one drug has been taken it’s difficult to feel the full effect of the second one, to the extent that one person explained how “different combinations don’t really have different effects” for them. So what are their experiences like when mixing more than one illegal drug? At the time it can be quite fun though it is easy to loose your baings and become “a burden on friends and worrying them as well”. The negative impact is not always a personal or individual one but also on the people
surrounding us. Just as someone might not go out with the intention to take multiple drugs, friends do not intentionally presume that their night will be filled with stress and worry, the difference is that friends will look after that person whether they wanted to or not. Often what is perceived as fun at the time can be looked back upon and realised that it actually isn’t real fun at all and the night has been spent sporadically flitting between places or sparking full blown conversations with inanimate objects, again something that can upset and concern those nearest and dearest to us. There is also the danger of a seriously bad comedown the next day. The following day is lost to depressive thoughts and negative mental states that can be debilitating and crippling, sometimes to the extremes of being bedbound. Though the statistic of 44% might appear shocking, it would seem from speaking to these two individuals that multiple drug use in one night is not something that you plan on doing, it is more often something you find yourself involved in without a thrilling appeal.
Do you worry about the potential risks of drugtaking? Has your attitude to drugs changed since starting UEA?
Do you feel that the potential risks are a sufficient deterrent?
If yes, how? For the better, more of a normal thing to do. I didn’t realise so many individuals participate in recreational drug use, so I prefer to go out with them. Participate in the use of drugs more than I would back home. More liberal and willing to accept that what the government say might not always be true. They’re unnecessary. More people take so-called ‘hard’ drugs than I thought, and not necessarily the type of people I would have thought of previously. People at home use them more regularly. Generally, I encounter drugs less at university. More accepting towards those who take them. More socially acceptable, being around regular drug users made me understand the reasons why people use them. Now more anti drugs than I used to be; less paticence for those on drugs and who abuse drugs. Harder to obtain drugs. I have seen and experienced people taking recreational drugs “sensibly”, if you will, and have seen that the risks are often much less than the binge drinking that often occurs at university (with low level drugs such as weed/MD). I also learned that you cannot be arrested if you are on drugs, only if you are in possession of them, which I did not know before UEA. The main reason I had previously steered clear of drugs was because I was worried about getting caught and it jeopardising any future career I might have. I have realised that drugs are unethical, not because of the effect on those that choose to take them, but because of the entire communities who are forced in producing them. Realised that people who take drugs arent bad people, it doesnt have to affect your everyday life.
I see them as more of a problem for people who use them irresponsibly, I stay away from them mostly
12th January 2016
No, I haven’t taken drugs...
Would you ever consider taking drugs?
Did you make a conscious decision not to?
No (54%) Unsure (2%)
If yes, why? Because they’re dangerous and you could get addicted just from trying them. They’re illegal, never appealed, my Christian faith plays a big role in my decision not to take drugs. Illegal. People do it to impress others and I think that’s tragic. It’s anti-social. It’s expensive. It’s bad for your health. I have an addictive personality.
Do you know where you could buy drugs?
Do you worry about the potential risks of drugtaking?
Why bother? I have fun no matter what I do, don’t need drugs to do that, not really interested in what they have to offer. No interest. Slightly concern about triggering mental health. Simply because I have never felt a desire for it. I do not condemn others who try it, as long as they don’t use it in a self-destructive way or in a way that has a negative effect on their life. Apart from my Dad being a customs officer who would know straight away and probably kill me for it, the fact that you aren’t in control of the side effects or yourself when you take them doesn’t appeal. With alcohol I know when to stop to avoid negative side effects but drugs seem to remove that choice. Also morphine gave me bad enough hallucinations I dread to think how bad it would be on an illegal high.
They’re scary, so many stories of people dying after they’ve done drugs and they’re illegal for a reason, they’re dangerous and unregulated and the consequences can be unpredictable. I would also personally worry about the effects on my mental health, for example with cannabis especially.
Do you feel that the potential risks are a sufficient deterrent? Would you ever consider taking drugs?
12th January 2016
Why I deal A recent survey showed that, among students who buy drugs, most buy from fellow students. It’s a big market, but why take the risk? A student dealer gave us their reasons Anonymous
Drugs in clubs “Take drugs if you want, I don’t care, just look out for each other”
Drug taking has invariably been a part of nightclub culture, but there’s always a relative unknown: how do bouncers react, and what are the policies of nightclubs? We spoke to Ben, a bouncer with eight years’ experience working in clubs in London and Norwich, to find out. To start off the interview with a bang, tell us what’s the most surprising thing about the way bouncers deal with drugs in a club? That, not always but in some cases, you’re more like to get chucked out for possessing class C drugs, stuff like GHB or GBL, because of them being part of the date-rape family tree. They’re not your typical night out drug, and if I caught anyone with them in the club or on the door, we’d confiscate the drugs, take their details, and remove them from the venue. The reputation of a club is really important, and you’re more likely to get a bad reputation if you become known for being a hotspot for date-rape than pills or something. You talk about entry to clubs. What happens if you’re searched and caught with drugs on entry? It’s really simple: you won’t be allowed in. Clubs have zero tolerance of it, and we can’t be seen to be turning a blind eye. On bigger nights, like ones with famous DJs or where we’re open later for special events like New Year’s Eve or something, there’s usually a really big police presence, so if we’re seen to be turning a blind eye to it all then there’s going to be problems for the bosses and us.
What about inside? There’s not a huge amount we can do. Obviously if I see someone dealing then they’re straight out. It’s not a reputation the club wants to give off, and they’re going to the police. But seeing someone who’s obviously under the influence of drugs is kind of different. Yes, I’m here to enforce the law, but mainly here to look after the people in the club and ensure they’re okay. Chucking someone out of a club because they’ve taken drugs sort of misses the point. If they’re chucked out, probably without their mates, there’s nobody to look after them, and who knows what’ll happen? In a club, they’re going to be with mates that can look after them, and in a place where medics can get to quickly if they’re needed. For me, it’s pretty irresponsible to chuck someone out in those instances. If I caught someone doing drugs in a club, overtly, you’re out. To be honest, I’m more about trying to stop trouble, checking for weapons and that. If you’re doing it too obviously, then it’s your fault. What’s your experience of what happens if someone gets handed over to the police? As I said, you’re only going to the police if I see you dealing or you’ve got the stuff used to
commit date rape, and my experience is that the police here are pretty tough. They will prosecute; you probably will go to prison. What do you think about the way the government legislates against drugs? Thing is, like I said earlier, I’m more bothered about people trying to cause trouble, looking for weapons, that sort of thing. The only time drugs really become an issue for me is when bad stuff happens, people reacting badly or even ODing. When you see stuff like that, and you see paramedics trying to save their lives, you see how dangerous drugs can be. It’s really easy if you’ve taken drugs, and never had a bad experience, to whinge on about the government being too harsh on crime. But at the end of the day, drugs can be really really bad, and I don’t think any amount of legislation can totally remove the risk. If you look at what happens now, then I think no legislation could be even worse. I know people would argue for control, but I still think people are going to want to go around the system. I think maybe what we’ve got a the moment is good, but I just think there needs to be a much better distinction in treating suppliers, dealers and users, because the punishments are harsh sometimes.
Being young and taking drugs go hand in hand. Not everyone does it, but the market is big enough. I wouldn’t say that I came to uni with grand ambitions of becoming the next Pablo Escobar, but my first year at UEA was enough to plant the seed. So why deal? Because it’s so easy. If you brought all the best architects, psychologists and police officers together, and asked them to figure out the perfect environment for a drug dealer to thrive, I think they’d come up with student halls. Thousands of young people, recently left home, no longer the under the wing of mum and dad, looking to experiment and share new experiences. For me, the market is there, and it makes sense to tap into it. “Why don’t you get a part time job, you fiend!” True words, but I’m a full time student, and jobs that for work for me in terms of hours are few and far between, and most would want to see me working up until Christmas eve and again over new years, which isn’t particularly convenient for me given that my hometown, like almost everywhere else in the UK, is nowhere near Norwich. Being a student now is a very different ball game to maybe twenty or thirty years ago. The UK is now one of the most expensive education systems in the world, there’s no more funding from local authorities, and you can’t fund yourself at university for the entire year by spending 12 hours a week stacking shelves at the local Spar during the summer. Yes I got a student loan, which last year left me with a grand total of £13.73 after paying student accommodation costs, which actually isn’t a lot of money. When I first started dealing a couple of years ago (I’m a seasoned postgrad now) the internet made everything very, very easy. You could buy what you wanted, or whatever was popular, and have it delivered to the campus post room, mingling with Amazon orders, with the employees of the post room none the wiser as to what was in the parcel. Now, it’s far less easy; the issue of sourcing is a big one. What makes students most successful as dealers is that other students trust them, and that trust is a two way street. Whilst the people I supply don’t fear being ripped off, I don’t fear repercussions or dodgy customers. There’s also level of trust in the quality of what’s supplied. What I’m trying to say here is that dealing isn’t a necessity. There are other ways to get through university. I dismissed part time jobs, but I was being facetious. For me, I’m almost addicted to the rush I get from dealing, and now that I lack the experience from working in a normal job. Whilst this is an entirely selfish thing, too many people write about being a student dealer from the perspective that there’s no alternative, but the fact is that for some people, there isn’t. Where there is rising inequality and economic problems, more and more reasonable people are entering this lucrative industry. Drug dealers are no longer just violent criminals on the fringes of society, they are the sons and daughters of solicitors and dentists. It’s time the state started to look after a section of society it has criminalised and marginalised.
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12th January 2016
Legal Highs Have you ever taken legal highs? If yes...
Which legal highs have you taken? Stimulants 45.1%
If no... Have you had any medical problems as a result of legal highs?
Did you make a conscious decision not to take legal highs?
Responses from people who answered yes continue on page 15
Policy vs. policing: 2015 was a strange year for drug law Sam Mckinty
Normally, the relationship between the police and the government is a fairly cohesive one: the government legislates drug law, and the police enforce those laws. No great drama. 2015, however, has been bit of weird one for drug law. Whilst the government seem to be getting tougher on drugs, the police seem to be getting softer. May saw the Queen, in her annual speech to Parliament, announce the Psychoactive Substance bill. Whilst no one seems to want to speculate what led to the announcement of the bill by Her Majesty, clearly the government wanted to do something about the high street shops selling powerful legal highs with same ease and openness with which Sainsbury’s sells milk. A fairly inarguably sensible bill has turned into a bit of a tricky one for the
government. After apparent wild confusion over the nuances of human intoxication, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, decided to ban anything that affects a person’s “mental functioning or emotional state”, whether or not it’s harmless (obviously aside from the one’s worth millions to the Treasury, such as nicotine). So, when the bill now passed by parliament, becomes law in April, it will be so long to the synthetic drugs that were the initial target of the legislation, but also farewell to nitros oxide, auf widersehn to poppers, and guten nacht to, quite seriously, nutmeg. So whilst the government appears to be trying to take a harder line on drugs, the police seem to be edging away from the war on drugs. In July, Derbyshire, Dorset and Durham
police declared that they’d no longer be pursuing people smoking cannabis, people caught with a small amount of the drug, and people found cultivating a small number of cannabis plants, an action that could results in a 14-year prison sentence. Why? They declared it was not in their interest, and a waste of resources. This is all highlighted by the statistics: the number of people being arrested for possession of cannabis has fallen by a third between 2011 and 2015, falling from 145,000 to 101,000; warnings have fallen too, from 100,000 in 2009 to 60,000 in 2014. Cannabis is not the only drug police are walking past. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of cautions handed out for all drug offences fell by over a third, down from 42,000 to 30,000. This included a fall in cautions for class A drugs. This could easily be put down to an increasingly ‘common sense’ approach to drug law. In an interview, the Vice President of Police Superintendent’s Association said “Arresting large numbers of people for possession of drugs will not solve the problem in isolation. Yes, it’s against the law, but 40
years of history have told us this approach is not the solution”. However, it’s difficult ignore the cuts made to police forces by the Conservative government. With 17,000 police jobs cut, and budget cuts being made left, right and centre, it’s pretty clear that the police have to focus their crime-stopping efforts on certain key problems, thus adopting a fairly soft-touch approach on drugs. This all seems to suit the key players; the police no longer have to spend their days chasing down drug dealers, and are free, although understaffed and lacking budget, to focus as best they can on other areas of crime determined most important by the government. 2015, then, has been a story of confusion for drug law. A government that seems set on legislation on drug law, is at the same time creating police forces that seem not keen, and frankly unable to enforce the new legislation. Clearly, the government needs to make decision about how they’re going legislate: softer legislation? Fine, carry on as you are. Stronger legislation? Equally fine, but provide the funding for the police to enable that.
12th January 2016
The science behind legal highs
Do you have friends who use legal highs?
Will Male Research chemicals (RCs), are typically sold as legal highs. These RCs are drugs whose chemical properties have been altered, resulting in a change in their chemical formula, so that they can’t be considered to be an illegal drug under drug legislation. They’re just different enough to be legal, whilst maintaining similar effect to their illegal counterpart. RC’s are often developed as part of government-funded medical research projects, with the formula being published in scientific journals. These formulas are then seen by chancers, looking to make their move into the drugs trade. These altered drugs are mass produced, and sold on. The danger in legal highs lies in the lack of testing. Although these ‘highs’ are typically produced in controlled conditions in labs, no toxicological tests have taken place, meaning their safety hasn’t been tested in terms of human use. When sold, the safety of customer typically won’t be high on the supplier list of importance. Typically, the product will say ‘not for human consumption’ on, so if someone were, to drop dead, the seller would,technically, be in the clear. The trends in research at the moment tend to revolve around chemical variation in amphetamines and cannabinoids, and particularly around variations of the NBOMe group, which are close related to the illegal drug 2C-B, a sort of halfway house between MDMA and LSD. Despite the ‘legality’ of legal highs, the reality is that it’s ultimately safer to take your classic recreational drugs. With these, there’s a far greater level of understanding the chemical make up of the drugs, and almost all the commonly taken recreational drugs have been tested for their toxicity. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far to say they’re safe for human consumption, they’re certainly better understood. If something bad were to happen, you react badly or OD, if you know for certain that you’ve taken a well known recreational drug, the medical help will be far better given that better understanding. Legal highs are extraordinarily difficult to keep a track of, and if something similarly bad were to happen to someone who’d taken legal highs, it would be far more difficult to find treatment given the lack of understanding of the high.
Does it affect your relationship with them?
Has using legal highs affected your degree?
Do you worry about the potential risks and consequences of taking legal highs?
Do you feel that the potential risks and consquences are a sufficient deterrent?
The risks of legal highs David Wright
The term ‘Legal High’, which is used to describe drugs which can be legally purchased for their psychoactive effects is somewhat unfortunate. ‘Not yet illegal high’ would constitute a more accurate description but is far less catchy for the media to use in its headlines when it reports the number of deaths each year which result from their use. Which incidentally was 173 in the UK in 2013 mainly in people under the age of 30. The use of the word ‘legal’ provides spurious validation to the drugs when actually the law has had absolutely nothing to do with them. It is the fact that the law is not aware of them and does not include them which thereby makes them ‘legal’. The way in which the medicines are currently regulated in the UK which allows these products to exist and be sold legally to the general public. In the UK there are two pieces of legislation
which control the use of medicines. The first piece of legislation (The Human Medicines Regulations Act 2014) defines medicines as anything which is sold for a medicinal purpose. Consequently if your product is sold without making a medicinal claim then it is not covered by this legislation. Therefore you will find that no legal highs actually make a medicinal claim and actually what they do is suggest the psychoactive effect through their names e.g. Benzofury (Benzodiazepines being addictive to legal medicines which are good for anxiety) or Bliss. This means that they circumvent the laws which require medicines to be tested for safety and effectiveness and to be manufactured, stored and sold through regulated companies and individuals. It also means that they don’t need to be prescribed by a healthcare professional
or sold through a pharmacy and therefore a healthcare professional has not been available to ensure that the product is likely to be effective and safe for you as an individual. The second piece of legislation is the Misuse of Drugs Act. This is designed to control the use of drugs which can either be used for illicit and/or medicinal purposes and essentially is a list of drugs and the levels of control with the respect to supply which are required and a classification for illegal use. Legal highs force the government to play a catch up game. The manufacturer/supplier identifies or creates a new drug with a new structure which is not on the controlled list, gives it a title which suggests a psychoactive effect and then legally sells it until the government changes the legislation to ban it. The reason that harm can be caused by legal highs is due to the lack of regulation
which is in place to ensure that medicines are both effective and safe. Rising number of deaths due to these products which are essentially poorly manufactured chemicals with no evidence to support them other than the word of mouth by users has caused the UK government to start to develop legislation, Psychoactive Substances Bill, to ban all such products at the outset and thereby protect the public. This however is extremely difficult to do without a clear definition of the term ‘psychoactive’ and decisions as to who will be criminalised and what for. The main message is however that if you want to try drugs with no testing for the quality of the ingredients, stored and packaged in an unclean environment, sold by someone with no medical or pharmaceutical training, then use legal highs, becuase that’s exactly what you’re getting.
12th January 2016
Legal highs Which groups of legal highs do you perceive to be the most harmful? Do you think legal highs should be made illegal?
Do you feel under increased pressure to use legal highs since arriving at UEA?
In general, how would you describe your experience with legal highs? Would you ever consider taking legal highs?
ANALYSIS Joe Jameson The results for legal highs are always particularly interesting, because relatively few people are able to name any, and there are certainly no legal highs which represent the same household recognition status as their illegal counterparts such as cannabis or cocaine. Our data reflects the niche interest which legal highs present, as only 24% of respondents to our survey said that they had taken them. Interestingly, this percentage of people has stayed the same as last year, where 69% of respondents said that they had not taken legal highs. The unknown
quality of legal highs is also represented in the common responses for why people took them, as curiosity was the most polled answer, with 82% of respondents listing that as one of their reasons as to why they took them. The majority of those who said that they had taken legal highs said that they did worry about the risks and potential consequences of taking them, but they also thought these did not serve as a good enough deterrent to people who may consider taking them in the future. Ambulance services across England have reported an increase in call outs related to legal high usage, which are reportedly highly, especially one particular legal high, known as ‘Spice’, a synthetic cannabis substitute which experts reckon could be up
to ten times more powerful than cannabis. The majority of those who had taken legal highs (51%) had said that they had either had a good (39%) or very good (12%) experience using legal highs, which is up by about eight per cent from last year, whilst those who said that they had had neither a good time, or a bad one, has stayed the same at 36%. Whilst the percentage of people who said that they felt they had been under increased pressure to take legal highs since coming to UEA had decreased to 1% for those who had taken them and 2% for those who hadn’t. The results for whether students at UEA felt that legal highs should be legalised were particularly interesting, as they were very evenly split between yes (37%), no (31%), and unsure (32%), which again
highlights that these substances are much less well known. A spokesperson from West Midlands Ambulance Service, speaking in October 2015, commented that legal highs were risky substances to take because users have “no way of knowing what is contained within them, if they have undergone any sort of testing, or how it will affect them.” There is also a disparity when asked whether respondents knew if their friends used legal highs, and whether they thought that this affected their relationship with them in any way. Whilst 85% of people did not think that their relationships were affected by their friends using legal highs, the results indicate only 25% of people were positive that their friends used legal highs, with 40% of people unsure.
12th January 2016
Legal highs Can study drugs really help you get higher grades? Lloyd Peet
Modafinil is designed to treat narcolepsy and other similar sleeping disorder. But now, students are using it as a drug to aid concentration, memory rentention, and to help you stay awake for longer. Think Bradley Cooper in Limitless, but purely for remembering facts you won’t need to remember in two years’ time. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to try something new, I popped a pill, and settled down for a stint in the library. First thing to note, Modafinil is not a wonder drug. You won’t reach the limits of human academic achievement from it alone. That’s something I learnt after the first hour after spending it, as usual in the library, perusing YouTube, Facebook, et cetera. You need to actually work, it’s no good sitting there waiting for the drug to ‘kick in’. What it does do, is improve your memory a little, and improve your efficiency a lot. Imagine a common student problem. You’re going to the library to do work. So far, so well intentioned. You sit down, then someone from your course sits next you. You chat about the essay you both haven’t done, the LCR, your ridiculous lecturer, go for a cigarette break, then a Unio break, then a shop break, and before you know it, three
hours have passed and you’ve managed 21 words, 15 of which are the title. With Modafinil, that’s not an issue. You’re 100% focussed on the task at hand, nothing distracts you, unless you’re looking to get distracted. You sort of get a tunnel visionlike effect, concentrating on stuff for hours without looking up. I managed to write 17 pages worth of notes in an hour, without once looking up, whilst using the study drug. There’s not much I can really say about taking modafinil, it’s not a particularly overwhelming experience, you don’t become a manic work-crazed lunatic, it’s really quite subtle, apart from the hourly need to go to the loo. There’s nothing to really comment on. All this in mind, there are negatives. First, you become more than a bit anti-social. The usual things that might distract, visits to Unio for instance and anything vague amusing on YouTube, infuriated me. Why would people offer these alternatives to work? The drug certainly didn’t put me in the mood for socialising, but maybe that’s the point. Secondly, I personally lost the ability to be concise with my work. I wrote 17 pages worth of notes for a 3000 words essay; anyone that tells me that’s a productive use of my time is wrong.
Has your attitude towards legal highs changed since arriving at UEA?
Although the drug is scientifically tested, and approved by various testing bodies, many scietists have voiced concerns over its long term effects on young people. Apparently, it messes with brain plasticity, which is your brain’s ability to adapt to different situations and contexts, which would probably explain my grouchiness around people. Additionally, researchers suspect that, in the long term, young individuals that take Modafinil – and similar medications – may end up with an increased ability to concentrate for longer periods of time but their short-term memory could decrease. Something that would lead to a disadvantage in social situations or when it comes to performing tasks that require cognitive flexibility -such as driving a car. So what did I learn from my study drug experience? Well, Modafinil is probably the least fun drug there is. It seems funny that other people might take drugs to forget about work, and you’d take this to do it better, but it kind of seems like the only one that makes sense. I guess the key is not to become dependent on it; don’t see it as a necessity to do work, but as a last resort when you need to do a lot of work, and before you know it you can talk to people again.
Do you know where you could buy legal highs?
Do you worry about the potential risks and consequences of taking legal highs?
Do you feel that the potential risks and consequences are a sufficient deterrent?
Do you have friends who use legal highs? Does it affect your relationship with them?
12th January 2016
Legal highs The Psychoactive Substances Bill: The Governments legal highs ban just here’s what you need to know won’t work Joe Rutter
The Psychoactive Substances Bill was passed into law in June last year, reflecting a commitment of the Conservative party to deal with the issue of ‘legal highs’. At the moment, legal highs are legislated on a case-by-case basis, leading to a constant need to react against the creation of new ‘highs’. Under the bill, there would be a blanket ban on the production, distribution, sale and supply of so-called ‘legal highs’ - officially know as new psychoactive substances (NPSs) - after being linked to a number of deaths among young people. Under the bill, sellers could face up to seven years in prison. Under the current system, where NPSs are controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act, approximately 500 highs have been banned, however the act is seen as inefficient because each high must be assessed on an individual basis before they can be outlawed, with manufacturers typically being able to make a new, slightly modified version of the drug available for distribution immediately after the previous has been banned. Under the MD Act, drugs are not strictly illegal, but the associated behaviours, possession, distribution and manufacture, are. Policing minister Mike Penning has said that the Psychoactive Substance Bill will “fundamentally change the way we tackle new psychoactive substances” and “put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them”, adding that “the blanket ban will be on the production, supply and importation
of these harmful substances, which caused the unnecessary and tragic deaths of 129 people in the UK last year.” The bill has, however, been plagued with controversy. Many have described the bill as a simplistic response to a very complicated issue, with people calling for the government to spend more time to understand the social factors that make people choose to take legal highs, rather than just adopting a blanket approach to stem the availability of these drugs. Additionally, the bill, according to some, requires a greater understanding of the harmfulness of individual highs. In New Zealand, a similar bill distinguishes between more and less harmful products, which allows for the sale of products proven to be of lower risk after undergoing toxicology testing. However, many have praised the bill for the focus it puts on punishing suppliers, rather than the end user. The government had stated that that would adopt a proportionate approach to NPS, with the focus being put on punishing suppliers. In addition, the universal nature of the bill would make it clear for all retailers how the bill works and how the law will apply to them. Ultimately, the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act, as with any drug related legislation, is going to cause controversey over its content and intentions. The bill will dramatically change the way legal highs are policed, but the question remains as to whether a blanket approach to this highly controversial issue will add clarity to the debate, or whether it will oversimplify the debate.
The creation of new substances by manufacturers of legal highs as a way of getting around drug law has been long time, ongoing practise. The chemicals, differ from recreational drugs following minor alterations, have much the same effects as their counterparts and are notoriously hard to keep track of, legislate and regulate, with them free to be sold in shops. Clearly, the current system is dangerous. It’s impossible for regulators to keep a track of what’s in these highs which runs the risk of them not being safe, or at the very least haven’t been tested, for human consumption. If a person that takes legal highs and suffer no ill-effects, then there isn’t a problem, but if there’s a bad reaction, the issues which arise of how the individual should be treated. In order to combat the issue of the risk of legal highs, the government has introduced the Psychoactive Substance bill. This would clearly make the legislation surrounding legal highs far clearer, I believe the bill is largely flawed. ‘Psychoactive substance’ is a very broad reaching term, alcohol and caffeine can both be considered to fall under the classification. So whilst the bill would ban the supply of legal highs, the bill does not distinguish between what psychoactive substances are subject to the blanket ban, and which are not. Theresa May, the minister spearheading the bill, caused confusion whilst debating
the bill after failing to disclose where these division would lie. The issue also lies in the simplicity of the bill. Where the previous legislation that governed psychoactive substances assessed each high on a caseby-case basis, the bill will now result in a blanket ban on the supply of such substances, assuming Theresa May finally sorts out how to define the term. That’s all well and good, but to adopt a blanket approach to an issue as varied as legal highs, for me, is problematic. Some legal highs are obviously going to interact with people in a different way, with the risks of some highs clearly going to be greater than others. The greatest issue here, for me, lies in the the lack of understanding with which the government seems to be basing its decision to make such sweeping legislative changes to drug law. The indecisions of Theresa May in establishing what should and shouldn’t be included in the broad umbrella term of psychoactive substances and the lack of clarity from Mike Penning, the policing minister, in establishing and communicating how the legislation should be applied portrays a government that seems to be working on the whims of the people within it, rather than true scientific evidence. If the government wants the legislation to be taken seriously, then greater effort needs to be made, at the very least, to appear to understand the issue of psychoactive substances to avoid an even greater divide in the debate that is drug regulations.
Your thoughts and comments
They are simply not safe. You do not know what is actually in them.
Often my friends’ attitude/behaviour on legal highs is unacceptable.
You dont know what the chemical formula is and if it is harmful Less inclined to be around friends over the weekend when they or not. are taking them. I’ve heard a lot of bad things about legal highs and there is not enough research done into them to label them suitable for human consumption.
I was never interested by them at home as they weren’t available but as they’re more readily available at uni they have become more of a norm
Legal highs are so much worse than the drugs that we have actual knowledge on. People need to be told the truth about weed so that they don’t seek to use legal highs instead. I would much rather my child smoked weed than legal highs. Weed for the people, legal highs for the idiots. The problem is that you get newspapers such as the Daily Mail spewing bullshit about how drugs such as cannabis causes terrible things. Bro, if you smoke too much weed, you fall asleep. If you smoke too much of a legal high, you can die. Even if you drink too much, you can die. Legal highs are so stupid. If the laws on drugs at the moment weren’t so tight, we wouldn’t have the issue of people abusing legal highs.
Attitude changed partly because of reaching an age where I’m going out more frequently, but also because they become more accessible through the variety of people you meet.
I know the effects of my preferred drugs and how high my tolerance is in different situations. I’ve also heard they’re not really worth it. I’ll stick with illegal drugs thanks Health problems? Only too much fun
I now feel they are very bad if not worse than illegal drugs due to the lack of testing on them and just because they are legal it doesn’t mean they are safe. I used to think every single person who took them was stupid. Now I still think it’s a stupid thing to do, but don’t judge people solely on it. A few people I know are quite responsible about it... Or as responsible as they can be I’m less likely to spend time with friends as it’s not something I’m interested in so I’d be left out. Good fun with friends
Literally don’t know what they are.
I’ve only really had good experiences, couldn’t claim to be totally impartial give that I worked in a headshop. Soon to be illegal, so they’ll only be more popular.
Far more dangerous because they could be anything, at least with more traditional illegal drugs there’s an understand of what’s in them or at least what’s likely to be in them. Not for human consumption... Legal highs, quality lows
Passed out, had to go to hospital. Never again. Don’t feel I know enough to pass comment.
12th January 2016
Opinions Do you have anything else to add on the topic of smoking, alcohol, drugs or legal highs?
Drugs are only bad if you’re one of those fiends who does a 2 gram bag of mandy then coke for pre’s or something. Drunk/stoned people only amuse each other. To your sober friends, you probably look like an idiot. Not worth it.
I want to know why it’s seen as abnormal to not drink.
Students are going to take drugs, but people at UEA seem to know that mdma/cannabis is safer than any of the legal ones. By and large from my experience a relatively small proportion have tried any of the others. Addiction to cannabis and excessive drinking are the main concerns for UEA in my opinion.
Drugs taken with mates at uni are harmless if taken in the correct doses. They can improve a night and can be cheaper than alcohol. You are at university once and why not spend it experiencing new things and having the best time possible. You are more likely to regret what you didn’t do than what you did do.
I liked the ranking of illegal drugs. It made me realise how little I know about some of them and how the catch phrase “Meth, not even once” has really gotten stuck in my head. I liked the survey. It was a good exercise and actually got me thinking. I think partly why it’s so accepted among students is the belief that you’re still doing important things; studying, educating yourself. You’re not some 37 year-old watching porn and smoking some in your mother’s basement, if you know what I mean. So, as long as you feel that you are somewhat meeting your obligations I feel like people think that they “deserve it” or that “I won’t be doing it five years from now when I’ve graduated and started working, might as well knock myself out while I can.” I’m surprised UEA isn’t a smoke free campus. We all know how unhealthy smoking is yet so many students smoke and are able to almost everywhere on campus. Smoke weed every day. But in all seriousness, I visited Amsterdam for a weekend, and the experience was amazing and there truly is a different culture over there: instead of going out and getting so drunk that you can’t stand or remember what happened the next day, they would go to a coffee shop, smoke a joint, and sit there having a good time. Less violent, less harmful, and much more enjoyable.
It’s never ok…
Total unpopular opinion but I think weed culture is getting ridiculous. Some people waste so much time and money getting high and all it does is make them act like slobs. I really hope it never gets legalised, that way it hopefully won’t get any bigger. I think people should be able to have fun without drugs, and its depressing that so many seem dependent on them along with alcohol. I’m all for drinking but why spend so much on drugs, and make big health risks. Plus weed absolutely stinks.
Make campus a smoke only zone, you must be smoking something when moving around outdoors. This would bring 3 major benefits; 1) UEA students will now look more cool 2) No need to spend on heating 3) No one will ever be bullied for smelling like smoke because everyone does, thus eliminating bullying.
People shouldn’t get in as much trouble as they do if they’re caught in possession of a personal amount of drugs.
If this data is being use for an article, please do a good job at reporting. Don’t take the DRUGS ARE BAD approach, please look to educate and help people - not all drugs are bad, addiction is. The real problem is that we have this perception that drug users are criminals, even though a large amount of the people running the country are getting off their tits on cocaine. How do fines or jail time help a person who is abusing a dangerous drug? It doesn’t, it makes the situation worse. Yes, drugs can have awful and detrimental effects, the key is moderation. Also please can you remind everyone that just because alcohol is legal, it does not make it SAFE or OKAY. Alcohol is the WORST, yeah I admit, it can be fun but at the end of the day it is a poison. Please remind people not to be hypocrites when it comes to drug use and alcohol and that they shouldn’t follow everything the law states as a moral guidance. Blaze it.
UEA is built to accommodate drinking culture (eg lack of benches and bins, spaces to congregate outside of the square). Drug dealers from outside the university come to campus daily to sell to students and have seemingly endless supplies of grass, and are never caught.
I think people need to be better educated on drugs so that if they decide to use them, they will be well informed of both the benefits and risks and therefore able to make responsible decisions.
To me legal practice makes no difference on these matters. What is necessary is social awareness and change through policy. We need to support those who suffer not imprison them. You can blame all the negatives of these products not on those who use or sell but on our neoliberal structure that does not care for them.
All drugs should be decriminalised! Also I believe it would be a good idea for the uni to sell (cheaply) or give away drug testing kits! People are going to take drugs so the uni should ensure they are safe in doing it! If there was a local problem with counterfeit booze the uni would do something!
I’m pretty liberal when it comes to these matters; to be not so would be hypocritical. With that said, I do not think that legalisation of all restrictive substances is a good idea. Some chemicals just straight up mess people up. Extensive testing should be done to make sure substances are ‘safe’ (a broadly used word, considering that tobacco and alcohol are both legal) before being allowed to be purchased. But that would mean MPs would have to listen to scientists, probably unlikely given that only 4% of MPs have STEM degrees because FPTP and privilege and £££. The ability to buy drugs is too easy. You can go into any club and ask the right person in order to get hold of any substance you want. And nine times out of ten, the substance isn’t even pure; it is cut with rat poison, baking soda, chalk, even other drugs like cocaine and mixtures of amphetamines.
The illegality of drugs is what makes them so available - and the black market does not discriminate when choosing its customers. I would also like to see the university recognise the complete bullshit propaganda that circulates about certain drugs by our lawmakers, when they fail to educate people upon the effects.
I have watched Trainspotting, I will never have a needle in my arm because I researched heroin. I took coke once at a party, had the time of my life, but I also know a guy who took too much at a festival in belgium, and suffered a heart attack he cant even smoke cigarettes or drink coffee because of his heart. I have never experienced problems with my drinking or drug taking because I was sensible enough to know that an LCR night before an exam or smoking a spliff during revision is a plainly stupid choice to make - and such people should face the consequences for their own actions. I’m from the Netherlands, where we tolerate soft drugs like weed, and personally believe that making drugs less of a taboo has made me much less eager to try them. Most of my friends have never tried or tried once and never felt the need to continue using any drugs.
Cover art by Dougie Dodds