By Aaron Lowman, VP CHLS
University is the dawn of a new beginning. For most of us, it means all sorts of new experiences: the washing of sinks; the broadening of sexual horizons; the burgeoning comprehension of a lifetime of crippling debt; lots and lots of illegal drugs.
For some of us, this won’t be our first encounter with drugs and may have even tried some before – from the solitary half a pill on A-levels results night, or the entirety of sixth form spent smoking weed when we should have been deciphering what Chaucer was really trying to say in paragraph three on page 51 of The Canterbury Tales. That said, the majority of us won't start supplementing our serotonin in earnest until we've finished all those weird ice-breakers lecturers insist on putting you through during freshers’ week.
Exactly how many of us, though, is hard to say for certain, as official government figures are notoriously weak when it comes to gauging levels of illicit drug use not just among university students, but across the country as a whole. Fortunately, online student newspaper The Tab recently asked 8,000 students about their drug use, ultimately finding – among a few other things – that 70 percent of university students have admitted to taking an illegal drug in their lifetime.
It's long been a truism that university is the perfect setting for taking drugs: they're easy to get, you're surrounded by people your own age who also might be experimenting with them, and – more likely than not – you're free from the responsibilities of work or parenthood, meaning you don't have to sit through a 9AM strategy meeting with your jaw still doing loops. However, there is a very real danger associated with this.
Drugs fuck with your brain.
That's why people use them. They take you down, they push you up and they send you sideways.
Whether it's a chilled joint after work, a Friday night piss-up, a pill to enhance a club night or a line that will transport you into an alien space world, psychoactive substances offer students temporary escape from their everyday lives.
Drugs on campuses aren't anything new, but for those who aren't feeling great about themselves, the lure of that narcotic escape can be stronger. Unfortunately, this chemically enabled sanctuary itself can worsen people's mental health.
Drugs and mental illness are entwined in a complex dance that scientists are only recently beginning to decipher and are a long way from knowing the full long-term effects. The social stigma that has surrounded both issues for so long has meant that research into how they interact, and how one may lead to the other, is in its infancy.
The evidence for the two-way connection between drugs and mental illness is there in the science journals. It's also right in front of our faces, many of us have friends or family members who have been mentally damaged by legal and illegal drugs. Nevertheless, if you want the truth about the relationship between drugs and mental health, you have to steer a careful course between all the bullshit.
But the correlation is there. Government figures show that around a third of people diagnosed with mental illnesses have used drugs in the last 12 months – three times the national average. Three quarters of those attending drug treatment services have had a psychiatric disorder in the last year.
At Brunel, we believe in tackling problems head on and with this in mind, the Union of Brunel Students and Well@Brunel (Brunel University’s Wellbeing Service) have teamed up to run a campaign aimed at making sure you know the facts about drugs, legal highs and the link between drugs and sex. Introducing ‘My Chemical Romance?’!
We have posters, we have lunchtime discussions, we’ll be posting on social media and we’ll have the facts from the experts, the only other thing we need is you and your opinions!
If you have any questions on the My Chemical Romance? Campaign please email email@example.com or to join in the conversation on social media, use the #MyChemicalRomance