Students at the University of Bristol are being given kits to test drugs before taking them, in a scheme endorsed by both staff and student leaders.
The ‘harm reduction’ system run by The Drop, part of the Bristol Drugs Project, allows students to determine what they are taking before they use illegal drugs.
Students’ Union Student Living Officer Ruth Day claimed the scheme would help keep students “as safe as possible”, but the move has been criticised by The Christian Institute.
Bristol joins Manchester and Birmingham universities in offering students testing kits for drugs.
When the initiative was launched, Alison Golden-Wright, the University’s Director of Student Health and Inclusion, claimed the scheme would not ‘condone’ drug use, and that a zero-tolerance stance is “harmful and damaging”.
However, she did admit the University would still need to address “antisocial and criminal behaviour, such as supplying illegal drugs”.
The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Communications Ciarán Kelly said the move sends the wrong message.
“This scheme legitimises illegal drug-taking. It suggests that drugs can be taken ‘safely’, rather than clearly communicating the reality that those drugs are illegal precisely because they are so dangerous.
“Young people at university are often living away from home for the first time and are looking to try new things as they find their way in the world. Tragically, there are many who choose to take advantage of that by selling them drugs.
“Officials should be doing what they can to combat the dealers, not helping them out. This places young, impressionable students at risk of addiction, poor mental health, or any of the other innumerable consequences of drug-taking. Universities need to be a part of the solution, not contributing to the problem.”
In 2017, anti-drugs campaigners criticised a similar scheme, called The Loop, which allowed people at music festivals to check the ‘purity’ of illegal drugs before they took them.
The National Drug Prevention Alliance warned that the scheme would “simply normalise drug taking amongst the young and will reinforce the attitude that taking drugs is an integral part of the festival experience, which it is not”.