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Student drug harm reduction project awarded money from £5m government fund

KATY HOLLOWAY, Professor of Criminology at University of South Wales (USW), is part of a research team working towards reducing drug-related harm amongst UK students.

The Staying Safe Programme (SSP) is one of five projects awarded funding from the UK Government Department of Health and Social Care.

University is usually the first time that young people will have lived away from their parents. For some, that new freedom from parental constraint – coupled with opportunities for recreational drug taking – can lead to experimentation. This is demonstrated by the fact that university students are almost twice as likely to have used an illegal drug in the last year compared with other people of the same age.

The university setting therefore provides an ideal opportunity to deliver educational information aimed at helping students stay safe – whether by abstinence, encouraging moderate use, or reducing the demand for so-called recreational drugs among young people.

The Staying Safe Programme (SSP) is a documentary-style video education project which has been designed to reduce demand for drugs by deterring or delaying the onset of their use, preventing the transition to heavy or problematic use, and equipping students with the knowledge required to reduce the harms associated with the use of recreational drugs.

The programme, which is being piloted at University of South Wales and University of Manchester, was developed by experts in the fields of medicine, addiction, psychiatry, policing and sexual assault, alongside student and university welfare bodies. It is being backed by the Department of Health and Social Care’s £5 million Innovation Fund to reduce recreational drug use.

Dr William Floodgate, Professor Judith Aldridge and Lydia Swann from The University of Manchester, and Professor Katy Holloway and Shannon Murray at University of South Wales, are undertaking an evaluation of the programme with the aim of refining it and then rolling it out to other universities around the country.

Professor Katy Holloway, USW said: “We are very excited to be involved in this important project, which aims to reduce drug-related harm among university students. We are looking forward to working with colleagues at the University of Manchester to help fine tune the Staying Safe Programme and develop plans for a large-scale evaluation across universities in the UK.”

Dr William Floodgate, University of Manchester, said: “Our project will refine a new evidence-based, harm reduction-focused drugs education programme which can be used at other universities across the UK,” said

“SSP has been designed to equip young adults with the knowledge required to reduce the harms associated with recreational drug use. We will use a range of methods to establish the appropriateness of the programme, its in-built assessment of learning, and its effects on the students who complete it.”

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