Alcohol and Drugs

University is widely recognised as an opportunity meet new people, socialise, and enjoy new experiences. In most cases these will not present any significant problems except for those that an extra round of drinks/shots might have on your bank balance the next time you look.

It is not our role to condone behaviours but to help students recognise the impact of the choices they have and to make informed choices that ultimately avoids harm or punishment.


Alcohol

Drinking socially is a common activity for many students often without concern although it is important to remember that many students don’t drink whether for medical, cultural, or religious reasons. For those unable to drink for medical reasons, it may be that drinking any amount will have serious implications.

Drinking typically changes the way that humans process information or behave, it can lower inhibitions, cause people to take risks and can make them feel good while under its influence. The ability for alcohol to make individuals feel good or even lessen pain can also have a major impact on mental health. Such feelings will often be temporary and may mask the underlying causes.

While typically Aberystwyth is a very safe area, examples of potentially risky activities that may occur or be the result of when under the influence of alcohol include:

  • Walking off or home alone.
  • Swimming or entering open waters.
  • Crossing dangerous roads or train lines.
  • Entering or climbing dangerous structures or properties.
  • Criminal activity such as theft, fighting or assault.
  • Risky sexual activity, such as non-consensual or unprotected sex.
  • Taking drug or continuing to drink excessively.

It’s important to recognise the potential impact of these activities, particularly situations that may involve getting in trouble with the police or university, being a victim of crime and being admitted to hospital.


Keeping yourself safe

Ultimately personal behaviour is the most important factor in influencing how those around you behave, particularly so when involving alcohol. To do so safely:

  • Try not to drink on an empty stomach, doing so means that more alcohol will get into your blood in a shorter time and could make you very drunk.
  • Consider swapping rounds of drinks with rounds of water and considering encouraging your friend(s) to do so also.
  • Try and avoid buying rounds of alcoholic drinks. This encourages you and others to drink alcohol when you may choose to have water, a soft drink or take a break.
  • Consider non-alcoholic alternatives, whether its mocktails or alcohol-free beer you can still enjoy the taste of an alcoholic drink without the alcohol.
  • If out as part of a club or society event be mindful to look after each other, ensuring those attending are not intimidated or pressured into doing anything they don’t want to do.
  • Limit the amount of money that you spend on a night out and try not to pay by card or withdrawal extra money that you might regret the next day.
  • Do not be afraid to say no to a night out to take time for yourself, or suggest a non-alcoholic alternative, like going to the cinema or for a meal.
  • Know your limits and do not try to push them or feel pressured to do so.
  • If you notice a friend is drinking more regularly or you have concerns about their drinking, consider having an open chat about it with them.
  • Know where you can get support and advice from or signpost others to.

Problem Drinking

A person’s relationship to alcohol can often be very personal to the individual and therefore prove challenging to challenge yourself on whether it has become problematic.

It’s important to consider whether it is affecting to your health, relationships, work or education. If you are drinking regularly and struggling to cut down, or your feel like you need to drink alcohol then its important you consider seeking help.

Alcoholics Anonymous suggest that if you answer yes to any one of the following questions, you may want to seriously think about your relationship with alcohol:

  • Do you drink because you have problems?
  • Do you drink when you get mad at other people, your friends or family?
  • Do you often prefer to drink alone, rather than with others?
  • Is it affecting your performance studying or in work?
  • Do you ever try to stop or drink less – and fail?
  • Have you begun to drink in the morning before university or work?
  • Do you ever have loss of memory due to your drinking?
  • Do you avoid being honest with others about your drinking?
  • Do you ever get into trouble when you are drinking?
  • Do you often get drunk when you drink, even when you do not mean to?

It can be difficult to take the first steps when drinking becomes problematic, but it is important to tackle the issue early whether talking to someone you trust or seeking professional help and support.


Seeking support

If you feel that alcohol is becoming a problem, there are a range of services which you can approach for support.

In the first instance you may wish to discuss the issue with your GP. They will assess your physical and mental health and be able to recommend and refer to specialist services if needed. Other support services include:


Drugs

Taking drugs comes with several risks whether in health, wellbeing or potential punishment. If you, or someone you know is going to take drugs then you should read harm reduction guidance where appropriate. It is important to remember that the best way to avoid harm or punishment, is not to take drugs at all.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 are the legislation that describes which substances are illegal and their legal classification. These legislations classify drugs as;

 

Class A

Includes: Crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth).

Possession: Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Supply and production: Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

 

Class B

Includes: Amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (e.g. mephedrone, methoxetamine).

Possession: Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Supply and production: Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

 

Class C

Includes: Anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), piperazines (BZP), khat.

Possession: Up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both (except anabolic steroids – it’s not an offence to possess them for personal use).

Supply and production: Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

 

Psychoactive Substances (previously referred to as ‘legal highs’)

Includes: Plant food, NPS, Mdat, Eric 3, Dimethocaine, Bath salts.

Possession: No penalty, unless in prison.

Supply and production: Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.


Prescription Drugs

Research suggests that as many as a quarter of people in the UK at any one time are taking addictive prescription medicines such as antidepressants, sleeping pills and opioid painkillers with many having been on these for at least a year and potentially a sign of dependency.

Addiction to prescription drugs is therefore a dangerous and often complicated issue which usually begins after a person has a legitimate need for them relating to health. While these are often carefully prescribed by medical professionals, many are addictive.

They can often act as a gateway to other illegal substances, particularly when a prescription runs out and like all addictive substances share common effects on health and wellbeing when their use becomes problematic.

In addition to the support services found in this guide we recommend talking to the medical professional who prescribed the medication or if not comfortable in doing so a professional with experiences of addiction if you feel you may be developing and addiction to prescribed medication.


Smart Drugs (also known as Study Drugs)

Smart Drugs refers to a range of mostly prescribed medications which act as stimulants, increasing alertness, energy, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. A misconception is that they increase learning or thinking ability, instead typically they are perceived by the user to help them focus.

Typically, such drugs are used to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and as such are received usually from someone, they know who already has a prescription. There are numerous health risks to taking such drugs which are often initially prescribed in low doses that are then slowly built upon.

They have a potential to cause serious physical and mental health problems including high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, seizures, stroke, paranoia and other mental health problems. Many perceive them to be harmless although they can be highly addictive and often overused compared to other substances.

If you do need to focus on academic work there are proven ways to boost concentration and beat stress without the risks including meditation, getting a good night’s sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a variety of health foods. Remember you can also submit Special Circumstances or ask for an Extension depending on your situation (see our guide on Special Circumstances and Extensions for more information).


Use of Drugs in Rented Accommodation

Letting Agents and Landlords have a legal responsibility to prevent illegal activity from taking place in their properties. If they suspect that illegal activity is taking place, then they may take action to try and stop this and even report you to the police.

If you are living in University owned accommodation, then you could face disciplinary action if security find drugs in your room or on your possession. This could ultimately lead to you being asked to vacate accommodation or referred to a Disciplinary Panel and face suspension/exclusion from the University.

If you do take the decision to use drugs in or around your rented accommodation it is important to consider others. If any of your housemates feel uncomfortable with drugs being in the house, it is best to find somewhere more appropriate that is safe and does not affect others.


Further consequences

It is important to consider that being caught in possession of drugs can have serious consequences, particularly depending on your career plans. Students who study professional courses that have fitness to practice requirements may be removed from their course if found in possession of or found to have used any of these substances.

If you are ever investigated for concerns relating to your Fitness to Practise you should contact the Students’ Union Advice Service to discuss your options.

Receiving a criminal record for drug possession can prevent you from entering certain countries, restricting international travel.


Harm Reduction

WEDINOS (Welsh Identification of Drugs and Novel Substances) is a harm reduction project that exists to monitor the use of and identify dangerous samples of substances in Wales. You can get samples of drugs tested anonymously by WEDINOS, who inform you of the test results on their Sample Results page. By doing this you are contributing to their research.

For more information on sample testing as well as pragmatic harm reduction advice visit the WEDINOS website.


Seeking support

If you are worried about your (or someone else’s) use of drugs, we recommend that you seek support in addressing the problem.

In the first instance you may wish to discuss the issue with your GP. They will assess your physical and mental health and be able to recommend and refer to specialist services if needed. Other support services include:

DDAS (Dyfed Drug and Alcohol Service) (www.barod.cymru/where-to-get-help/west-wales-services/ddas-dyfed-drug-and-alcohol-service/) – a free, confidential and non-judgemental support service for individuals affected by alcohol and drugs.

DAN 24/7 (www.dan247.org.uk) – a free and bilingual 24/7 helpline providing information or help relating to drugs and alcohol.

Talk to FRANK (www.talktofrank.com) a government funded service providing facts, support and advice on drugs and alcohol.

We Are With You (www.wearewithyou.org.uk) –  a free, confidential support service for those experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health.


What can the AberSU Advice Service do to help?

The AberSU Advice Service is independent from the University and provides a free, confidential, and impartial service to all Aberystwyth University students. 

The Advice Service can assist you in a range of ways, including:

  • Providing impartial advice for your circumstances.
  • Advice on how to respond to allegations and preparing for any meetings.
  • Accompany you where appropriate to any meetings to provide support and representation.
  • Help signpost you to other support services.

To make an appointment to discuss all your options, including what support is available to you, please contact us below:


Useful links

DDAS (Dyfed Drug and Alcohol Service)

DAN 24/7 (Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline)

WEDINOS (Welsh Emerging Drugs and Identification of Novel Substances Project)


First Produced: December 2020

Reviewed: December 2020

Useful Links

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