National Student Drug & Alcohol Conference

Recovery Connections attended the 3rd annual Student Drug & Alcohol Conference, at the University of Leeds. Presenting Collegiate Recovery, during a strong focus on harm reduction across the country, it is clear to see that both approaches can work in tandem, and lead to positive outcomes.

Recovery Connections were recently invited to present on the progress of Collegiate Recovery in the UK, at Leeds University. The third, annual, National Student Drug & Alcohol Conference, organised by Students Organising for Sustainability, featured speakers from universities and charities across the UK, and was geared towards providing better, safer student services, nationwide.

Hosted at Leeds University Union, other guest presenters included Universities UK, NUS, Liverpool John Moores University, SSDP Leeds, Keele University, The Loop and SOS-UK.

There was a notable focus on harm reduction initiatives and approaches, and challenges faced in integrating them with university policy, while creating the best outcomes for students across the country. However, the reception we received, after presenting on Collegiate Recovery, and Lived Experience, demonstrated an openness to exploring and combining both approaches in strategy.

Tracy Lumb, of Students for Sensible Drug Policies (SSDP Leeds), penned an insightful blog, following the event, for the Higher Education Policy Institute. Reflecting on two years of learning, an important takeaway - from both the blog and event - was that a ‘purely punitive approach to student drug use’ was no longer working.

Key findings from the research behind the blog include:

  • Finding that 65 per cent of students are unaware of their university’s drugs policy, demonstrating that the ‘purely punitive’ approach is not a beneficial deterrent

  • Students that do know about the policy may be afraid of seeking support, for fear of repercussions, including being expelled

  • Between 39 per cent and 56 per cent of students have or do use drugs

Key recommendations for institutions considering their own approach, included:

  • Developing stronger partnerships between student unions and the university

  • Working with a range of key stakeholders across the university

  • Collaborating with other institutions, and having peer-to-peer support

  • Clearly communicating the approach, to students

And this is where you can see that Collegiate Recovery Programmes can certainly fit in, and complement, harm reduction approaches on campus. Many of the key relationships involved, and strategies of informing students and staff of new approaches, fit comfortably within the implementation of a CRP on Campus.

Following Tracy’s blog, which is available, here, in full, Keele University will publish a case study of implementing a new harm reduction approach on campus, while Universities UK are set to publish a framework to support other universities to follow the same process.