Students are often stereotyped as workshy watchers of day time TV who drink too much and often take drugs. A lot of students still think that going to university will expose them to prolific drug use both on nights out and in student accommodation. But how much truth is there to the myth of student drug culture? Do students really encounter drugs as much as is imagined or are our perceptions skewed?
According to a student beans survey 90% of students think that their peers have tried illegal drugs whilst at university. The reality is that 45% of students have never tried any form of illegal drugs. Statistics show that students consistently over-estimate the amount of drugs being taken at university by up to 18%. Students are actually pretty wary of most illegal substances; in a question which asked which drugs would you definitely not try only three kinds of illegal drugs – MDMA, cannabis and mushrooms – would be tried by over 60% of students. Most students wouldn’t even touch almost all illegal drugs.
Interestingly, the majority of students (79%) who had tried illegal substances had tried them before they came to university. 74% of students take drugs just a few times a year or less and only 11% take drugs once a week. 51% spent under £10 a term on drugs and very few, only 3% spent £120-160 per month.
Although it’s reassuring that the student drug culture is something of a myth, editor of studentbeans.com Oliver Brann highlights that the belief in a drug culture by students may insidious enough on its own.
“Young people are very peer-led and if they think that all their friends are experimenting with drugs, they may be more likely to try it for themselves”
New students who arrive with perception that drug taking is the norm at uni may experiment with substances in a way they are not completely comfortable with and students are more likely to exacerbate the myth by falsely bragging about drug use which doesn’t happen in the hope to fit in better. All of this has potential to lead to the creation of a ‘student drug culture’ through the very idea of it.
Another worrying discovery is that students are unlikely to turn to health professionals for advice or information about drug use if things start to go wrong. Only 15% would speak to a GP or Doctor, whilst 43% will turn to their friends and 67% will take a look in the internet. Although there’s a lot of good advice on the internet the plethora of information means websites are littered with false or unhelpful information so it’s a slight cause of concern that a student would favour an internet website’s expertise to that of a doctors.
It seems then that according to the survey conducted by student beans, drug taking is far less prevalent that we might imagine on campus. What needs adapting now is the student perception of peer behaviour to avoid a dangerous culture being created through the very idea of it.
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