The Alcohol and Drug Service sees spikes throughout the year with incidents of young people needing hospital help due to drugs and alcohol – Freshers’ Week or ‘Welcome Week’, 15-22 September is one of these.
It is hoped to be an exciting time for students entering the next stage of life, away from the watchful eye of parents, independent for the first time and a plethora of new experiences and opportunities. The charity wants to highlight a topic that isn’t talked about widely enough, with the aim of ensuring students get the most out of and enjoy their experience.
Tim Young, CEO of The Alcohol and Drug Service, offers friendly advice on ensuring you get the most out of university life.
He says: “University years can be the most fantastic time of your life but if you’re off your head, you’ll miss it.
“From experience we know that telling people to avoid taking recreational drugs and drinking alcohol to excess simply gets ignored by some. We recently opened up a frank conversation about using drugs at festivals and our message is very similar for Freshers’ Week.
“It’s great to see that the University of Hull and others have changed the name to ‘Welcome Week’ in a bid to refocus students away from the hedonism we have come to expect. It’s a significant move to change the terminology and the brand of Freshers’ Week as it begins to change the culture and move the way people view and think and feel about it in a much more positive direction.
“At the same time, we are fully aware that some students, both experienced users and those who are experimenting for the first time, will choose to take recreational drugs.
“While we would still advocate avoiding illicit drugs altogether, we understand that some will take risks and experiment. So, as uncomfortable as it is for some people, we offer advice based on the reality of what people actually do, not what we’d like them to do.
“We hope that by speaking opening and honestly about drugs and alcohol we will reduce the risk of harm to people.
“In the absence of drug testing facilities, whether you are buying drugs from a friend of a friend or from someone you’ve never met before, you are taking a gamble as you have no idea what the ingredients might include.
“For experienced users, don’t assume it’s the same strength you’re used to. Leave a longer period between doses and if you’re in a group watch out for each other. If anyone feels unwell or disorientated call 999 and tell them what you’ve taken.
“Whether using drugs or alcohol, users can be incredibly vulnerable. The loss of inhibitions can mean trusting someone you don’t know and ending up in a risky situation. If you’re lucky you might only lose your wallet or purse. However we are painfully aware of situations where young people have been seriously hurt and worse.
“Alcohol is probably the most common substance of choice during Freshers’ Week and the usual levels of consumption are far exceeded. At best you will wake up with a terrible hangover or, end up in hospital having your stomach pumped.
“Our advice is eat a good meal before you got out. Drink water between alcoholic drinks and don’t encourage your friends to drink more if they have already had enough. Stay with friends at all times and tell them if going off somewhere and remember, you are more likely to enjoy the night if you can remember what happened.
“Another reality of Freshers’ Week is that for some it can be a difficult time. Some young people struggle to fit in, feel anxious and lonely.
“Universities offer a welcome and support for new arrivals in a variety of ways including a range of societies and groups along with pastoral support from student advisors. The culture is changing and we applaud the measures the university has taken.
“Indications also show that more and more students are not drinking at all which feels like things are really moving in a positive direction.”
[Jess Clark – Divine Clark PR]