I would like to start off by expressing how devastated we are here at NUSU regarding the losses within our community this weekend. I would like to offer my deepest sympathies to the families, friends and students affected by the tragic losses of life. If anyone is affected please do seek support, at the bottom of this post are all of the links to our recommended support services, so please do get in touch.
Since the announcement on Sunday night by Northumbria Police, there has been a push for preventative action by students. Something we have worked quickly for is an amnesty bin for students to dispose of any drugs in a safe and controlled manner without consequence. The bin is now in place (Friday 9th October) and is available at the Students’ Union entrance. Please publicise this and make it known that drugs are not taboo at the SU. This immediate method of disposal hopefully highlights our stance of support and of harm reduction.
Further to this, we welcome the support that the petition for ‘Free Drug Testing Kits at NUSU’ has galvanised. I wanted to explain our current position on this.
We previously offered drug testing kits in the SU 2015/16. This was coordinated by the student society SSDP (Safe and Sensible Drug Policy) who were linked to the national organisation and therefore supported by a larger body. Unfortunately, as students moved on the society disbanded and therefore a gap occurred in the availability of the drug testing kits. When I first came into post and became aware of the support which had been previously been offered, I wanted to look at ways we could re-introduce this on a permanent basis.
Any harm reduction messages or campaigns that we lead will be met with resistance and we had to make sure that we were well briefed and prepared before launching. We decided in June to launch our research into testing kits, alongside the launch of our newly established Drug and Alcohol clinic. We thought that this was the best way to navigate through the push back we knew would come from others. It is clear that opposition to supplying testing kits usually comes from a place of fear and concern that the wrong message is being pushed out, and also in a distrust in the testing abilities to give a 100% result to those testing their drugs. This type of initiative can’t be rushed as individuals may make life choices based on the results of any kits.
We also had a responsibility to ensure that the kits can be future proofed. They need funding, staff to manage their distribution, a place to store them, and someone to check their use by dates frequently. I want to acknowledge that in the early stages of this project I thought this would be simple and easy, but I need to make it clear that we have often been met with resistance. Due to the fear of many organisations not wanting to appear as though they endorse the consumption of drugs, we feel that this has become a taboo topic.
To identify the gap in testing kits and in the specific types needed we decided to create a survey. Please look out for the survey being launched to gain a clearer insight into current drug use at Newcastle. This survey was going to be launched this week, however after the tragic news from the weekend we have delayed its launch. In the future when we release it, we will need your opinions to strengthen our case. Please, if you feel helpless right now I promise you that filling in the survey, and encouraging others to do so when it is released, will help.
We WILL make this a reality. I will keep working on this until we can provide the drug-testing kits in a responsible and thought-out way. Please be patient and understand that we are working as hard as we can on this. We have recently had students come forward and ask to re-create the SSDP society, if you would like to get involved please get in touch and you can be a part of this too.
Please take care, look after yourselves and look after each other.
Here are the links for support:
The Student Advice Centre:
Student Health and Wellbeing
Talk to Frank