The petition was set up by Madeleine Roberts after four young people in Newcastle, two of them Newcastle University students, had died at the beginning of October.
The petition calls to make free drug testing kits available to everyone at the Students Unions both at Newcastle and Northumbria Universities in the hopes of avoiding another tragedy.
These kits, according to the petition, could detect life threatening substances, effectively aiding students to make better and safer decisions. The petition is aimed at the Students’ Unions since their responsibilities lie with the safety and wellbeing of students.
The petition reads: “Drug testing kits are able to detect dangerous substances in drugs that can be potentially life threatening and this will allow those who choose to take drugs to be better equipped and have a greater understanding of what they are putting into their bodies, leading them to make a more educated, and therefore safer, decision.”
The National Union of Students found that 56% of students involved in a 2018 study had taken drugs at some point during university, demonstrating how many lives could be at risk.
The current 10pm curfew on pubs and clubs due to COVID-19 has encouraged students to spend more time inside during freshers week, which could potentially affect the likelihood of students turning to drugs or alcohol for recreational purposes.
Newcastle University’s Welfare and Equality Officer, Nadia Ahmed, outlined the practicality of introducing drug testing kits to NUSU. On her statement she said: “We previously offered drug testing kits in the SU 2015/16. This was coordinated by the student society SSDP (Safe and Sensible Drug Policy).”
“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.”
The supply of kits would need to be ‘future proofed’, including funding, staff and storage to continue the supply for future students.
And despite the petition having reached over 3500 signatures, the idea has still been met with opposition for fear that it would depict endorsement of drug consumption.
Ahmed pointed out: “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.”
Hence, the Welfare and Equality Officer has sought to reverse the narrative of drug consumption as a ‘taboo’ topic in order to save lives: “We WILL make this a reality.”
Ahmed closed the statement saying: “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.”