Newcastle’s SSDP Society: promoting safer drug use amongst students

Head of Culture Maud Webster chats to Newcastle's SSDP society about how students can learn more about safer drug use.

Maud Webster
6th October 2021
Credit: SSDP Newcastle via Facebook

Newcastle University’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) relaunched at the start of last academic year with the aim to promote safe drug use amongst students, and provide a safe and approachable space for students to openly talk about drug-related issues. 

SSDP’s president Chloe Rowe feels that having these important discussions around drug use is crucial: “following the recent deaths [of two Newcastle students] in 2020, we felt it became even more important to educate students on safe drug taking practice.”

“Allowing students to openly discuss, without the fear of judgement, may prevent future tragedies.”

Conversations around safe drug use are particularly pertinent in a university setting; Vice reported that roughly 70% of UK students have taken an illegal substance at some point, with Newcastle and Northumbria having some of the highest percentages in the country for use of MDMA, ecstasy, ketamine and cocaine. 

Over the past year the society participated in online seminars run by SSDP UK, which discussed the potential for illegal drugs to be used for treatment-resistant disorders including depression and PTSD. They have also worked with the student union’s welfare team to create a drug misuse policy, which focuses on harm reduction and wellbeing as opposed to punishment, and built a social media presence, sharing educational posts about safe drug use.

SSDP want to build on their success over the past year; Chloe explains they hope to “work alongside the SU to make free, anonymous drug testing kits available to all”, “deliver informative material via social media and handouts on campus” and “gain presence and recognition within the university, so more students can benefit from the information”. 

Students can volunteer to help SSDP spread information, and are invited to contact the society through Instagram and Facebook with any drug-related queries students may have. 

Chloe’s advice for freshers and returning students includes: 

“Always be honest with paramedics in an emergency situation, you won’t get in trouble. Try and test your substances before you take them. If you message us on Instagram, we have some testing kits available for Ketamine and MDMA, before they become permanently available in the SU. There is a current MDMA shortage in the UK, therefore dealers are selling alternatives e.g. 4CMC, PMA and eutylone. These alternatives have long lasting negative effects e.g. paranoia and anxiety,  some of  the other long lasting effects are still unknown as these are new drugs to the market. Students should be extra careful when buying what is being sold to them as MDMA as there is a high chance it isn’t. The best way to check is by using a drug testing kit.”

For more information, visit SSDP’s Instagram or Facebook, and take a look at their society page on the NUSU website

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AUTHOR: Maud Webster
she/they | third year architecture & urban planning student @ newcastle | co-head of culture for the 21/22 academic year

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