Simon Merrywest: Why we’re running our first harm reduction campaign

by | May 26, 2022 | Learning and Students | 5 comments

In line with our announcement from January, in partnership with the Students’ Union, that we have moved from a zero-tolerance to a harm reduction approach to drugs and alcohol, we will be running our University’s first harm reduction campaign from the 30 May 2022. We believe we will be the first UK university to do this.

The University of Manchester does not condone the use of illegal drugs or the misuse of prescription drugs. But we know that despite this, some students still choose to use drugs whilst at university. So, we have a choice. We can simply tell students not to take drugs and hope for the best. Or we can try to ensure that students who choose to engage in drug use are aware of the dangers and have access to knowledge and support that allows them to make informed choices and reduce the harm they do to themselves.

We appreciate that some people feel strongly that we should simply tell students to ‘just say no’ – and we get that view. However, given the increasing purity of substances and issues with contaminants resulting in people becoming seriously unwell and, in some cases, dying after using drugs, our University believes a harm reduction stance is in the best interests of our student body.

It might be uncomfortable for some and attract criticism, but we think this is absolutely the right thing to do. We will never eradicate recreational drug use at university, just like the world at large, but what we can do is help to support students through effective harm reduction education and removing any stigma in seeking support for substance use and misuse.

To help with this, a Harm Reduction Working Group has been created, with representation from students, academic and professional services colleagues, and Students’ Union officers. The Working Group was set up to explore, publicise, and recommend Harm Reduction initiatives to benefit student safety.

As a result, to coincide with the end of exams when many students begin to socialise more, from 30 May 2022 we’ll be sharing drug and alcohol harm reduction advice as part of a wider ‘celebrating safely’ campaign. You can read the content we’ll be sharing below:

The content has been developed with input from current students on our Students’ Perspectives Group and the Students’ Union.

A harm reduction stance does not mean antisocial or criminal behaviour is acceptable. Any such misconduct will continue to be addressed robustly through the Student Disciplinary Regulations and any student found to be involved in the supply of illegal drugs will be referred to Greater Manchester Police.


  1. Sam

    A great idea and informative articles.

  2. Matt V

    A progressive approach to a challenging subject and which acknowledges that people will/do use drugs. Starting from the position of support should help remove stigma/concern from reaching out, and hopefully this will make for a safer environment for our students, with the option to take firmer action if this is needed.

  3. Phil Lord

    Very commendable but why are staff not included?

  4. Emma LK

    I think this is a very progressive and positive choice, for the benefit of our students. Well done all involved!

  5. Alistair Beech

    Bold but timely and a great example of collaboration with the Students’ Perspectives Group and SU.

    Well done to all colleagues involved in this work.


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