A new harm reduction campaign, which is aimed at reducing drug risks among third level students, has been launched by the HSE and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
According to the HSE, the most commonly used substances among the general public are alcohol, cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamines. The campaign, #SaferStudentNights, is focusing on the dangers associated with 'club drugs', such as cocaine, MDMA and ketamine.
According to Dr Eamon Keenan, the HSE's national clinical lead for addiction, using illicit or unknown drugs ‘always carries risks' and students are advised not to use drugs at all. However, if people decide to go ahead and use them, it is vital that they are well informed.
"We are particularly concerned about the increase in strength of certain drugs, such as MDMA and cocaine, as well as the risk of unknown content appearing in these drugs.
"People will be advocating self-reporting ‘drug testing kits', but remember that these might not detect all the substances in a pill or powder and may not detect adulterants. If you do choose to use drugs - inform yourself first by going to www.drugs.ie which has lots of useful information," Dr Keenan said.
According to USI president, Siona Cahill, this campaign is not about reducing fun on a night out.
"It's about enjoying your night, looking after yourself, knowing your limits and getting home safe. Ongoing use of a variety of substances by young people and students has rightly attracted attention and concern due to the significant number of physical and psychological side-effects associated with their use. As such, it's important for us to ensure that students' relationship with substances is as safe and as educated as possible," she commented.
The campaign provides information on a range of topics, including the dangers of combining drugs.
"Drugs can be unsafe, but if you do take them, follow harm-reduction methods, like knowing what you're taking, how much you're taking, and that you fully inform trusted friends. We are urging students to be vigilant against unknown substances. They're not worth putting your life in danger for," Ms Cahill added.
For more information on this campaign, which will run throughout the second semester (February to April), click here