Traces of cocaine have been found at various Oxford University institutions. Swabs taken in the Oxford Union, the Old Bodleian Library, the Oxford Radcliffe Camera, the Manor Road Building, the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, and the Oxford University Language Centre tested positive for the class A drug, as revealed by student newspaper Cherwell, which carried out the tests.

The newspaper also conducted an anonymous questionnaire of 650 Oxford students, thus organizing one of the biggest investigations into student drug use at one of Britain’s leading institutions. The tests, believed to be about 95% accurate, were conducted mainly in bathrooms in the university building.

In the study, 94% of students claimed to have used alcohol in the past year, 54% reported to have used tobacco, and 11% admitted to having used cocaine. More common illegal drugs included cannabis (43%), and MDMA (22%).
A spokesperson for Oxford University said, “We do not believe there is a problem of widespread cocaine use at Oxford University, and note that the accuracy of the cocaine test swabs would probably not stand up as evidence in court. The findings are of concern, however, and the relevant University authorities have requested more information about how this investigation was carried out.”

When addressing the problem of students’ drug abuse, they continued, “We strongly advise students against taking any drugs that have not been prescribed to them as this could involve putting their health at risk. If students want help to address these matters, they will find a range of support available on many levels - college, university, Student Union, and the local NHS services. Information about this support is promoted to students by the University, the colleges and the Student Union.”

Students think they are not addicted

It seems, however, that the issue is not so much lack of support, but rather the attitude of students themselves towards drugs. A drug survey conducted by StudentBeans in 2012 found that most students who have experienced drugs are not worried about addiction. More than 9 in 10 students stated that they are not addicted at all and not worried about getting addicted in the future.

At the same time, even recreational use of class A drugs such as cocaine or MDMA can cause excessive damage to the human brain. For instance, a study conducted at University of London in 2001 found evidence of impairments of verbal memory in MDMA users, be it novice, regular, or currently abstinent users.

Results of the investigation into student drug use, however, are not all that surprising. Considering the significant stress and workload at one of Britain’s top universities, as well as a general “work hard, play hard” culture, the recreational use of class A drugs could well be expected. What does remain surprising, is that students who are presumably of a very high intelligence do not refrain from the use of such drugs in official university buildings and based on previous surveys seem to considerably underestimate the effect of such drugs and the danger of addiction.

Bottom line: Have you ever tried class A drugs? What do you think about drug use at your university?

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