Some students at the University of Newcastle have developed handy drug-testing kits and have been selling them for £3 each. This is the first initiative of its kind worldwide. The kits have been sold very quickly, not only among University of Newcastle students, but also to people from other colleges. The initiative is in association with the student-led organisation “Students for Sensible Drug Police” and aims to bring more awareness about drug use. In fact, the project was developed after a rise in deaths linked to drugs, especially ecstasy and MDMA, in order to make students more aware of the substances contained in drugs.

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The kit is easy to use. You simply need to open the small tube and put in a pill or some powder, close it and shake. After a while, the solution inside the tube should change colour to indicate what the main component of the drug is. However, the tube doesn’t seem to be very reliable, as BBC commissioned an analysis of Ketamine and ecstasy using the kit and the kit failed to correctly detect Ketamine. In fact, rather than turning red to indicate that the substance was ketamine, it turned green indicating that it was amphetamine.

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Although the campaigners in Newcastle admit that the kits are not perfect, they state that the purpose of the campaign is to inform students about drugs they most frequently make use of. The president of the association, Holly Robinson, claims that the campaign aims to promote well-being among students. In fact, although drugs are illegal, statistics say that many students still use them, and the number keeps on growing. So the association believe that the young should be educated on the quality and safety of the substances they make use of. However, there is a debate currently ongoing regarding whether or not the campaign is actually useful or it could bring about an increase in drug use by students. Holly Robinson claimed that the initiative doesn’t intend to promote use of drugs. The campaign doesn’t aim to promote drug as something safely to take but if one decides to take it, their advice is to do it in a safer way. “Drugs are a taboo”, the campaigners say, and students are afraid of asking questions about it. This is a way to make them more informed about their choices.

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Whether or not the drug-testing kit is reliable and actually useful to prevent drug use, this campaign already achieved a change in the drug policy of the university, which has become more appropriate towards students’ needs. The university is offering counselling service to help them with drug problems, rather than expelling them straight away if a drug is found in their possession and I wonder what changes this may lead to in the future.