Drug testing is proven to reduce the risks of drug use, yet most UK universities remain reluctant to support such services. By providing people with testing kits, or giving them access to drug testing services, students can check what’s actually in their drugs. In this way, they can dose accordingly, or even avoid taking the drug if found to be contaminated. However, despite the evidence in favour of drug testing, few UK universities support such an approach due to an apparent fear of appearing to condone drug use.

An NUS survey of 2810 students released earlier this year revealed more than half (56%) of students had tried drugs – and two in five said they currently use drugs. The most widely used recreational drugs were cannabis, ecstasy, nitrous oxide and cocaine. Cannabis was by far the most commonly used drug.

A number of Student Unions – including Manchester, Newcastle and Sussex – already offer testing kits so students can test drugs before taking them to determine their toxicity. More are looking to do the same, but smaller Student Unions need financial support, according to Eva Crossan Jory, the National Union of Students Vice-President for Welfare.

Manchester University has launched a trial programme allowing students to pay £2.50 to test their drugs.

“We believe it’s part of our responsibility to look after our student members to make these tests available to students across Manchester. We will continue to campaign to policy makers to make changes to drugs policy that reflect a more realistic and proactive attitude”, said a Student Union official.

Free drug testing

The University of Warwick’s Student Union is preparing to make free drug testing kits available to students because it recognises that some students do, and will continue to, take drugs.

“More and more unions are asking about drug-testing kits. So, we are trying to make the kits cheaper and more accessible”, said Ms Crossan Jory. “Student Unions are taking it more seriously. And there are a lot more Student Unions that are looking at ways they can reduce harm and educate their students within the union.”

The Loop has been at the forefront of UK drug testing services since 2016, inviting individuals to anonymously test their drugs at music festivals. The test results can be discussed with professionals, who are also on hand to provide harm reduction advice. An academic study which found numerous health benefits of providing such services has recently been published by The Loop’s founder Fiona Measham. For information on any of AlphaBiolabs’ drug testing solutions, including our home drug testing kit, please call 0333 600 1300 or email us at