Student drug use ‘hits 5-year high’

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The number of students caught using drugs in Edinburgh University accommodation is at a five-year high, new figures have revealed.

More than 50 students were handed written warnings in the last year alone – triple the total three years ago.

And in the last five years 192 students were slapped with warnings related to drugs, with 134 incidents or suspected incidents recorded by bosses.

An Edinburgh University spokesman said written warnings were dished out “if a member of staff becomes aware of, or suspects that, drugs have been used or kept for personal use in university accommodation”.

The warnings remind students of their responsibilities under the terms of their lease and the university’s Code of Student Conduct – which 
prohibits drug use.

If this caution is breached or ignored – or the offence is serious enough – the student is then referred to an “authorised officer” to be “formally warned” and could even be reported to police. But despite rising numbers of students caught with drugs, none have been formally warned for drug-related incidents in the last five years.

And one student told the Evening News cannabis was “incredibly easy to come by” in halls – with fire alarms constantly set off during the night as a result of hash fumes.

The figures, obtained by the Evening News using Freedom of Information laws, show 46 students were given written warnings for drug-related incidents in 2010-11, dropping to just 15 the next year.

In 2012-13, a total of 32 students were warned, rising to 47 the following academic term - before reaching a five-year high of 52 this year.

A university spokesman said the boom could be explained by the growing student population.

He said: “We’d challenge the assertion that it’s a five-year high. For example, if we looked at 2010/11, we had 46 student cases – 0.16 per cent of the student body. In 2014/15, we had 52 student cases – 0.15 per cent of the student body.

“We take this issue extremely seriously and have staff who are trained in supporting students to make positive lifestyle choices.”

A police spokesman said: “There is no safe way to take drugs, there is always a risk, and the only way of ensuring your welfare is to avoid them altogether.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com