Bristol University launches joint drug harm reduction campaign

Bristol is the first in the UK to launch this city-wide scheme

Bristol University has helped launch a city-wide harm reduction campaign aimed to offer “non-judgemental” solutions to drug use.

The campaign, which was launched yesterday, is in collaboration with Bristol Nights- an arm of Bristol City Council, Avon & Somerset Police, as well as UWE and both universities’ students’ unions.

Aimed at shifting the approach towards drug and alcohol use away from zero-tolerance towards harm reduction, “harm reduction and the night time economy” provides advice to, but not exclusively, venue owners, managers and staff.

Whilst spotting the signs of a drug or alcohol related emergency are prioritised, topics ranging from “why do people take drugs and drink alcohol” all the way to “preventing drug dealing on your premises” are explored as Bristol Nights promotes a singular, city-wide policy focussed on welfare and safety.

Bristol’s previous zero-tolerance approach to drug use did not reduce the dangers associated with drug consumption. Between 2017 and 2021, 223 Bristolians died in drug-related deaths. Given this, the scheme is expected to receive a warm reception from the public.

The Labour councillor and cabinet member for public health and communities, Ellie King, has said that the scheme “isn’t about condoning drug use, it’s about accepting that we live in a reality where drug use takes place”.

The campaign is also focussing on drink spiking, aiming to spread awareness of which venues provide test kits behind the bar, following the endemic of spiking incidents last year.

As part of this scheme The Loop, a harm reduction charity originating in Bristol, will be providing free monthly drug-testing next year in collaboration with Bristol Nights where members of the public can receive anonymous and confidential advice alongside getting their substances tested.

Whilst Bristol University has previously stated their harm reduction stance when it comes to drugs and alcohol, providing free drug testing kits to students in 2020, this scheme is part of a wider move by UK universities away from a zero-tolerance approach.

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