Grant cuts no barrier to student excesses

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The Independent Online
WHEN it comes to drinking vast quantities of alcohol, agricultural students would get a first for effort, while those studying the arts and social sciences come top in the dope-smoking department, according to a survey of 10 universities.

A drugs conference will hear today that physics students are among the most likely to experiment with drugs other than cannabis, and future doctors, dentists and vets are some of the biggest consumers of LSD.

Analysis of a survey of 3,700 second-year university students provides a fascinating insight into the drinking, smoking and drug habits of the different college faculties.

Top of the drinking league are biological science students - mainly those studying agriculture - 23 per cent of whom exceed the "hazardous" level.

Students from all faculties exceeded the weekly "low risk" drinking limit of 10.5 pints a week for men and seven for women. Veterinary and medical students were the most moderate boozers. Binge drinking - more than five pints in one evening - was most commonplace among biological science students, which resulted in some of them missing lectures three times a month.

Professor Heather Ashton, of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, one of the report's co-authors, said: "This tells us that students drink one hell of a lot. Despite complaining about not having any money, they certainly seem to have enough when it comes to alcohol."

Cannabis was the most popular illegal drug, with experiences ranging from 71 per cent in arts students to 42 per cent in veterinary science students.

On the question of the use of all drugs, faculties of art (71 per cent), social science (70 per cent), biological sciences (67 per cent) and physical sciences (64 per cent) were the highest.

After cannabis the most popular drug was LSD, with about half of engineering, law, mathematics, accountancy, medicine and dentistry students having tried it. Amphetamine, or "speed" was used by social scientists and art students.

Professor Ashton said: "This was popular at exam time as it helped students stay awake revising all night."

Surprisingly, researchers found little evidence that students became stressed by the amount of their drug taking and drinking, or by the debts they ran up paying for these activities. Their love lives and examination pressures were the most stressful aspects of university. The students who were least stressed were those with high alcohol consumption and who played a lot of sports - which may explain the relaxed demeanour of university rugby club members.

The report also noted that most students had developed their drug and drinking habits before going to university. "The choice of degree course by a student may be influenced by his/her personal characteristics which also affect the type of lifestyle pursued," it said.

Smoking tobacco was greatest in biological science, arts, and social science students, of which about a third regularly had a cigarette.

Analysis of the survey's findings, which was completed last year, but has not been published in a national newspaper before, will be discussed at a conference today at the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals in London. The event is part of the London Study Safety Campaign organised by London Drug Action Teams.