Substance use and misuse amongst students


1. The principal aims of this policy statement are to foster student awareness of UCL’s position in relation to the misuse of controlled drugs, psychoactive substances, study drugs and alcohol within UCL premises and to encourage the provision of relevant information and advice regarding drug and alcohol use.

2. UCL is aware that the use of substances such as alcohol are commonly associated with student recreational activity. UCL is also aware however, that the misuse of drugs and alcohol poses a serious risk to the health and general well-being of users and those with whom they come into contact; this situation also raises disciplinary issues for UCL authorities. UCL is committed to the physical and emotional wellbeing of its students. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, UCL is required to ensure as far as is reasonable, the health and safety of its employees, students and others at work.

Substance misuse definition

3. The term ‘substance misuse’ is used in this policy to describe the use of alcohol and/or drugs that adversely interferes with the individual’s health, work, study, safety or other social interactions. This relates to substances that are deliberately used to alter perception or feelings and includes alcohol, illegal drugs, psychoactive substances (previously known as legal highs), the use of study drugs and other medications when not used as medically prescribed.

Use of drugs, alcohol and psychoactive substances on UCL premises

4. Students should be aware that under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, it is a criminal offence for UCL knowingly to permit the use, production or supply of any controlled drugs on its premises. The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 came into force on 26 May 2016 and now makes drugs previously known as "legal highs" illegal. It should be clear; therefore, that UCL does not condone the possession, use or supply of controlled drugs or psychoactive substances on any of its premises. In such cases, UCL will take appropriate disciplinary action which may include referral to the police.

5. Alcohol use is not illegal and its consumption subject to the Licensing Act 1964 is permitted on UCL premises. UCL is concerned however, about the detrimental effects of excessive alcohol consumption on the overall welfare of students. UCL does not condone the excessive or harmful use of alcohol on its premises and students who are found to be behaving in an inappropriate manner under the influence of alcohol may be subject to disciplinary action.

Use of study drugs

6. The term ‘Study drugs’ is used in this policy to describe the use of substances or non-prescribed prescription medications that are used for cognitive enhancement and endurance. Many of these drugs are stimulants used to treat conditions such Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or medications to treat conditions such as narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. Students should be aware that use of such drugs are not without risk to their physical and mental health. Side effects and dependency are possible with some study drugs and all non-prescribed prescription medications can pose a risk to your health if they are not monitored by a medical practitioner.

7. Students should be aware that the possession of some non-prescribed study drugs are a criminal offence. Some drugs are illegal to possess without a prescription and most are illegal to supply or give away. You should treat the possession and use of study drugs with the same caution recommended for controlled drugs and psychoactive substances.

Advice and information

8. In association with the UCL Student Union (UCLU), UCL will provide relevant information and advice for students about the risks that may result from the use of drugs and alcohol and where possible, how to minimise the harm. UCL is aware of the common co-occurrence of mental health difficulties and substance misuse and UCL aims to support students in all aspects of their wellbeing. UCL, and UCLU, will also ensure that information about relevant support and treatment services, both internally and externally, are made readily available.

9. Although students should be mindful of the legal implications of their drug and/or alcohol use, students should also be assured that disclosure of any problematic substance use is regarded by UCL as a confidential issue that will be treated with sensitivity.