Modern students shun drugs and worry about excessive drinking, new study finds

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Most students have not used drugs during their time at university and more think excessive alcohol consumption is a bigger issue, a new study suggests.

The survey also found that a high proportion - 88% - believe drug use can cause long-term mental health problems, with around two thirds stating that it contributes to criminality and health care costs.

The study, by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and the University of Buckingham, found that 71% of students have not taken illicit drugs.

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As many as 44% think drinking alcohol excessively is a "very serious" threat compared to 33% who consider illegal drugs to be more dangerous.

Hepi director Nick Hillman said: "This survey provides an important corrective to some of the wilder ideas about today's students.

"They are more hard working and less hedonistic than is often supposed.

"A majority clearly recognise the dangers of taking illegal substances."

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The survey of 1,000 people was conducted via YouthSight's student panel, with the results weighted to reflect all the body of full-time undergraduate students.

The findings contrast with those of a National Union of Students survey in April, which suggested 56% had taken drugs and two-thirds had "showed a relaxed attitude" towards student drug use.

The new survey found that nearly half (47%) of those who took drugs said peer pressure had been the trigger.

It also found that 81% of those who said they had taken drugs said they did so for recreational purposes while just 6% said it was to cope with exam pressure.

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Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, which is hosting the Festival of Higher Education this week, said: "With illegal drugs, we have been fiddling while Rome burns.

"Illegal drug taking causes mental health problems and is a symptom of them.

"Even students themselves think there needs to be a stronger lead on drug dealing, especially as the survey shows many students feel under peer pressure to participate in illegal drugs."