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Drugs and Alcohol

This guidance has been produced for students who are struggling with drugs and alcohol. It provides information for taking the first steps, making empowered decisions, and getting the right support for you.

We understand that coming to university is a time to experience new things, but some new things come with risks. Drug and alcohol misuse can affect your physical and mental health, behaviour, relationships, academic performance at university and can lead to addiction. You as an individual, your emotional state, the substance you take and the environment you are in, will all influence the effect.

How can drugs affect my mental health?

All drugs and alcohol use have some kind of effect on your mental health. They can affect the way you see and experience things, your mood and your behaviour.

The effects of alcohol and recreational drugs can feel pleasant or unpleasant and the effects may last for a short time or a longer period, with some continuing after the substances themselves have worn off.

How you react to alcohol and drugs is likely to depend on what you consume or take, how you take it, and how you feel at the time.

In certain cases, misusing substances can contribute to the development of long-term mental health problems, or they can make the symptoms of an existing mental health issue worse. You may also depend on alcohol or drugs to help with feelings that you struggle to deal with in other ways. Using drugs and alcohol in this way can lead to addiction.

Risky or excessive alcohol use means drinking more than the recommended amounts, which results in adverse effects on health. If you regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week then this can have an impact on your mood, physical health, and ability to engage in academic work.

Find out more about the effects of drugs on the body Find out more about the effects of alcohol on your mental health

Screening Tool

You may wish to complete a screening tool to assess what level of risk is posed by your current substance use

Alcohol screening tool Drugs screening tool

Support for you

Self-help support for drugs

  • DrugWise provide a summary about UK drug law.
  • The Talk to Frank website aims to provide up to date drug information and where to get help.
  • The NHS Live Well website includes information about drug addiction and where to get help.
  • with experts.
  • Drugs and Me – Includes information and resources such as a harm reduction guide to safer drug use.

Self-help support for alcohol

  • The NHS ‘One You’ Drink Free Days is a simple and easy way to track the days you drink alcohol and the days you don’t.
  • The NHS Live Well website and NHS Leaflet ‘Alcohol and You’ includes information on safe levels of drinking, patterns of drinking, how to help yourself or someone else you might be worried about.
  • The Drinkaware website features the latest UK government medical advice about alcohol.

The Mental Health & Wellbeing Team

  • If you are using drugs or alcohol to help you cope with another issue or difficulty and would like to talk to someone, contact our Mental Health & Wellbeing Team for a one-to-one appointment.
  • Their services are confidential unless, in exceptional circumstances, where it is deemed there is a danger to yourself or to others, or if there is a legal duty to report.

If you or someone you know doesn’t want to speak to the University about their use of drugs or alcohol, there are other services they can contact instead: 

Alcohol support organisations

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

0800 9177 650 (email helpline)

Help and support for anyone with alcohol problems.

Alcohol Change UK

Information and support options for people worried about how much alcohol they are drinking, in both English and Welsh.


0300 123 6600

Turning Point
Health and social care services in England for people with a learning disability. Also supports people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse or unemployment.

We Are With You
Supports people with drug, alcohol or mental health problems, and their friends and family.

Drug support organisations

Below are some organisations who can help if you have problems with using recreational drugs.

Cocaine Anonymous UK

0800 612 0225
Help and support for anyone who wants to stop using cocaine.


0300 123 6600
Confidential advice and information about drugs, their effects and the law.

Marijuana Anonymous

0300 124 0373
Help for anyone worried about cannabis use.

Narcotics Anonymous

0300 999 1212
Support for anyone who wants to stop using drugs.


020 7324 2989 (email helpline)
National charity that offers free and confidential advice about drugs and the law.

Turning Point
Health and social care services in England for people with a learning disability. Also supports people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse or unemployment.

We Are With You
Supports people with drug, alcohol or mental health problems, and their friends and family.

Supporting someone with drug and alcohol problems?

It can feel difficult to support someone who is struggling with recreational drug or alcohol use. It might make you feel worried, frustrated or lonely, but there are things you can do to help. This might include encouraging them to seek help for the first time.

If you are supporting someone seeking help for the first time, you could:

  • Reassure them that it is OK to seek help.
  • Help them find out what services are available locally. Turning Point’s website has a tool to help you find local services for drug and alcohol use (the tool refers to it as ‘substance misuse’).
  • Go to appointments with them if they would like you to. This may especially help for their first visit.
  • If they already receive treatment or support, you could help them stick to their treatment plan, go to appointments and meet their targets.
  • As well as helping them find treatment and support, these are some ways to help someone feel supported:
  • Find ways to spend more time together. You could try joining in with any activities that they enjoy.
  • Listen to them if they want to talk about their experiences or how they feel.
  • Try to explain how their alcohol or drug use is affecting you.

Organisations that can help you to support someone else

Support if you are affected by someone else’s recreational drug and alcohol use.

Information and support for friends and family of people with drug or alcohol problems.


0800 0086 811
Offers support meetings across the UK for anyone whose life is affected, or has been affected, by someone else’s drinking. Also provides online support meetings, and a confidential helpline.


0300 888 3853
Provides support to anyone affected by someone else’s harmful use of drugs, alcohol or gambling.

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

0800 358 3456
Provides information, advice and support for anyone affected by a parent’s drinking, including adults.

We Are With You
Supports people with drug, alcohol or mental health problems, and their friends and family