Harm Reduction Campaign

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As part of the SU’s and Universities commitment to a harm reduction approach on substance use, we are providing realistic and educational information to students on the impacts of drugs. This information in no way condones drug use. 

In the SU we still operate on a zero-tolerance policy of drugs being brought in or used in the Student Union. This is to comply with student safety policies. 

What is Harm reduction: 

Harm reduction is a move away from viewing drug use as a judicial, criminal, issue but instead a public health concern where we provide education to those who engage in drugs, and health support to those who may become addicted or use drugs to self-medicate.  

Why do some people do drugs: 

There are many reasons people may engage in drug use whether that is for recreational use, experimentation or more serious welfare concerns.  

From the latest Keele Student Alcohol & Drug survey, the main reasons students engaged with drugs include: 

  • Recreational use / experimentation / for fun 

  • To enhance social interactions 

  • To manage and cope with stress.  

  • For a spiritual experience 

  • To improve confidence 

  • To cope with a difficult life event 

  • Self-medicate for mental or physical health complications 

  • To escape reality/ troubles of life 

There are many reasons, and some complex on why students engage in drug use. These students deserve educational resources around the realistic impacts & harms of drugs, support, and non-judgment to ensure that they can stay as safe as possible and feel assisted if they need help to end their substance use. 


Student services: E: Student.services@keele.ac.uk  T: 01782 734481 

Student Services are support based on campus and can offer support by in person sessions or on teams. 

T3 stars E: t3staffsenquiries@humankindcharity.org.uk  T: 01785 270 080 

T3 is an external, free charity supporting students with their alcohol or drug use if they believe it to be problematic or need support


How it’s taken: swallowing a tab or dropping onto the tongue if liquid. 

Effects on your body: Colours, sounds, objects and even time can all seem very strange and disturbing.  

How it makes you feel: Euphoric, energised, excited, in awe of other people, confused, suspicious, anxious, panicked or overwhelmed.  

How long does it take to work: 20 minutes – 2 hours on average.  

How long do the effects last: 6-12 hours on average. Sometimes needing a xanax to mellow out.  

Common risks: Avoid if you are depressed or in a bad mood. During a bad trip it’s known for individuals to harm themselves. If you are not in a safe place or with people you trust it’s advised not to use.  

Mixing: It’s dangerous to mix LSD with other drugs. Weed is very unpredictable and harmful when mixing with psychedelics such as Acid. Mixing with cocaine or speed can be fatal. 

Addiction: No evidence to suggest it’s addictive however you may become tolerant to its effects.  

The Law: LSD is a class A drug which means it’s illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell. Possession can lead to 7 years in prison with an unlimited fine and supplying can get you a life in prison. It’s dangerous to take LSD and drive, it could result in an accident and if caught produce a life time ban.


How it is taken: usually snorted as a powder.  

How it makes you feel: Happy, excited, wide-awake, make you feel confident that you do things you normally would not, make your heartbeat faster, raises your body temperature, stop you feeling hungry, make you feel sick, make you anxious and panicky, can make you paranoid. 

How does it make people behave: Chattier, animated, and confident? Other people may become arrogant, agitated, and restless. Cocaine can increase your sexual desire too but taking lots can reduce your sex drive. 

Duration: How long the effects last & how long it remains in your system depends on how much you have taken, your size and what you have eaten. Usually, it can take 5-30 minutes to kick in. The initial high lasts around 10-30 minutes depending on the purity of the cocaine. You still may experience some physical effects after the high has subsided (e.g faster heartbeat). Some people find that cocaine makes them feel down, anxious and paranoid as aftereffects 

Common Risks: Risky for anyone with high blood pressure or a heart condition. A heart attack or stroke is still a possibility for healthy younger people. Over time, snorting cocaine damages the cartilage in your nose that separates your nose. Regular cocaine use can make individuals feel depressed, anxious, or paranoid. It can also provoke previous mental health problems. Users crave more of the drug, so it can become an expensive habit. 

Mixing: The risk of overdosing increases if you mix cocaine with other drugs / alcohol.  Alcohol and cocaine together produce a toxic chemical called cocaethylene. Cocaethlene stays in the body longer and causes greater heart and liver damage.  

Addiction: Cocaine is very addictive and regular use changes how the brain releases dopamine, the brains happy chemical. The brain becomes de-sensitised to these chemicals and needs more over time for the same effects.  

The Law: Class A drug so it is illegal to have for yourself, sell or give away. Possession can get you 7 years in prison. Supplying to someone else can get your life in prison. 

Ecstasy (MDMA)

How do people take it?: Ecstasy pills are usually swallowed, although some crush them and snort them. The amount of MDMA in ecstasy pills varies massively. Some pills sold as ecstasy contain other, more dangerous drugs that take longer to kick in. You should never take a whole pill in one go, even if you’ve taken ecstasy before. People usually take MDMA powder by dabbing it onto their gums. 

How it feels: Most people feel very happy, loved up for the people they are with (including strangers), energised or alert. Ecstasy can make people feel in tune with their surroundings, where stimuli feel more intense (e.g music). Individuals may feel anxiety, panic attacks, confused episodes, paranoia and psychosis after taking ecstasy.  

How does it make people behave: Users may feel chatty, open up and talk about things they normally would not. Physical effects can include dilated pupils, tingling sensations, tightening or moving of jaw muscles (gurning), raised body temperature, faster heartbeat and nausea.  

Duration: When taken orally ecstasy can take between 30-60 minutes to kick in. Some other dangerous drugs sold as ecstasy can take longer to kick in. Users tend to feel high for 2-4 hours. You might still experience physical effects such as fast heart beat, inability to sleep if large quantity has been consumed. Some users feel down and have a low mood the next day (known as a come-down) This can last several days.

The risks: The strength of ecstasy pills are unpredictable so it is advised to start by taking half or a quarter of the pill. Ecstasy has been linked to liver, kidney and heart problems. Anyone with a heart condition, blood pressure problems, epilsepsy or asthma can have a dangerous reaction to the drug. Ecstasy affects the body’s temperature control. Dancing for long periods in a hot atmosphere, like a club, increasing the chance of overheating or dehydration. Take regular breaks to cool down. Drinking too much (including water) can be dangerous. Ecstasy can cause the body to release a hormone to stop making urine. Drinking too much, too quickly can affect your body’s salt balance which can be deadly. Users should sip no more than a pint of water / non-alcoholic drink every hour. Long term users can develop depression or anxiety. There is no way of knowing what’s inside your ecstasy pill or MDMA powder until taken.  Ecstasy pills can be cut with speed, caffeine and other cheaper substances. These substances can take longer to kick in than ecstasy pills or MDMA powder, so use4rs take more resulting in an overdose. Start by taking a quatre until you feel the effects.  

Addiction: You can develop a tolerance to ecstasy, meaning people need to take more of the drug to get the same buzz. You can develop a psychological dependence to keep using. 

The Law: Ecstasy is a class A drug; it is illegal to possess, sell or give away. Possession can get you a 7-year prison sentence or an unlimited fine. Supplying someone else ecstasy can get you a life time prison sentence or an unlimited fine.


How do people take it: By smoking it, heroin is usually heated on foil and the smoke is inhaled. A more dangerous method is injecting which can result in overdose. 

How it makes you feel: Heroin is a strong drug and the first dose can cause dizziness and vomiting. Heroin can make users feel happy, relaxed, euphoric or sleepy.  

Duration: When smoked the effects usually kick in within a few minutes. The effects can last for around an hour. The after effects of smoking can last for several hours so it is advised not to use any other drugs during that period. 

The risks:  Its very easy to overdose on heroin which kills far more users in the Uk than an other drug. If you overdose you may begin to feel very sleepy, your breathing will slow and you can fall into a coma.  If you take heroin regularly you may build up some tolerance. If you stop taking heroin for a few days your tolerance will rapidly drop and you can risk an overdose if you take a same dose you previously took.  Injecting heroin is very dangerous & the easiest way of overdosing. You risk damaging veins and developing infections and blood clots. Sharing of needles can lead to catching virsu’ such as HIV, hepatitis B or C. 

Mixing: If heroin is taken with other drugs such as alcohol or sedating drugs (benzodiazepine tranquillisers or methadone, overdose is more likely. Heroin is often cut with other drugs such as opioids which are more dangerous than heroin. Heroin can also be made impure with other substances such as sugar, starch, quinine or paracetamol. 

Addiction: Heroin is highly addictive. Over time the effects of heroin on the brain cause cravings and strong drive to keep using.  As heroin is used regularly, the body builds up a tolerance so that users have to start taking more. Doctors have developed other drugs to block the effects of heroin to curb addiction.  

The Law: Heroin is a class A drug meaning it’s illegal to possess, sell or give away. Possession can result up to 7 years in prison or an unlimited fine. Supplying can result in a prison lifetime sentence.  


How do people take it: snorting as a powder, injecting it or swallowing it as a tab.  

How it feels: Ketamine is a general anaesthetic so it reduces sensations in the body. Trips can last for a couple of hour.  

Taking Ketamine can make you feel: dream-like, detached, chilled, relaxed, happy, confused and nauseated. It can also alter your perception of time and space and make you hallucinate. It can stop you feeling pain, putting you at risk of hurting yourself and not realising it.  If you take too much ketamine you may lose ability to move & go into a ‘k-hole’. This feels like your mind and body have seperated and you can’t do anything about it.  Regular Ketamine use can cause agitation, panic attacks, depression and damage to short and long-term memory. 

How does it make people behave: Ot can make people seem slower, more relaxed and chilled out. It can also stop people from being able to move properly and from making sense. 

Duration: When snorted ketamine takes 15 minutes to take effect. When taken orally, it can take longer around 20 minutes to an hour. The buzz can last around 30 minutes to an hour, the effects depend on how much you take. After effects can include individuals feeling down or low mood. 

The risks: Ketamine is a powerful aesthetic and can be fatal if mixed with other drugs. It can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It can make you confused, agitated, delirious and disconnected from reality. It can make you sick and damage your short & long-term memory. Because of body’s loss of feeling, paralysis of the muscles and the mind’s loss of touch with reality, you can be left vulnerable to hurting yourself. Ketamine can cause bladder problems with urgent and frequent needs to pee. This can be painful and lead to blood coloured pee. The damage can be so serious the bladder needs surgical repair or removal. Abdominal pains and liver damage have been reported by individuals taking ketamine long term. Regular ketamin use can cause depression and psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations. Ketamine can make existing mental health problems worse. 

Mixing: Ketamine is sold as a white/beige crystalised powder and sometimes cut with other powders to add weight. It’s impossible to tell if Ketamine has been cut with other substances by looking at it. If you mix Ketamine with drugs such as depressant drugs (alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates) you risk collapsing, passing out or injuring yourself. Ketamine can be dangerous when mixed with ecstasy or speed as it causes high blood pressure.  Mixing drugs with a large amount of ketamine could result in an overdose. 

Addiction: Ketamine is highly addictive. People taking ketamine regularly can develop a tolerance, which leads to them taking more for the same effect. There are no physical withdrawal symptoms with ketamine.  

The Law: Ketamine is a class B drug; it is illegal to possess the drug, sell it or give away. Possession can lead to up to 5 years in prison or an unlimited fine. Supplying to someone else can lead to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine. 

Magic Mushrooms

How do people take it: Magic mushrooms are usually taken via eating; they are dried out and eaten. Some individuals make tea from the dried mushrooms. 

How does it make you feel: It’s difficult to predict the strength of magic mushrooms.  For most users, colours, sounds, objects and even time can all seem distorted. Magic mushrooms can cause mild hallucinations, make you giggly, feel euphoric, in awe of the people and things around you, energised and excited. It can also make you feel paranoid, anxious, panicked, overwhelmed and nauseous. 

How does it make people behave: Depends on the amount taken. If you take a small dose, you may not realise, you’re on it. People who take larger doses can be unpredictable; making you fixate on a certain thing, be emotional or get paranoid.  

Duration: The effects of magic mushrooms can last 6-12 hours but can vary depending on factors based on the user. 

The Risks: The biggest danger of taking a magic mushroom is eating a poisonous mushroom by mistake. If you have consumed poisonous mushrooms or suspect so, please seek medical advice immediately and keep a sample for the doctor. Eating magic mushrooms can make you dizzy, sick, have diarrhoea or get stomach pains. Magic mushrooms can worsen any mental health issues. This is from causing bad trips, flashbacks that are frightening and a lose of control of what you’re doing. 

Mixing: Avoid taking mushrooms with tramadol, cocaine, speed or cannabis as it can lead to high blood pressure. 

Addiction: Magic mushrooms are not addictive, but you can become tolerant to the effects meaning you need to take more for the same effects as before. 

The Law: Magic Mushrooms are a class A drug, it’s illegal to possess, sell or give away.  Possession can get you up to 7 years in prison or an unlimited fine.  Supplying to others can result in a life sentence in prison. 

Nitrous Oxide (NOS)

How do people take it: Nitrous oxide is inhaled. The canister is usually opened and the gas transferred into a container (usually a balloon), then inhale from the balloon.  

How it feels: Nitrous oxide slows down your brain and your body’s responses. The effects of the drug varies depending on how much has been inhaled. Taking Nitrous oxide can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and calmness. Fits of giggles and laughter. Sound distortions and hallucinations. Nitrous oxide can also give you severe headaches, cause dizziness, stop you thinking straight and cause short-lived but intense feelings of paranoia.

Duration: Nitrous oxide is a short acting drug which can lead to users frequently re-dosing more than they intended. Nitrous oxide is usually taken in combination with other drugs so effects can be unpredictable. 

Risks: Inhaling nitrous oxide directly from the canister is dangerous, causing throat muscle spasms and can stop a person breathing due to the gas being under high pressure. If you take too much nitrous oxide you risk falling unconscious or suffocating from a lack of oxygen.  Other risks can include dizziness which may make you act carelessly. Heavy regular use of nitrous oxide can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12 leading to nerve damage and numbness in fingers or toes. Regular use can prevent proper formation of white blood cells. 

Mixing: Mixing nitrous oxide with alcohol is dangerous as it increases the risks associated with both substances alongside confusion, feeling sluggish, reduced concentration and loss of body control. 

Addiction: It's possible to become psychologically dependent on nitrous oxide, causing an increased desire to keep using despite harm. Nitrous Oxide is considered to be less dangerous or addictive than alcohol. 

The Law: The drug is classed as a Psychoactive Substance under the 2016 act, it is illegal to give away or sell for its psychoactive effect. There is no penalty for possession. 

Speed (Amphetamines)

How it is taken: Can be crushed and snorted or dabbed on the gums. 

How it makes you feel: Taking speed can make you feel: alert, energised, wide awake and excited.  Some people take it because it gives them the energy to do things for hours without getting tired. Speed stops you feeling hungry too. Speed can also make users feel agitated or panicked.  

How it makes people behave: Some people get chatty / talkative. While others can become agitated, anxious and aggressive. There are cases of people becoming psychotic and experiencing delusions (e.g seeing and hearing things). 

Duration: Speed takes a few minutes to kick in when snorted. Used orally it takes between 20 minutes to an hour. It lasts usually between 3-6 hours. 

After effects: People can feel down and low in mood for a few days after using. 

The risks: Speed put a strain on your heart, so it’s not advisable for people with high blood pressure or a heart condition. Speed can damage your immune system. Can be difficult to relax or sleep. Injecting speed has a higher chance of overdosing. Speed is usually very impure so will contain another chemical which it has been cut with.  

Mental health risks: The comedown from speed can last several days and users can feel lethargic and sad after taking. Regular use of speed can lead to problems with learning & concentration too. Speed can lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, aggression, paranoia, mental illness and acute psychotic episodes.

What is speed cut with: Speed is a very impure street drug. Speed is usually cut with cheaper substances to increase the weight such as caffeine, ephedrine, sugars, laxatives, talcum powder, paracetamol or other drugs. 

Mixing: It can be very dangerous and lead to strain on heart mixing speed with alcohol and any other drug.  

Addiction: Speed is an addictive drug. You can build up a tolerance to the drug so you need a higher dose to get the same buzz to feel normal. Regular users can increasingly take speed to avoid unpleasant withdrawals.  

The Law: Speed is a class B drug; it’s illegal to have for yourself, to sell or give away. Possession can get you 5 years in prison, supplying to someone can get you up to 14 years in prison. Speed being prepared for injection becomes a Class A drug and can get tougher sentencing.  

Weed (Cannabis)

How it is taken: Smoked via a spliff/ joint, bong. It can be ate or drank, known as edibles. It can now be vaped. 

How it can make you feel: The effects can vary massively. This depends on whether you are outgoing or shy, the mood you are in, the environment you are in, how much THC the weed has (psychoactive compound), how much CBD (compound making individuals anxious or paranoid), how much and how often you take. Being ‘stoned’ can make you feel chilled out, happy, giggly or chatty. It can also make you feel lethargic, unmotivated and some people become paranoid, confused or anxious. It can make you hungry, feel sick drowsy or sleepy. 

How does it make people behave: Some people experience mild hallucinations, become unmotivated, have problems concentrating and learning new information. 

Duration: To kick in: When smoked, it normally takes a minute or two to feel stoned. If you eat cannabis it can take up to an hour.  The effects last depend based on how much you smoke. The effect is strong for 10 minutes to half an hour after smoking cannabis, but if you smoke a lot, you can feel stoned for a couple of hours. If you eat cannabis, the effects can last for 2-4 hours.  

After effects: People may still feel the effects the next day after a heavy session. 

The Risks: Smoking cannabis can make you wheeze/ out of breath, make you cough uncomfortably or painfully, and not recommended for people with asthma. Smoking cannabis can have long term physical health risks such as increasing the risk of lung cancer, increase your heart rate and affect your blood pressure which makes it harmful for people with heart disease. Reduce your sperm count if your male, supress ovulation if you’re female. 

Mental health risks: Using cannabis can affect your motivation to do things, impair your memory, give you mood swings, disturb your sleep or make you depression. It can also make you hallucinate, anxiety, paranoia and increases chances of developing an illness such as schizophrenia if you have a family background of the mental health condition.  

Mixing: Cannabis can be cut with similar looking substances or heavy materials to increase the weight. It’s hard to know if weed has or hasn’t been cut so you could be consuming unknown substances. Smoking weed after drinking can intensify the weeds affect leading to nausea, vomiting or dizziness. 

Addiction: Weed is heavily addictive. Some individuals may find it hard not to take the drug. When heavy users do try to stop they can feel: moody & irritable, feel sick, find it hard to sleep, find it hard to eat, get diarrhoea, experience sweating and shaking. 

The Law: Weed is a class B drug; it is illegal to possess, sell or give away. Possession can get you 5 years in prison or an unlimited fine.  Supplying can get you up to 14 years in prison. Weed is classed under discretionary warning scheme so a police officer can issue a street warning (which doesn’t go on a criminal record) as long as a small amount for your personal use, it s the first time you have been caught, you are compliant and non-aggressive. As long as you pay a fine within 21 days, there will be no criminal record. If this is a third occasion, you will be arrested.


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