Sex and Drugs Survey 2020

What do we love? Consent!

Having sex whilst on drugs falls into the grey area when talking about consent. I’m not talking about date rape drugs and spiking here (they pose their own issues). But how can you properly give consent if you’ve taken some form of drug to enhance your night out? Would you be in your right mind to consent to have sex?

University is known as an environment where students use a variety of different drugs. Within the Sex and Drugs Survey we asked people if they had ever taken marijuana, cocaine, ketamine, MDMA, laughing gas, pills, heroin, LSD, poppers, amphetamines, shrooms, or edibles e.g. truffles, spacecakes or brownies. All of those drugs have been used by students who completed our survey. It is clear that many of you have taken drugs and buy drugs regularly. 79% of those who were asked how much they spend answered between £0-19. 5 people answered £500+. 

The majority of one-night stands that happen at uni are after nights out. If alcohol and drugs were removed from the equation, would the same decisions be made? Alcohol and drug consumption give students the opportunity to hook up and the confidence to do so. The invitation to go back for afters sounds great, nothing wrong with a few more drinks, maybe something more? It’s difficult to draw the line. 

Consent is a difficult topic for many to discuss. 34% of respondents said that they have had sex when they didn’t want too. Is that because they were too intoxicated or under the influence of drugs? It’s difficult because alcohol and drugs cause people to make decisions they wouldn’t have made when they were sober. The Dutch courage drug use provides leads users to make decisions they probably wouldn’t have made sober. This could be anything from buying a round of shots to taking someone home. Many students rely on alcohol and drugs to give them the confidence to approach people and let loose. Furthermore, 8% of you said you had overdosed on a drug. It’s difficult to know if you would be in a safe space, if someone would take advantage of your vulnerability. 

When thinking about drugs and sex, most people think of poppers. Poppers are a liquid which provides users with an instant high when they breath in the gas. It’s also known by other names such as amyl nitrate, butyl nitrite, and liquid gold. They are used recreationally and are sold in some clubs. The drug can cause the user to have intense euphoria, although the effects wear off quickly. Poppers are regarded as unsafe for people to take because they can cause people to feel dizzy and have an increased heart rate. It is widely known that poppers are taken as a sex enhancer as they relax anal muscles, enabling anal sex to be less painful. If you have taken poppers, it could be argued that you have taken them in order to have a more pleasurable sexual experience. However, you are inebriated once you have taken it. It leads to difficult questions – are you in the right mind? Is it safe to engage in sexual activities? What if you had taken poppers purely for recreational purposes but others assume you’re wanting to partake in sexual activities? 

The topic of consent when mixed with drugs is a tricky one. For some it doesn’t pose a problem, but for others it can blur the line, especially if one person is high and the other sober.


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Jess Barrett

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August 2022
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