University of São Paulo: Conversation spaces can help reduce harm associated with alcohol and drug use among college students

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During university life, it is common for students to get involved in situations related to the use of alcohol and other drugs, whether for their own consumption or with third parties – colleagues and strangers, at parties and social events. Many just intend to have fun, but end up harming themselves with the consequences of contact with these substances. A study conducted by the Laboratory of Teaching and Research in Psychopathology, Drugs and Society of the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of Ribeirão Preto (FFCLRP) at USP suggests that the situation can be alleviated with spaces for conversation and information about the real risks of using drugs. Alcohol and drugs.


The aim of the study was to look for strategies used to reduce harm associated with substance use among college students. Among them, the researchers highlight dialogue, with specific spaces to address the issue with young people. Professor Clarissa Mendonça Corradi-Webster, supervisor of the study, lists the main ways that young people said they used to reduce the risk of having problems, such as “controlling consumption in the heats [consumption of drinks before the party] , having a safe means of transport , drink lots of water during the event, pay attention to the body’s signals, stay close to friends and care for people who abused substances during the party, and even days later, to talk about the experiences”.

Even before the beginning of the research, Clarissa was already thinking about increasing the spaces for conversation about substance use with young people. The need was evident during the study, as she found that students want to have fun, have no idea what might happen next and “can’t find places to talk about this topic, especially freshmen”. Clarissa highlights that not all young people use alcohol and drugs, but all of them need to know how to reduce the risks.

This is how the psychologist João Diogo Filippini Fernandes, author of the study, defined the dialogue among university students as the best way to know how young people perceive their actions towards harm reduction. With the methodology defined, the researcher worked with groups of students, who met to debate and talk about the different problems encountered in contact with these substances.

Dialogue and formation of groups help raise awareness

With the groups set up, the researchers started talking about the consumption of different substances and the strategies that the students considered that could be adopted to reduce the impacts and unwanted consequences related to the consumption of alcohol and drugs.


The study, says Clarissa, is also important for the rest of the population, not only for students, as the consumption of these substances is also present in the lives of people outside the university.

The researcher highlights the importance of academic knowledge in fundamental debates in society, as the information produced at the university opens spaces for reflection on topics relevant to the population, such as the risks associated with substance use and ways to reduce harm.

These results are part of the master’s thesis Harm reduction strategies in university students who use drugs , presented by João Diogo Filippini Fernandes to the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of Ribeirão Preto (FFCLRP) at USP in April 2020. Fernandes worked under the guidance of Professor Clarissa Mendonça Corradi-Webster.

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