Drug use at University – an empire ran by students for students

Ecstasy tablets are some of the most commonly available drugs from dealers.

It is no secret that once a person heads off to University, they are more likely to try out new things such as drugs and alcohol. What many people may not realise is the type and number of drugs that students use. In this investigative piece, I set off to find out the ins and outs of drug use at University as well as the people who provide students with illegal substances.

Locating and buying drugs has become extremely easy with social media being a large portal for these types of interactions as a Nottingham Trent University student recalls “When I first tried MDMA, the people who gave it me bought it on a night out after messaging somebody on Instagram. That’s it. Within 40 minutes I was high.”

The availability of drugs is a big part of the issue. With drug dealers even having “Freshers deals” during Freshers at the beginning of each academic year where many of the first years get to try out drugs for a very reduced price. “I first tried drugs during Freshers when I was approached by a dealer who said that I could have a gram for £10, which I thought was a great price. A couple of weeks later the price more than doubled to £25 as the dealer knew that we were going to come back for more no matter what.” the student from Lincoln recalls. “Now I get texts from him about offers he has on weed and often I will buy some weed just because of a good deal. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Many dealers even have delivery services where a car will drop by to provide you with whatever you have ordered, thus making access to illegal substances even easier than it was a couple of years ago. “My dealer just drives up outside my accommodation, I go meet him and then I’m sorted for the night before I’ve even gone into town.”

I had a chance to speak to a local drug dealer named Krazy K about what led him to dealing. “It was something I fell into after I started hanging out with some guys from my college who were using certain drugs like Xanax and weed. At first, we would just go on drives and hang out but eventually, we started making more and more ‘drops’ and before I knew it, I was given a certain amount to sell around my area.” He recalls. “You could say that I didn’t go into it willingly, but its good money and now I’m at the top of the food chain after many of my associates have gone under.”

What was most interesting about our interview was that Krazy K had not done anything stronger than weed even though he regularly sells MDMA and Ketamine to students in the area. “This is a business just like anything else. I must stay sober any time between 10am to 2am in order to provide for my clients. I can’t do that if I’m tripping on MDMA.” He exclaimed. “I’ve been called a hypocrite before because I don’t use most of the drugs that I sell. I gotta stay sober if I want to make money.”

When asked if he would ever quit the business he said “Eventually, sure. But not right now. I live near my university, so business is booming daily. Maybe I’d quit if I got caught, but there’s no way that’ll happen.”

The National Union of Students carried out a survey in February 2018 into drug use at University. 39 percent of students who responded to their survey were using drugs at the time of the survey, and a further 17 percent had done drugs in the past, which means that 56 percent of people who responded had used drugs at some point in their lives.

The 56 percent of respondents who had used drugs at some point were asked which drugs they used and the findings highlighted that cannabis was the most commonly used drug with 94 percent having tried it at some point and MDMA coming in second at 50 percent followed by cocaine which 37 percent of students admitted to using. The least popular drugs between students were non-prescribed study-drugs such as Ritalin which only 20 percent of students who have done drugs had tried.

This research shows quite an alarming trend in the type of drugs that are the most popular such as Ecstasy/MDMA which are known to cause long term effects such as: depression, sleep problems, and anxiety. And cocaine which can cause heart attacks and respiratory problems.

I spoke to Steve (name changed to protect identity), a student at Sheffield Hallam University, about his drug habits.

When talking to him about his drug experience prior to university he said “No, didn’t want to do drugs whilst living with my parents, too much of a risk. Didn’t want to try them at that age either.”

I asked him if peer pressure and influence from people around him had anything to do with him trying drugs at University. “A little bit but going into university I had the attitude of I want to at least try them to see what they are like.” He carried on “I think everyone goes into university with this kind of mindset, which isn’t bad. I think its good to want to try new things even if they’re illegal as long as you’re being smart and surround yourself with people you can trust.”

When asked about any bad experience he has had with drugs, he didn’t hesitate to answer “Tab of acid, at a BBQ. I couldn’t leave the situation as well, due to the acid.” He recalls “The entire environment was bad for doing the drugs: loud music, new people and incredibly warm. Started to freak out due to everything and had the thought in my head, it’s not going to end? As it’s a 12-hour trip.”

Lastly, I was curious about whether he worries about his drug habit “No. I know if I need to, I can stop. But sometimes when I’m out drinking and nothing else, I feel the urge to call my dealer for some. It’s definitely a hard cycle to escape but I’m not worried about it at all because I know that when the time comes, I’ll drop everything.” And what drugs he would stay away from “Heroin, Spice, Mamba, Crack are the kind of drugs that are known to be very addictive and causes homelessness. I would definitely stay away from them at all costs.”

Steve’s experience with drugs has been a mostly positive one, and he is convinced that he has no issues with illegal substances and that this is all fun that will come to a natural end once he finishes University.

I reached out to Lara, a student from Oxford Brookes, to see how her experiences with drugs have differed.

When asked whether her drug use stemmed from peer pressure she told me “Without the influence of my peers I definitely wouldn’t have done drugs before university, but drug culture at university means if you’re not religiously or fully sickened by the idea then you will probably do it. Especially when its literally everywhere.”

When it came to her drug habits, she was relatively concerned. “My drug habits definitely worry me because I’ve really gone off getting drunk. I feel out of control, and once you realise how cheap a drug night out is it’s hard to appreciate a normal night out just drinking.” She carried on. ” And I definitely think they’re gateway drugs. As you do more and realise that you don’t literally die like everyone says so you start thinking you’re invincible and start doing dangerous amounts and mixes of drugs.”

Lastly, I asked her if there is anything educators can do to stop this kind of drug use by students. “No, drugs are such a huge part of the university experience. The news and media make us seem like some kind of desperate, sad bunch that needs drugs to get through the day. But its really not like that, we do them to have fun and unwind. If you think about it, drugs are hardly worse than alcohol if enough of it is consumed. The only difference is that what we do is illegal.”