Under Stress, Students Turn to Drugs

A little after midnight on a recent Thursday night in Johnson Hall, one first year female is getting ready for bed. But before she brushes her teeth and washes her face, her nightly ritual includes donning her coat and heading outside to smoke marijuana.

“It relaxes me,” she says. “With the amount of stress I have now, getting relaxed enough [to fall asleep] is hard.”

This first year student is among a sizeable percentage of students who turn to various drugs for help in both relaxing and for enhancing studying. Heightened academic and social pressures have recently made for an increase in drug use among college students.

Marijuana

The drug of choice for most students is marijuana.

“It can relieve stress,” says a male senior of his marijuana use. “I spend probably $100 a month on weed.”

More than 15 percent of students admitted to using marijuana within the past month and more than 20 percent in the last year, according to a survey conducted by the college administration last semester.

The survey, which was sent to all students but received only 364 responses, was part of a national survey of 93,000 students across the country.

Yet many students question the accuracy of these statistics. In fact, some students estimate that between 40 and 70 percent of the campus has used marijuana within the last year.

“If you break it down, a good portion of people on this campus have smoked marijuana or do,” the senior male says.

Most students cite relaxation as their main reason for smoking marijuana.

A first year male says he smokes marijuana regularly because he can be relaxed but still function, unlike drinking alcohol. “You can smoke whenever you like–even before classes–and still do well in class. You can’t say that about drinking,” he says.

The relatively inexpensive cost of marijuana also contributes to use, several student users say.

They claimed an eighth of an ounce of marijuana costs $20 to $50 depending on quality and lasts a few days to two weeks depending on use.

Prescription Drugs

This increase in marijuana use is coupled with a new focus on the illegal use of prescription drugs, namely Adderall and Vicodin.

The administration’s survey revealed that 11 percent of students admitted to using illegal drugs other than marijuana in the past year and 6 percent currently use drugs other than marijuana.

Adderall is a long-acting amphetamine prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Taken to aid focus, Adderall and its drug relative Ritalin raise alertness levels.

“I take Adderall to keep awake long enough to study and write papers for classes,” says a first year female.

A first year male agrees. “If I have homework to do… I’ll take Adderall,” he says.

Adderall costs only $3 to $6 per pill and is easily available.

One first year female says she gets Adderall from her roommate who has a prescription.

Other students turn to different drugs to deal with stress. These drugs are also often readily available from individuals with prescriptions.

“When I was stressed out and couldn’t get to sleep, one of the girls on my floor told me she had some Vicodin I could try,” says a senior female.

But some users complain about the drugs’ side effects.

“I just started using Adderall this year, and for three weeks I couldn’t eat more than one salad a day without throwing up. I wasn’t sleeping much, and cried continuously,” says a first year female.

Consequences

But withdrawal symptoms aren’t the only consequences of drug abuse. Both the administration and the federal government enforce penalties.

“Clearly drug use on campus is a problem,” says Dean of Students Chris Ogle.

He says the college’s most severe penalties are used for those dealing drugs.

“Where we draw a very harsh line is when someone’s found dealing,” he says. “It could lead to suspension or even expulsion depending on the circumstances.”

The Ripon College Student Handbook says a first time drug user will be fined $100 and face a session about the dangers of drug use with the hall director. Second time offenders are referred to the Director of Residence Life for another disciplinary discussion and a $200 fine. Third time offenders are sent to speak with the dean of students and receive a $300 fine and possible suspension.

Any violation after the first can lead to removal of a user from his or her residence hall and disciplinary probation.

The federal government penalizes student drug use through criminal prosecution and also by denying financial aid to those convicted of drug use.

The policy is enforced through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Students must answer on the form if they have been convicted of drug violations.

Users are denied federal aid for one year for their first violation and two years for subsequent violations.

The policy affects about 47,000 applicants for federal aid each year.

But the college does not always turn drug offenders over to criminal prosecution.

“The college recognizes the appropriateness of handling certain drug problems individually from a counseling and medical standing rather than a disciplinarily point of view,” according to the student handbook.

Many users view the administration’s tolerance as an unofficial go-ahead for their actions.

“[Drug use] is something the Resident Assistants know is happening and they’re relaxed about, provided you’re careful to hide the signs,” one senior male says.

“You can’t be stupid about your drug use,” he says. “If you’re smart, you won’t get caught.”

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