Every student at our University has had a night out completely ruined by drugs. Maybe not a dramatic overdose or a meth-fuelled altercation, no, but the number of lazy stoners deciding to finish at pres and go to bed by 9 add up to be just as bad in the long term.
Drugs at University can be a great thing- eye-opening, exciting, and honestly just fun. However, the main reason people seem to do them is to be able then to talk about them, excessively, to everyone, even when that person has made it clear they don’t care at all. The worst part of this is how anybody things anyone else would care- we’re at Sussex, and live in Brighton. On the Venn diagram of drugs, that overlap contains probably the most middle aged people who like to dress up as Alice in Wonderland characters and drop LSD. Talking about drug use isn’t as cool or edgy as everyone seems to think it is, and yet it’s the most outplayed conversation we’ve all had with the one friend who has no other aspect to their personality than that they can inhale really big bong hits.
The argument will likely be used that alcohol, a legal ‘drug’, can ruin your night just as much. It’s true that drinking can, and does, ruin nights out at Uni- I’ve ended a fair amount of nights throwing up and crawling to bed, or else having to be carried home by friends, and I think that’s true of most people. However, you can’t blame drinking as a concept for this, and I argue you can’t even really be mad at those individuals for overdoing it. Our whole night out structure as students is based around getting as drunk as our limited funds will allow us- not the most noble goal, but probably one of the cheapest and best forms of participant entertainment available to us.
Drugs upset this whole structure. They’re expensive. You can’t take too much of most of them or you’ll die. You can never gauge exactly how much you’ve done, or if you’ve even done what you think you’re doing, until it’s too late. And if you screw it up, rather than a ride home in a taxi with sympathetic but unamused friends and a few hours vomiting into a hastily procured bucket, you’re likely to end up in a hospital with hypothermia having a flashlight shone into your eyes and your stomach pumped because you took off all your clothes and lay down in the middle of the road to fondle the concrete.
People do embarrassing things on alcohol, it’s true. People also do these things on drugs, but in a more noticeable and less socially acceptable way which makes your whole group self-conscious: nobody likes having to worry about whether they’re going to be stopped to have their pockets searched because one of their friends is trying to chew their own jaw off.
The number of times most groups have to worry about one of their mates fighting a police officer because they think they can win is perhaps higher on alcohol, yes, but even so I’ve never had an experience this bad in all my nights out- and yet every night that involves excessive use of drugs seems to spiral into insanity, paranoia and mutual blame almost instantly. If it doesn’t go this way, the best you can really hope for is that it’s one of the nights where everyone dances for twenty minutes and then spends the rest of the night in small groups telling each other how much they like them over and over ad nauseum with manic expressions.
Behaviour you see on a druggy night in Brighton with your friends would not be out of place in a psychiatric ward. If it’s the more chilled out kind, it’s still cringy as hell- why people would enjoy sitting on a patio in the cold inhaling from a joint that’s just been in their friend’s disgusting mouth is beyond me. It’s time we re-evaluate exactly why, over and over again, we choose to take these courses of action, and encourage our friends to take them: drug culture at University is boring, stale, and is ruining what makes student life so fun.
Before the idea that drugs are ‘a detriment to University life’ can be addressed, we must define this lifestyle. The key features of a student’s life seem to be (from what I gather from my own life, my friends’ lives and what I’ve read in bad Tab articles) that we are poor, lazy, alcoholic and narcissistic- however, we are all of these things knowingly and ironically, and so it’s okay. It’s a kind of joke: students are so hilariously inadequate that it’s actually something we rally around, and a major identifier for students everywhere.
Whether this vaguely sad ‘lifestyle’ could be lessened further by the inclusion of drugs is debateable. I would argue one of two things, dependent on the accepted view of the situation. If it is accepted that drugs are already part of the University lifestyle, we can blame drugs, in part, for the decline of this lifestyle, and agree that they are a detriment to University life- however, as part of a larger problem, I don’t really think drugs are much to blame. If we state that they are not, and that drugs need to be kept apart from the student lifestyle, I would argue that this way of living and identifying yourself is already so far in decline without drugs that adding one more contributing factor onto the mess would make no noticeable difference.
Either way the outcome is the same: we can see quite clearly that drugs are a relatively harmless and less than significant aspect of the student’s ideology, identity and psychology, and so are not so much a detriment to the lifestyle as just another potential tool to waste a weekend with. Depending on other, more varied definitions of the imagined student lifestyle you could even argue that drugs are a great benefactor: if you believe that to be a student is to waste as much time, money and potential as possible- a nihilistic but arguably realistic view of our condition- drugs can be said to be perhaps the most significant contributor to our culture, and maybe even underutilized by the student.
Everyone at University who’s seen Trainspotting probably thinks drugs are cool, even despite the dead baby scene- nothing is more cool than something so edgy and dangerous, after all. As well as that, heroin chic remains a validly aesthetic fashion choice. As long as something remains both fashionable and interestingly self-destructive it will be done to death by students. While the average student isn’t robbing cash registers to score bags of scag, though, and instead sticks safely and reliably to pills and marijuana, the image they think it gives them is undeniably one they try to play up. To this point I say so what? Everybody downing six cans and three shots at predrinks who vomits as soon as they get out the door is ruining their own night for the same reasons of image, interestingness, ‘banter’ and notoriety.
Perhaps I’m overthinking the politics at play here- after all, drugs at our University are common, and wholly accepted by most. It does seem, though, that a strange dichotomy exists where on one side we have the socially acceptable student life of burgeoning alcoholism, and on the other the embarrassing and shameful life of drug dependency. Neither is exactly glamorous, true, and both are potentially damaging- but to argue that drug use is a detriment to University life cheapens the damage we can do to ourselves with legal highs and puts drugs on a pedestal. It would be far better, I think, to agree that the use of any mind-altering substance can be argued to be both the maker and ruination of the University lifestyle, and leave differences in preferred substance behind- with the Government and most people older than sixty completely against us, I don’t think we’re in a position as students to vilify each other’s life choices.