Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2017
Source: Journal, The (CN ON Edu)
Copyright: 2017 The Queen's Journal
Author: Brigid Goulem


Four students share their stories of drug use on campus

Illicit drug use among university students might be more common than
our parents would like to think.

According to the Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs Survey published
by Health Canada in 2015, 11 per cent of 20-24 year-old respondents
reported doing cocaine, five said they do speed, meth or other
amphetamines, 15 per cent took ecstasy and 16 per cent reported taking

Despite being illegal, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines and stimulants
are a very real part of student culture on campus. Although a large
majority of students might never encounter them, these drugs exist
within social circles across university campuses.

According to a 2013 Globe and Mail article, nearly four per cent of
students who have no medical prescription take ADHD drugs like
Ritalin, Adderall or Concerta to cope with academic demands.
Typically, students can fake ADHD symptoms to get the drugs under
their drug plan. More commonly, they buy it from friends who have a

In Canada, some students use these drugs to improve their
concentration during the exam period, or when essays are due.

While these so-called 'study drugs' are often understood among
students as harmless, for many, the academic benefits far outweigh
other side-effects. These drugs maintain their popularity as academic
aids despite actually being addictive amphetamines with sideeffects
very similar to that of cocaine.

For many, drug use is simply recreational, and controllable, like
alcohol. However, what can start off as just another way to let loose
can eventually lead to some serious consequencesincluding possible

To understand more about illegal drug use at Queen's, The Journal
spoke to four students about their experiences.

For Jonathan*, what started off as recreational drug use eventually
developed into a very serious problem.

Jonathan said his social life revolved around his drug use. "I found a
lot of my social life, my night life, revolved around doing drugs at

Despite seeming initially harmless, he soon found drugs were becoming
a problem.

"By second year it was very clear I was using drugs as a coping
mechanism for some more serious issues going on in my life at the
time," he said.

Drug use for Jonathan was a way of coping with severe depression and
suicidal thoughts which stemmed from a psychotic disorder. Eventually,
he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

"I would take drugs, including alcohol, and I would have mild degrees
of psychosis that eventually turned into full blown things even when I
was sober," he said.

Before his mental health issues were addressed, drugs and alcohol were
causing other serious problems in Jonathan's life. Academically he was
struggling and he also found drugs were having an impact on his
relationships with women.

Eventually, Jonathan reached out to the counselling services at
LaSalle. By talking with a counsellor, he was able to lay out a plan
to reduce his drug use and get healthier. He has now been sober for
eight months and is recovering from schizophrenia.

For Nancy*, drugs are primarily a social activity. It wasn't until she
came to university that she started smoking weed. Many of the new
friends she had met on her floor were drug users and she began to join
out of curiosity.

While the only drug she uses regularly is cannabis, Nancy also uses
research chemicals as psychedelics from time to time. A friend on her
floor showed her that you can order them online and she now has them
delivered to residence.

Although Nancy doesn't consider herself to have any substance abuse
issues, one of her friend's struggle with a meth addiction made her
more cautious.

"It's really hard because she'd always be like 'I'm going to stop
now,' and then a week later she would relapse, and I just never knew
how to deal with that personally," Nancy said. "She was always too
scared to contact some professional help because there was taboo
around it, she was scared she would get into legal trouble."

Like Nancy, Steve* said his drug use was primarily a social

"I would do [cocaine] on weekends, going out to clubs, not ever in the
day … but like [I would] if I was going out to Stages or something and
it was a big event."

Steve said he's done a lot of drugs over the years, but it wasn't
until the beginning of second year that his use escalated. "I was
going through a really bad breakup so I did lots of drugs to get over

Although he stopped doing cocaine, he said it's normal for his friends
to do it. Steve said friends are the only way to get drugs in the
first place.

"It's about who you know. If you were trying to get molly or
[cocaine], you would talk to [someone you know] and [they] would talk
to the dealer."

He believes a dealer realistically wouldn't sell to someone they
didn't know.

"If you came over, bought one or two times, and then this dealer sees
you around, he'd be like 'oh [her], I know her. But you need that
introduction," Steve said.

While many Queen's students will have a few drinks on a night out,
Billy* prefers to do drugs. Even though he started at the age of 13
with opiates and amphetamines, Billy said most of his use now revolves
around cocaine.

While Billy enjoys his drug use and has no plans to stop, he urges for
more caution and education. "I think there's a big psychological
component and you have to do a lot of self-reflection about how in
control of your own mind [you are]."

In addition to ensuring drug use doesn't compromise his mental health,
Billy is concerned about the recent fentanyl crisis.

"What you can do is buy testing kits online and I just stockpile them
in my room so that when I buy a new batch I test them to make sure I'm
getting what I'm getting," he said.

In addition to testing all of his drugs for purity, he also keeps a
naloxone kit in his pocket when he goes out. Naloxone kits are
available for free without a prescription at all pharmacies in Ontario
with an Ontario Health Card. He suggests anyone who engages in
recreational drug use to carry a kit as well.

"If [drug use] is something you are remotely considering, it's a
lifesaver," he said. "It's a lifesaver for your friend, it's a
lifesaver for you, so why not?"

Billy isn't alone in his concern about the increase of fentanyl-laced
drugs. In September, Health Canada issued a warning for students to be
cautious about abusing drugs and alcohol. According to the CBC, nearly
2,500 people died in Canada from suspected overdoses in 2016 alone.

Contamination of products with fentanyl or other strong drugs mean
even really small doses can be fatal, especially for first time users.

Despite the fact that fentanyl-laced drugs have contributed to the
deaths of several Canadians every day of 2017, Queen's doesn't have a
comprehensive drug policy beyond the prohibition of the possession of
illegal narcotics or controlled substances in the student Code of Conduct.

Ron Shore, a professor in the Kinesiology department, urges students
to take precautions when taking drugs to reduce the risks of opioid

"The risks have never been higher," he said. "If you're buying any
street-level drug now, you are at risk of contamination with fentanyl.
If you think you're using ecstasy, you want to be careful about opioid

He advises people to never take drugs alone and to carry a naloxone
kit on your person if you or anyone you know take drugs. He also
recommends avoiding all street-level opioids and to be cautious when
taking MDMA.

But most importantly, "just be thoughtful, like anything, you're
altering your consciousness so be mindful about the implications that
can cause."

* All names have been changed to protect the identity of students.
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