Students become less reserved on illegal drugs

Originally published in Volume III, Issue 5 on 5th December 1996 by Shane Hegarty.


It may surprise some people that the numbers who claim to have tried illegal drugs is at such a high level. 72% is a significant figure, but for many students it will not be overly shocking. The large numbers who have tried cannabis, and the amount who do it regularly, indicate that for many, it is considered something of a leisure drug, no worse than drinking or smoking tobacco. It is an indication of the liberal attitudes that so many students now hold in regard to this particular drug. Although not all of these believe that hash should be made legal, the figure 60.7% who favour its legalisation is a large one.

Ecstasy continues its march into the social lives of so many students. The fact that one in every five of those surveyed had taken the drug, and that 8% of the total population claim to take it on a regular basis is important. It shows, again, that in relation to this drug there are large amounts who believe it to be a perfectly legitimate form of enjoyment. It will be worth investigating this situation later towards the end of the year, as this figure is probably more likely to go up than decline. The dance culture in Dublin, and throughout the country, continues to grow, and with it the level of Ecstasy use.

The high use of amphetamine, or speed, is not too surprising, as it is a drug that can be seen as a companion to Ecstasy, certainly among regular users. It does, however, indicate that those formulating drug policy in this country should be watching the levels of speed being taken by drug users. It is estimated that, in the UK at least, twice as many people have died from the use of this drug than have done so from Ecstasy. Despite the fact that the quality of this drug once it hits the streets is very low, usually about 5%, the cheapness of it (£10 a wrap), and its position as a dance drug seem to make it quite attractive. It would be interesting to measure the figures using speed as a study aid, due to the alertness and wakefulness it provides. It is common knowledge that students working long hours on projects, may rarely, use amphetamines as a method of getting through tiredness.

The levels of LSD are to be expected. Acid has been around a long time, and most students will have taken it in the knowledge that is non-addictive, with the attitude that it is a “bit of fun”, to quote one respondent, and with a perception that the long-term damage, if taken rarely, is almost non-existent. Of course, the fact that it is a relatively cheap drug, £4-£6 a tab, would also be a factor. Its low percentage of regular users, however, indicates that it remains a sparingly taken one, despite its popularity. It remains, then, little surprise that Magic Mushrooms have a similar level of usage. Most respondents saw little difference in the overall effect between this drug and acid, apart from the fact that it is stronger, natural and, of course, free. What is a little mysterious, however, is the fact that, given the seasonal nature of the drug, there are a relatively high number of regular users.

Only 3 people surveyed claimed to have taken heroin, and it would seem obvious that it is not, and will never be, a drug of choice for students. The perception of the drug as being one that will leave your life in pieces still seems to hold. The 8.3% surveyed who said they had used cocaine was perhaps the most worrying figure. It would seem that, through the introduction to ‘harder’ drugs, such as Ecstasy and speed, some students are coming into contact with cocaine, though on a rare basis.

The fact that over 80% of the respondents believe drugs are easily available on campus is to be expected. The image of the dealers who used to hang around the Bar in the past has left the perception in many minds that this is still the case, despite the fact that dealing on college property has all but been stamped out on recent years.

In general, the response to the surveys was quite warm. Most of those approached has no objections to answering the questions asked, despite the fact it was carried out on a face-to-face basis, in public areas of college. This seems to indicate that students are not only more liberal in their attitudes to drugs, but also less reserved about putting these attitudes on record.