Whitman students list recreation, curiosity as top reasons for drug use

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In a campus-wide survey conducted by The Pioneer, 69 of the 100 student polled have used illegal drugs, and 67 of those students, about 97 percent, cited social aspects and entertainment as their reasons for doing so. Thirty-nine of the 69 students also said curiosity prompted them to experiment with drugs.

Only 13 of the students who responded said they used illegal drugs because of boredom, and only five said they had used drugs because of depression.

Drugs, in this case, most commonly refers to marijuana. Of the 69 students who had used illegal drugs, all of them had tried marijuana. The numbers fall significantly from there.

This is also reflected in the 2009 Whitman College Lifestyle Choices Survey. Of 769 students, 53.5 percent had tried marijuana. The next most commonly used drug: prescription drugs not intended for the user: constituted 8.5 percent of students. Hallucinogens, including LSD and mushrooms, have been tried by 8.3 percent of students.

A Whitman student who asked to remain anonymous said he smokes marijuana most weekends and has tried mushrooms once. He started smoking marijuana when he was fifteen because he wanted to and it was fun, he said.

“I think people at Whitman use drugs for fun and for socializing and to make things less awkward,” he said.

Rich Jacks, Associate Dean of Students for Health and Wellness, has a similar perspective on drug use.

“I talk to students who use [marijuana] because it’s cool, because they will be accepted, to deal with insecurities, or they like who they become,” said Jacks.

Jacks counsels students who have decided that they have a problem and want to make a change.

“It helps them manage stress and pressure, and while some students decide to cut back or stop completely, a lot of students have no intention of changing what they’re doing,” said Jacks.

Whitman students’ general attitudes about marijuana seems to be that it is acceptable, as long as it doesn’t interfere with academics. In the 2009 Whitman College Lifestyle Choices Survey, 52.8 percent of students said that for other people: as long as marijuana doesn’t get in the way of other responsibilities: occasional use is okay. A lower 20.5 percent of survey respondents said that, for others, frequent use of marijuana is okay, if that’s what the individual wants to do.

The 2009 Whitman College Lifestyle Choices survey also shows two trends that influence drug use: gender and affiliation with the greek system.

Twenty-four percent of independent men said they used marijuana more than once a month, while 48 percent of men in fraternities said they used marijuana more than once a month, according to the 2009 survey. Eleven percent of independent women said they used marijuana more than once a month, compared to 19 percent of women in sororities.

More than twice as many men than women, and almost twice as many students affiliated with the greek system than independent students, said they used marijuana more than once a month.

Regardless of these demographic trends, the reasons cited for using illegal drugs remains constant across the board.

“Most of the time it’s a combination of curiosity, their friends are doing it and it’s cool,” said Jacks.  “[Yet] for students who use it chronically, clearly their curiosity has already been satisfied.”

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