Unless you spent the last decade or two in Walden-like isolation, you’ve probably had enough of ridiculous anti-drug Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ads and Above the Influence commercials that imply marijuana will turn your friend into a human pancake.
We won’t slap you in the face with any more anti-drug preaching and you’re free to draw your own conclusions. We will, however, tell you the legal consequences of getting caught plus all the other facts you need to know about each substance. So say goodbye to the days of frat stars talking about doing molly and you asking, “molly who?” and read on for a breakdown of the drugs on college campuses, in rough order of their frequency of abuse.
What it’s called: sometimes booze, but unless you’re trying way too hard to impress the cool kids, you’ll probably just call it alcohol.
How it’s taken: as a drink; types include beer, wine & champagne, spirits (vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum, brandy, gin), liqueurs.
What it does: Other than making you silly, alcohol is a depressant that slows your central nervous system and can poison you—perhaps fatally—in large doses. Roll your eyes all you want, but alcohol is widely regarded as the single most commonly abused drug on college campuses according to health professionals and substance abuse experts.
Risks: “Drugs are generally viewed from a ‘level of dangerousness’ paradigm with alcohol being viewed as less dangerous due to its legal status,” says Mike Durham, a mental health counselor at Kenyon College who specializes in cases of substance abuse. “This is not necessarily true, as alcohol poisoning can be lethal, and acute alcohol withdrawal can be potentially fatal.”
Legality: Alcohol is legal to consume after age 21. Minor in Possession (MIP) laws vary from state to state, as does most drug possession legislation, but the consequences of getting caught with alcohol under age may include a fine in the hundreds of dollars, several hours of community service, driver’s license suspension, and in cases of repeated offenses, time in prison.
What it’s called: weed, headies, piff, bud, green, dope, ganja. Baked foods that have marijuana in them are called “edibles.”
How it’s taken: smoked in a paper joint or blunt, or through a pipe, bong, hookah, vaporizer, one hitter, or other “piece.” Marijuana can also be baked into and eaten in foods like cookies and brownies.
What it does: The Huffington Post reports that marijuana has actually beaten out tobacco on college campuses in terms of frequency of use.
“Being high off marijuana isn't something you can really explain,” says one Skidmore College sophomore of her experience smoking marijuana. “During and after it was a weird feeling, like an out of body experience.”
Amy*, a Kenyon College senior who smokes marijuana regularly, describes the effect of the drug on her mindset positively: “I feel super relaxed, and also insightful. The high lasts about three to four hours for me, and I can still go out and do things [and] interact with people fairly normally.” She does concede, however, to feeling a “slightly distorted sense of time.”
More interesting is the way in which Amy details the culture of smoking marijuana as a social one, claiming that its prevalence on college campuses trivializes its effects. “I smoke because it’s an activity I share with my friends,” she says.
Risks: Though many users describe heightened senses and anxiety relief, proven effects of marijuana’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are more limited to accelerated heart rate, distorted perception, and reduced coordination.
Even frequent users can experience discomfort with marijuana. Despite Amy’s proclivity for smoking marijuana and indifference toward this artificial slowing of time, her experience with edibles has proven less enjoyable. She reports that after eating a weed brownie, “every cell in my body hurt. I couldn’t move.” While she acknowledges that friends of hers have taken to edibles, she instead felt “an aching hurt... like everything was vibrating really fast, like every part of my skin was vibrating.”
Legality: The recreational use of marijuana is prohibited nationwide, except for in Colorado and Washington where it was legalized during the election. Medical marijuana, which is the prescription of marijuana for such purposes as pain and anxiety relief, appetite increasing, and the quelling of nausea and vomiting has been legalized in D.C. and the following 18 states:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island