By Melissa King
Students at the University of Essex report a number of motives for taking drugs, but demonstrate little understanding for the potential dangers.
Staying out until the early hours of the morning is traditional for students. But their nights out combined with their desire to ‘fit in’ can sometimes fuel the pressure into students taking illegal drugs.
A student who I interviewed at the University of Essex, who regularly uses drugs proclaims that “it made me feel like I fit in because I grew up in a place where drug use was common.” Students now, are using drugs as a mean of socialisation, and to “forget about life” due to the increasing pressure on students to succeed. This student from Hockley, also admits to taking more than one drug at a time, though claims that he can stop using drugs when he wants to.
One 19-year-old psychology student from Clacton, who studies at the University of Essex, suffers from severe anxiety. She discussed how both nitrous oxide and cannabis relax her while she is stressed. These drugs, however, cause her to experience hallucinations when she takes too many drugs at one given time, especially on her medication.
Some students seem concerned that they will not make friends if they do not participate with others in taking drugs, including the legal drug of alcohol. A law student from London, studying and the University of Essex, who never consumed alcohol before university, revealed that she drank with others from her flat to seem “part of the group”, and to ensure that she wasn’t “the odd one out.”
Jay Breeze, an 18-year-old student from Harlow, who is opposed to drugs and drug-use, believes that “drugs are becoming increasingly popular with young people because they face a lot of challenges in their lives, so use drugs as a get-away. But they also see their friends doing it and want to get involved in the social groups, or so they look ‘cool’ so they decide to join.”
He also commented on those who use drugs – “I don’t have anything against them, it’s their life and if they take drugs for fun it’s up to them. People can lose self-control, and I have seen what drugs can do to people. I personally wouldn’t take them.” He admits to drinking alcohol, but only in moderation, and divulges that he will never use illegal drugs or ‘get high’.
Solvents, such as nitrous oxide (most commonly known as ‘laughing gas’) are medically used as an anaesthetic during surgery, or given to women to ease the pain of childbirth. Students are using laughing gas through gas canisters and balloons, coining the colloquial term ‘balloons’ or ‘ballooning’, meaning to inhale the solvent gas. Side effects of the drug, indicated by the NHS, state that paranoia, anxiety, reduced inhibitions, seizures and possible death are among the dangers of nitrous oxide.
Another form of illegal highs, cannabis, also informally known as ‘weed’, relaxes users, or users become more talkative due to the recreational drug. However, it can also cause paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations and lethargy. NHS statistics state 10% of cannabis users become addicted to the drug, as some people may experience withdrawal symptoms once they stop taking it.
Figures released by the NHS in 2015 convey the damaging effects that drug-taking is having on young adults. 20% of young men and women aged 18-24 were treated for drug-related illnesses, a 2% increase from the previous year in 2014 (14,279 hospital admissions), and was 57% more than 2005 (8139 hospital admissions.)