Drugs and privilege at Colorado College
by Nelson Kies
As the bong was passed around and the incense burned, my friend—let’s call him Ike—grabbed about a dozen unfinished beer cans and poured what was left of them into one cup. He then grabbed a handle of Bacardi off the table and poured in a shot because “fuck it.” As he raised the glass to his lips to take a sip, another friend stopped him and said, “DUDE, I just poured the bong water in there.” Ike paused, stared at the cup and noted the small, burnt residue float around in something that looked like piss. He shrugged and emptied it into his stomach. No matter the environment, addictions are addictions.
Considering that many students are constantly in a state of slight illness due to their binge the night before, the term “addiction” ought to be acknowledged for the sake of our health. While many never address addiction as addiction, but simply as college recklessness, those students who face the reality of addiction often relapse and realign with the college environment. This topic has been swept under the rug.
As the bong was passed to the left, (a basic rule in weed smoking etiquette) we laughed at Ike. I asked, “Do you ever think about alcoholism?” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I regretted saying them. While others contemplated, Ike pointed at me and yelled, “DON’T YOU EVER BRING THAT WORD UP HERE. THAT DOESN’T EXIST HERE.” He was only slightly joking. Ike expanded and said, “We have four years where we can do whatever we want. We should take advantage of these years of no judgment.”
While many smart students are able to navigate the intensity of CC as functional addicts, routines remain hard to break. The drug culture at CC is not only influenced by the individual but also the school as a whole. Whatever is purchased is rapidly sold and consumed. A major factor of CC drug use is the wealthy background of many of our students and the lack of socioeconomic diversity on our campus. According to a recent article in The Hechinger Report, CC is mentioned as one of the least economically diverse campuses in the country. This was based on the Pell scholarship that gives need-based funding to students with parents of a salary of $60,000 or less. CC recently partnered with the non-profit Questbridge and the Walton Family Foundation which matched the $10 million raised over the past several years. The school is clearly taking steps to create a more socioeconomically diverse campus. However, with the annual increase of tuition, there are many critics that wonder whether or not socioeconomic diversity is a plausible future.
Not only does the lack of diversity disadvantage students’ experience at school, this homogeny is perhaps the largest influence on drug culture at CC. In the survey, when asked “Have you ever tried to stop [using drugs]? If so, why?” only two of the 72 students who responded to a survey of CC students disseminated through Facebook, cited “lack of money.” While weed is relatively cheap (about $35 dollars for an eighth of an ounce), other drugs like alcohol, cigarettes, Adderall (which, if supplied by a friend would typically cost $5 a pill), mushrooms (about $20 for a spiritual experience) or acid ($10) all add up to a costly habit. Considering 23 of the 72 students surveyed said they use drugs daily, it is clear that financial impact does not influence intake. Many love Frank Ocean’s song “Super Rich Kids,” but it has depressing relevance to the Colorado College community. As Frank Ocean so accurately puts it, “So all I gotta do is whatever the fuck I want / All we ever do is whatever the fuck we want.” The song is not only loved but is also embodied by the manner in which students partake in drugs.
Among certain social circles, cocaine is a popular recreational drug. Additionally, cocaine is a distinctly expensive drug; some doctors say one of the symptoms of cocaine addiction is financial difficulty, but at CC that issue is relatively non-existent. One dealer on campus said it is possible to sell more than two ounces of coke in only a few weeks. That’s more than $3,000 paid to the dealer in a matter of weeks. Stories of students doing bumps of coke on chairlifts at ski resorts supports this connection between coke and wealth. On a campus of many wealthy students, the pockets never run dry when it comes to drugs.
“There are always more buyers than there are drugs,” one campus dealer told me as we walked in the sun smoking a spliff. (When I say dealer, I mean anything other than pot. There are no pot dealers at CC, just friends.) Students’ insatiable appetite for drugs leaves those who are willing to take a risk with a very profitable business. The dealer shared that whatever and whenever they decide to supply to the students, they will consume. I asked the dealer, “Why aren’t people doing much Xanax this year?” They responded with a laugh, “Because I didn’t buy it.”
The beginning of this year commenced with new shipments of cocaine, and, from my observations, many students have begun to recreationally use cocaine with more frequency. It is common for one type of drug to be bought in mass by a single dealer, then distributed to many individuals. Soon enough, a large number of students, often friends, are simultaneously on the same drug. This builds solidarity amongst friends and creates ‘we’re in it together’ sort of mentality. While friendships are created, this also means that friendships could possibly be destroyed by them as well.
Health is only one factor when it comes to drug addiction. The survey cited above showed that the vast majority of students were comfortable being sober and use alcohol or marijuana just as a form of stress relief. With the intensity of the Block Plan, marijuana provides an escape from a racing mind. When asked “Why do you use drugs or alcohol?” the majority of students answered “Fun.” The majority of surveyed students also explained that drugs have enhanced relationships and improved perspectives. While a relationship centered around drug use often pressures individuals into addiction, the social benefits of drugs cannot go unrecognized.
As my friends and I continued to chat about drugs and the bong was packed again, I asked about prescriptions like Adderall and Vyvanse, medications used to treat ADHD/ADD. I was immediately offered some. In a college setting, where there is always more work to be done, these prescription drugs become a commodity. However, there are still qualms surrounding the impacts of Adderall on the human brain. Some students self-medicate as the only way to finish the work assigned for the night. Students may even self-medicate to feel stimulated in a social setting to the point where a night without Adderall is a bore.
As Ike looked at a few bags of weed on his table, he said, “Man, I got to pick up some more. I am running low.” There was about an eighth of an ounce of weed sitting on his table—plenty, by non-smoker standards. Marijuana is undoubtedly one of the most influential drugs on the CC campus. With its low cost in comparison to other parts of the country and the accessibility to high potency cannabis, this psychological addiction is oftentimes overlooked. Five students surveyed said they did not consider marijuana a drug even though they use it every day. Many students have medicated themselves without a doctor’s approval as an extension of a friend’s medical marijuana prescription.
In terms of addiction, marijuana is perhaps the most dangerous drug on this campus. Most students try pot in college. Your mom tried it, so did your dad—now it’s your turn. But did people smoke this much pot in college back then? Unless your parents grew their own weed, the answer is most likely no. Those friends with medicinal marijuana licenses would disperse ounces amongst friends in a week or less. While it does have plenty of benefits including the relief of nausea, anxiety and hunger issues, the perception is that there is no harm in it. However, for many students surveyed, weed has a significant psychological toll. Students shared that they feel “a haze” or a general apathy if they had smoked too frequently.
As the final bowl was packed, this time with a little tobacco, I asked the group, “Do you think we smoke too much?” This time around, the reaction was not as lighthearted. All of us have gone months with a cough that rattles our lungs, and we have never confronted the reason why. When friends have tried to stop smoking for a block, they find themselves using weed a week into class. Other times, when a friend has brought their concern of addiction others have responded with, “Shut the fuck up, this is bumming me out.”
Smoke filled the room. While Ike answered with a “no,” the others said “definitely.”