Gatepost survey reveals majority of students have smoked marijuana

An unscientific survey of 400 FSU students administered by The Gatepost revealed that 256 students, or 64 percent of those surveyed, have used marijuana in the past.

The survey found that 121 students, or 30 percent of those surveyed, have used illegal substances other than marijuana, but every student who has used one of these illegal substances has also smoked marijuana.

The other 144 survey respondents have never used illegal substances.

“They still refer to it as a gateway drug in the sense that people who smoke marijuana are more likely to experiment with other drugs,” said Judy Grob-Whiting, program coordinator at the Wellness Center. “You don’t usually see someone trying a harder drug for the first time without having tried marijuana.”

The Gatepost administered the anonymous survey over the course of 10 days, from April 2-12. Of the 400 students surveyed, 164 were men, 229 were women and seven indicated they were other genders.

The Gatepost survey found that 22 students have used heroin, 57 have used ecstasy or Molly and 56 have used cocaine. Fifty-three students have used painkillers not prescribed to them and 51 have used Adderall not prescribed to them. Thirty-six of the students surveyed have used LSD, and 49 have used psilocybin (psychedelic) mushrooms.

Of the 400 students surveyed, 124 have either purchased or were given marijuana on campus. On campus, 45 students have obtained Adderall not prescribed to them, 19 students have obtained painkillers not prescribed to them, 13 students have obtained Molly or ecstasy, eight students have obtained cocaine, eight students obtained psychedelic mushrooms, seven students have obtained LSD and three students have obtained heroin.

The Gatepost survey asked respondents to indicate if they had had any negative experiences due to their drug use during the last academic year.

The survey found that 82 students had driven under the influence, 52 had had unprotected sex, 35 had experienced a blackout, six had considered suicide and four had had nonconsensual sex.

23 percent of students use marijuana at least once a week or more

Twenty-three percent of the 400 students surveyed indicated they use marijuana once a week or more. Fifty-two percent of students surveyed indicated they had used marijuana in the last six months.

Thirty-six percent of the students surveyed said they had never used marijuana.

Of the 400 students surveyed, 124 have obtained marijuana on campus.

“I’ve never been offered any other drug on campus besides weed, which is readily available,” said one student who asked to remain anonymous. “I could call two or three people and get weed right now.”

After reviewing the final survey results, Chief of Campus Police Brad Medieros said that from a law enforcement perspective, action must be taken to reduce the number of students selling drugs on campus.

“I want to remind the community about the serious consequences that can result from drug use in terms of your own safety and well-being, but also how you can get jammed up criminally if you’re caught,” said Medieros. “You’re jeopardizing your educational career by being caught on campus.”

According to the Campus Police logs, from the beginning of September 2014 to April 22, 2015, there have been 37 narcotic investigations, all of which started from smell complaints. Of those, eight resulted in civil citations of $100 each. The others were unfounded.

A student who asked to remain anonymous said, “Smoking weed in the dorms is very easy. I used to smoke in the shower, but now I just use a good fan and a window.”

Another student who asked to remain anonymous said, “I live in Ho Mann and it always smells [of marijuana] 24/7, but I don’t mind it. People use it to clear their minds and chill.”

Junior Stephen Harrington said, “I smell weed in the res halls one to four times a day.”

One of the reasons for the steady increase in the number of regular marijuana users is the societal destigmatization of the substance, according to administrators.

Dean of Students Melinda Stoops said, “Some of it is the change in state laws about marijuana use. Now that it’s considered a civil offense versus criminal for small amounts, I think that shifts perceptions of use.”

In 2011, marijuana was decriminalized in Massachusetts, meaning that first-time possession of a small amount of the substance for personal consumption does not result in prison time or a criminal record, according to norml.org, a non-profit lobbying organization to legalize marijuna. On January 1, 2015, the first medical marijuana registration was issued in Massachusetts.

With the growing percentage of those in favor of legalizing usage nationwide comes a decrease in the perceived risks of smoking marijuana, and concerns associated with regular use will become less common, according to Stoops.

Medieros said, “Since the decriminalization of under an ounce, it’s become more prevalent.”

Stoops said that some students claim their drug use is associated with their stress levels, and that using is an easy way to relax and relieve stress.

“There’s a lot of pressure on college students, and I totally understand that, but there are many different ways to relieve stress,” she said. “[Drugs] feel like a quick fix to me. It may take away the stress, but it does not resolve the larger problem of how to handle stress in your life.”

One student who asked to remain anonymous said, “I smoke weed every time I’m stressed out. If I can’t sleep, I smoke weed. It has helped me dramatically.”

Another student who asked to remain anonymous said, “People smoke weed to relax and escape the stresses of daily life. It helps a lot of people and it’s just fun for some, just like drinking. … I know a lot of people who smoke daily. They all believe it doesn’t hurt them at all.”

One student commented on the back of a Gatepost survey form, “Why does everyone freak out about marijuana? It’s not as bad as alcohol.  I’ve never heard of anyone going into a stoned rage. The only things in immediate danger from stoners are entire boxes of Oreos.”

Students are often misled by skewed information published on marijuana advocacy websites, said Grob-Whiting, a drug counselor.

She added, “There are a lot more negative consequences for people in the college-age bracket because of the one big fact that the brain hasn’t fully developed until age 25 or even a little bit older than that. Especially with daily users or frequent users of marijuana, it’s definitely causing some long-term impairment of the brain.

“There are studies that say it even lowers IQ by ten points with daily use,” she said. “That can never be gotten back. If I were a student, that would be scary to me hearing that.”

Grob-Whiting said that even infrequent marijuana users may have a dormant predisposition to mental illness, and could be far more prone to triggering a breakdown after smoking marijuana.

The 2014 American College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) that the Health and Wellness Center administered also showed significant drug use among FSU students.

In that survey, 22.7 percent of students had smoked marijuana in the previous 30 days, and 44 percent had used marijuana at least once.

One in twenty FSU students has used heroin

Of the 400 students surveyed, 53 have used painkillers not prescribed to them at least once, and 22 students have used heroin in the past.

Only two students have used painkillers not prescribed for them once a month or more. No students reported having used heroin in the month before the survey was administered.

According to drugabuse.org, one in 15 individuals who use painkillers not prescribed for them will use heroin in 10 years. Twenty-three percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it.

Heroin is quickly delivered to the brain, “which contributes to its health risks and to its high risk for addiction, which is a chronic relapsing disease caused by changes in the brain and characterized by uncontrollable drug-seeking no matter the consequences,” according to the site.

The survey also revealed that three students had obtained heroin on campus.

Stoops said, “If someone on campus is selling heroin, honestly I don’t want them here – even if they are an excellent student.”

Medieros said, “We see heroin out in the larger community. I never wanted to see heroin on this campus, and I am very concerned about it because it’s cheaper than marijuana on the street, and you never know what somebody is cutting it with.”

Recently, heroin has been more prevalent in the surrounding area, according to Medieros.

This year, Medieros and his officers trained with the drug Narcon, which works to counteract the effects of a heroin overdose by blocking the receptors in the brain that heroin stimulates.

Brandon Martinez, a junior and SGA student trustee, said “I don’t necessarily find it surprising, but it is weird to see heroin, cocaine – a lot of hard drugs – being used. I think people like to think that because we are a small school, we don’t have these problems, but I think this is a reminder that all colleges face these problems and we aren’t immune to it.”

One in eight FSU students

has used Adderall

Of the 400 students surveyed, 51 have used Adderall without a prescription, and 17 use it illicitly once a month or more, 7 of whom use it once a week or more without a prescription.

Adderall is often prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to drugabuse.gov.

Pamela Lehmberg, a board-certified adult nurse practitioner at the Wellness Center, said health professionals at FSU are well aware that Adderall is used inappropriately by some students and it is an issue worth addressing.

She said Adderall is more accessible because a growing number of students have prescriptions for it.

Of the 400 students surveyed, 45 have obtained Adderall for non-prescription use on campus.

One student who asked to remain anonymous obtained Adderall from a friend and said she uses it to be able to focus and to lose weight.

“I used it for about a month on and off. I think it was 30 mg a day depending,” she said. “I got it from my friend who got it from someone I don’t know.”

A student who has been prescribed Adderall and asked to remain anonymous said, “It’s very helpful. It has its side effects, but it’s does a lot of great things for me. I use it to focus because I have ADHD. But it causes headaches and withdrawals, kind of, and lack of appetite and irritability, and I’ve never sold it to anybody on campus.”

Molly, LSD and cocaine used by some FSU students

Of the 400 students surveyed, 57 have used ecstasy or Molly in the past, 56 have used cocaine, 49 have used psilocybin (psychedelic) mushrooms and 36 have used LSD.

Thirteen students obtained ecstasy or Molly on campus, eight obtained cocaine, eight obtained psychedelic mushrooms and seven obtained LSD.

A student who asked to remain anonymous said, “I’ve only been offered drugs on campus a couple of times in the past three years I’ve lived here, but I know about 10 people I could get them from right now if I wanted to.”

Stoops said, “These other drugs don’t come under detection the way that marijuana would.”

She said that infrequent users of these “harder drugs” are less likely to be detected than marijuana users due to marijuana’s distinct smell.

Grob-Whiting said some signs of addiction include sudden changes in lifestyle that “revolve around procurement of the drug,” a general loss of interest and motivation and, as a result, lower grades.

Director of the Counseling Center Paul Welch advised students who are battling addiction or know someone who is to speak with a professional. The Counseling Center can offer social support, anonymity and help with family interventions.

Welch said that in his experience, denial is the hardest challenge for student addicts.

“We don’t have a huge number that self-identify, because that is part of denial. … So it can be a little bit harder to identify if there is a problem,” said Welch.

He said many students use these substances to feel more comfortable, to relax or to be social, and do not realize they have an addiction.

“Addiction goes beyond that. It’s not a social experience,” said Welch. “It’s more of a self-medicating experience.”

Stoops said that the Counseling Center offers methods of stress management, and advocates for working out regularly, as that has been proven to increase endorphin levels. Stoops added a psychology professor Paul Galvin conducts a weekly meditation group on campus as well.

Some students report negative experiences due to illicit drug use

The Gatepost survey found that in the last six months, 82 of the 400 students surveyed had driven a car while under the influence of illegal stubstances, 52 had had unprotected sex, 35 had blacked out, 28 had been in trouble with the police, six had considered suicide, and four students had had nonconsensual sex.

Ilene Hofrenning, director of the Health and Wellness Center, said the number of students who admit to having driven under the influence of drugs “is significant.” Hofrenning said people tend to feel “safer” when driving under the influence of marijuana, as opposed to alcohol, but she argued that this is not true because reaction time is still delayed.

“If there is something that you need to slam on your brakes for, you might not be able to do it in time,” she said.

She added, “Many students think it’s harmless to drive under the influence of marijuana, but it does impair driving. Also, the combination of alcohol and marijuana has a potentiating effect, so that the risk is much greater.”

Four students indicated they had had nonconsensual sex while under the influence of drugs.

Chief Medieros said, “We do so much education about ‘no means no’ and … not to put yourself in a position where you are incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.”

Six of the students surveyed indicated they considered suicide while under the influence of drugs.

Grob-Whiting said, “It may be a small number, but that is concerning when you think about those people and sexual assault or a suicide coming out of [their drug use]. … Even one would be devastating.”

The survey found that 52 students had engaged in unprotected sex while under the influence of drugs.

Hofrenning is concerned about the possibility of the spread of STIs on campus. She said the number of affected students will “keep multiplying” if they do not use protection.

After reviewing The Gatepost survey, President Javier Cevallos was most concerned about the consequences FSU students sometimes face while under the influence of illegal substances.

He said, “We have to do more education for our students about using drugs. We need to help our students make the right choices.”

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