If media outlets are to be believed, young people are finding unprecedentedly creative ways to get high. Over the past couple of decades, we've heard tales of young people getting high on everything from vodka tampons to Burt's Bees lip balm to actual fermented human waste!
But if you talk to actual college students, you'll find that they're hardly reinventing the wheel. At least that's the case with most of the students we talked to. Most cited weed as the drug of choice among their peers (after, of course, alcohol). Such synthetics as Molly and "study drugs," especially Adderall, have also seen a rise in popularity over the past several years.
One Michigan State University junior said it's not unheard of for students to turn to harder drugs, but most students don't go much farther than Molly or acid. He told us, "I feel like, with the big partiers, not the regular people, but the people that party every weekend, they definitely use cocaine.
"I feel like people drink maybe like once or twice a month, same with getting high. That's what I would say, once a week or once every other week."
Lauren Klemz, a senior resident assistant at the University of Michigan, said the few drug-related issues she's had with residents have all been related to marijuana usage.
"We tend to have more problems with it in the winter," she said. "My [residence hall] is right next to the arboretum, and when it's nice people go out there to smoke, but during the winter we have more trouble with people smoking in the rooms."
But Klemz also said that marijuana is really the only drug they're trained to recognize — not that it's too hard to sniff out. She said the smell and physical characteristics are usually dead giveaways.
"They tell us to look for certain signs, so we're all aware of what would happen if a student was under the influence of a drug," she said. "Usually [it's someone smoking] in a room or somewhere, so it's something that we all have the ability to spot."
As for more serious drugs, Klemz said it's often impossible to know for sure.
"People come back from parties and a lot of the time there's no way of telling what they've been doing," she said.
Wayne State University Police Chief Anthony Holt said a few years ago his department saw a rise in the use of K2, the synthetic substitute for marijuana, but its usage has since died down.
Even then, he said his department only had to deal with one criminal case of the use of the drug.
He added that drugs seem to be less of a problem at Wayne State, which he attributed to the fact that it's almost exclusively a commuter school, and the student body tends to be made up of a more diverse age demographic.
"I think the last overdose of a student using drugs happened 20 years ago in an off-campus apartment," he said. "The university has a pretty much no-tolerance policy on that. We don't have a lot of parties on campus."
But Robert Neuman, chief of police at the University of Michigan, said he's had to deal with a much wider array of drug abuse.
"It's always changing," he said. "In the past, we've seen drugs spring up that I had not been aware of 20 years ago. [There's been a rise in] synthetic drugs that try to skirt laws."
Even when it comes to more standard drugs like marijuana, he noted that THC levels have increased significantly.
He said his office is also keenly aware of a spike in heroin usage that has pervaded Washtenaw County over the past few years, which has led to an average of six deaths per month across the county.
Joshua Jackson, a senior at Michigan State University who will be an RA this upcoming year, said he's noticed an increase in heroin usage on that campus as well.
"I think it's just regular access," he said. "I think a couple of years ago you'd be hard pressed to find heroin on campus. I think for some reason there's higher access."
Other than that, he noted that some students like to experiment with slightly weirder substances.
"I did talk to a kid who would put Burt's Bees under his eyelids to get high," he said. "And I knew a kid who smoked oregano to get high. I don't even know if you can get high from oregano, but it's just a matter of people trying out things that are around them."
Chief Neuman said it was hard for him to exactly say which drugs were the most popular among college students, since he only deals with people who get in trouble for their drug usage.
In other words, students could be getting high on a wide variety of other drugs, but those students are just better at hiding it.
Well, don't do drugs, obviously.
But definitely don't do drugs and then be stupid about it.
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