When I think of my school days, I mainly think of beer. For a year and a half I was a member of a student association and there was a good deal of drinking, but I didn’t hear much about hard drugs. As far as I know, it wasn’t the case among my fellow students.
It’s different for students Valerie Lust and Charlotte Stecklebrück: they are members of the board of directors of the Utrecht UVSV/NVVSU Students’ Union, the largest women’s union in the Netherlands. Last month they sounded the alarm because they are concerned about the excessive drug use they are seeing around them. According to them, it appears that regular use of cocaine and MDMA is becoming more common among fellow students – especially since this use has been moved from festivals and clubs to the students’ homes themselves since the Corona crisis. “It’s not about taking the pill every now and then. It’s about normalizing the excessive use of strong drugs since Corona” de Volkskrant† To draw attention to this, all Utrecht student associations organized the seminar together in May It’s time to put it on the table In Dom Church. Also on the podcast Where do you draw the line?by a group of students, this topic was discussed.
How exactly does substance abuse work in student homes? What evenings are bags of drugs on the table? How does such a psychedelic dynamic arise in the student’s home? And what if you don’t want to participate anymore, because it’s going to force you too much?
I asked three students, who lived or lived in a dorm, about their experiences with drug abuse.
Note: This article is about suicide.
Louise* (21) is a third year student in Groningen
I lived in my student house for a year and a half with fifteen other students. Before Corona we used to go out three times a week, then we always used a coke line in the toilet. When the shutdown came, use got out of hand. Because we were no longer spending money in the city, we had more to spend. At least once a week, there were several packages on the table. We outlined a large mirror, with several piles of coke on it, so that I took a line from the pile I contributed to. We made it a “fun” thing, had special sniff keys and gold straws. We often confuse it with ketamine, which is also used as an anesthetic for horses. For ketamine, we sent each other a Tikkie with: “The horse goes down,” Coke with “the horse goes up.” At the time I thought that was funny, but now I see how problematic it is to be so funny about it.
With my house we partyed all night. If people come during the curfew, we will continue to walk until you are allowed to return to the street. At first we used it at parties, but then it was also out of boredom. Then we say to each other, “Online lesson tomorrow, boo.” We were lifting each other up on that too. I could get tired, because I could sit in front of my laptop in a jacket and sweatpants during online lectures. Sometimes, we would joke before taking a line, “It’s Monday, are we really doing this?” And then we did it anyway. We also put it into perspective by comparing ourselves to other homes. Then I say to a roommate, “Well, it could be worse, at least we’re not like that or something.” By the time the lockdown was over, it was back to normal so much that I got a sniff in the yard – when I got home, I was shocked.
I took a big shower once. Until then, I wasn’t concerned with the risks. I started having panic attacks and didn’t want to use it anymore. I was able to talk to my housemates about it, but it didn’t change their usage, although they could see how things could go wrong with me. “I’d rather not,” I said when they asked if we were going to have dinner tonight. Then I was sitting alone in my room while they were partying in the room next to me. I once left that group of friends completely and moved on. Now I live in a nicer, quieter house. It was shown to me sometimes at the Student Union, but there is a file No drug policy. Besides not wanting to use anymore because I took a shower, I also don’t want to risk getting stuck. Since I was in a high-traffic environment, I thought this was normal. It would have helped me to know that most young people do not use drugs. Then I would have faced earlier how violent my behavior was.
Job (22) lives in Leiden, and because of his addiction problems, he is between two studies
Three or four years ago I started taking strong drugs for the first time. We went to a festival with my roommates a few times a year, and once in a while we used a Coke while out, but that was a rarity. When Corona started, I was in my third year and then we stopped going to the pub. Instead, it has become quite normal to drink Coke on Friday nights, in our house or other accommodation.
I was born with a predisposition to addiction and it appeared in the time of Corona – I became addicted. And coca went along with alcohol, sleeping pills, pain relievers, and weeds. When I came to friends’ house to get a barbecue, I smelled the pigeons. I went under, I became a king in lies. I met my friends on different days so they wouldn’t notice that I was using it every day. Or I just denied it. I was ashamed because I knew things weren’t going well. Within a year, the total escalated: I weighed 59 kilograms, I was in debt and attempted suicide. I have been admitted to the clinic. I’ve been sober now for a year now, also in terms of alcohol. I’m fine, I can even go to parties. For my own safety and recovery, I left the world of female students behind. Fortunately, I kept in touch with friends there. When I’m there, they don’t drink: very rare in the student world. They say “better being there than alcohol”. I noticed that my story made my friends think. I’m just like them, just a guy who was a member of an association. You don’t have to grow up in bad conditions or be homeless to become addicted.”
Three years ago I was the exception if you use. Nowadays it comes from all sides, and I also see it in people I never expected it to be. Walking and peer pressure play a role in this, especially in student associations. I saw around me that the coca is glorified, it is glorified. As a new student, you do what the seniors do, so if they use Coke, you do too. I’ve heard people literally say it: I don’t want to use it, but everyone does. Which also plays a role: first you had to do your best to get drugs, now it’s faster than a gorilla. And if the merchant doesn’t respond, the neighbor or roommate still has some lying around.
I’m not an anti-drug, but I think it would be good for people to think about how much and why to use them. It all started innocently for me, but now I know where it could end: in prison, in an institution, or even death. Students certainly do not think about the consequences of their actions. So I think it is great that attention is now drawn to this topic in Utrecht. There must be awareness of the negative consequences. And I’m not talking about “mocromafia” – we’re the reason, because some of those banned drugs are demanded by students. I hear law students say, “It’s disgraceful that lawyers can’t do their work safely.” But that same night they sniffed Coke.
Lecky* (22 years old) is a fourth-year student in Utrecht.
When I started the study, I found it very difficult to use up the amount of Coke. Now I’m used to it, because it happens a lot around me. I don’t know if it was very good, but I thought it was normal. I live with fourteen students: most of them are twenty. The oldest of them is 23 years old, and the youngest is 18 years old. All of them use drugs except for one person. Older people use a little less and men use a little more, but who uses when is a little different.
I think this happens more in student homes, because the chance of having a house party is high. If you all go out for a drink, soon there will be a festive atmosphere. There were periods when we used Coke three times in three weeks, because it slips through so easily. But then we say to each other: Well, now we have to do it a little. We talk about it candidly, and we keep a close eye on each other. If someone uses them often, we call each other to count. Like: Do you have to do it again? I think it’s okay the way we do it now – once every three weeks, and now and then every now and then. In the last month it probably happened a little more, because there was a lot of partying. We did this a lot during lockdowns. Especially because at that time people were leaving our house regularly and new people came in their place, and then the noise came back again.
When we go into town, we don’t use. The use always comes with house parties, because they go on so late – and we want to keep it that way. There is always someone who does drugs. Spin a bit: Every once in a while someone buys a package, just like we do with groceries. It’s not like we think: We have to do drugs, and we usually have a nice evening first. Then we drink beer, we play, we dance – then at about 2 or 3 in the morning we drink and then we use it. It doesn’t happen much and we don’t do anything weird, and I usually use a colon. Now it may seem that our house is very addictive and that we use a lot, but it is not that bad. Also because there are periods when we use less. My parents don’t know I’m using – if they did they would deprive me of the inheritance.
Of course I sometimes think: This is not good for me. When my nose hurts, I realize it’s not okay. Then I resolve not to use it next time. In addition, I realize that our hands are stained with blood, if you look at the drug trade and the underworld. But will I use less as a result? not necessarily. When I had a few drinks and the bag popped up, I guess tipping wouldn’t hurt.
Do you have questions about alcohol or drugs for yourself or someone else? Call the Trimbos Institute, call 0900-1995. Want to talk to someone about depressive thoughts or thoughts about suicide? Check website 113 or call the crisis helpline 0800-0113.
* Nicknames are known to the editor.