Illustration by Grace Negron
Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, I came from an all-girls private school where drugs were never a topic of conversation. Everyone knew there were people who used them, but it wasn’t really discussed. People at my high school smoked weed on rare occasions, but it was taboo. The girls who came into class smelling like weed were immediately thought of as the black sheep of the class.
Suddenly in 2018, medical and recreational cannabis became legal in our neighboring state of Michigan and smoking weed became like drinking beer; everybody was doing it at weekend parties.
I came to college aware of how popular weed was becoming, but soon came to realize that drinking also didn’t seem like an option as much as an expectation. Professors would even make jokes about students enjoying a martini while they finished their homework or smoking a joint to take the edge off their difficult course load. College was a time of experiencing new things and making your own decisions, and my classmates seemed to all be making similar choices.
When Halloween came around during my freshman year of college, I was excited to have been invited to a party with one of my best friends. I went to a bar in Five Points and was surrounded by fraternity boys. One of the boys asked me and my friend to stand closer to him and the next thing I knew, he was doing cocaine off his keys and we were the girls protecting him from being seen by the police at the other side of the bar.
College students’ interests were changing, and this was reiterated to me when I came home for Thanksgiving break only to realize that a girl who was top of my class in high school was now experimenting with not just cocaine, but acid, mushrooms, Xanax and molly. Drugs were being sung and rapped about in songs that were on the Billboard charts, but they were also growing closer to home.
This year it's assumed that drugs are being used as a coping mechanism for many college students. 2020 has become a challenging year for so many because of the global pandemic and the endless amount of political conflict. Situations like these make it so difficult to be a young adult growing up in such a time of uncertainty. When all you want is a place to kick your feet up when you're on the metaphorical treadmill of college, it's easy to understand the appeal of using substances to take a break from life. The large drug presence at UofSC is something that often gets swept under the rug, despite the massive number of students that it impacts.