Marijuana Abuse Increases Among College Students

Smoking marijuana is a pastime at UVM. Recently, a study from The Chronicle of Higher Education found that UVM was #1 in drug referrals in the country. The majority of these referrals stem from marijuana use. Nationwide, marijuana has increasingly become a problem for young adults. More college students are using marijuana, and statistics report that the average age of first marijuana use is decreasing overall. The Sourcebook for Criminal Justice Statistics notes that in the year 2000, twenty percent of college students used marijuana in the last thirty days, up 6% from the year 1990. “I think overall nationally, there is a growing use of pot,” said Margaret E. Gross, assistant director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing. “There is a more frequent, consistent use among college students in particular.”Many students turn to marijuana to reduce stress and for recreation. Often they are attracted by the supposed lack of major side-effects in using the drug. Marijuana use, for example, does not leave one with a hangover. An overwhelming number of 82 percent teenagers polled by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press believed that peer pressure was a major factor with marijuana use. Lack of parental supervision came in at a close second for 79 percent. “I don’t know why I use it,” said Lisa, a UVM freshman. “I guess it’s kinda fun. It’s a really great way to get to know people and have a good time.” Many users justify their use of marijuana, claiming it has no negative consequences. “I’ve been smoking since sixth grade,” said Suz, a freshman and daily user. “I smoke because it doesn’t have any effects on my life and I enjoy it.” Dr. Alan Budney, director of the Marijuana Treatment Center, disagrees. “Regular marijuana use does affect cognitive ability,” he said. “There are even more carcinogens than in tobacco cigarettes. But it hasn’t yet been found that it causes cancer.” He also said marijuana can affect academics as well. Because marijuana influences cognitive functions, such as attention span and short-term memory, most users are not apt to write a four page paper or study for an exam when they’re high. “You don’t study when you’re high, so the more likely you are to smoke, the more likely it is that you won’t study.” “Marijuana use results in a lack of motivation,” Gross said. “It’s like putting a car in neutral.” Daily users put their car in neutral all the time, so to speak. Many users see it as an escape from life for a time, but as Gross puts the feeling, it also makes one “numb to the world.” College students, in particular, are at a period of transition: between dependence upon parents and independence. For one, college students don’t have anyone supervising them and are afforded the freedom to do whatever they’d like. Many students get money from their parents. “Either way,” said Gross, “They will find a way to get that substance…no matter what.”