UC Irvine’s Drug Culture
All names except those of Sergeant Steve Monsanto and Sergeant Larry Ponting have been changed.
Abe stood 6 feet 3 inches and hailed from Humboldt County, CA. He described himself as laid-back and down-to-earth. In a sleepy drawl, he touched on the lack of marijuana use at UC Irvine.
“Man, it is so hard to find bud in Irvine,” Abe sighed, using a slang term for marijuana.
“Nobody here smokes weed,” he said. “They’ve got it all wrong, too. Most of them are under the impression that green is bad for you, harmful to your brain or a gateway drug. With alcohol, you can have one bad bout with it and you’re finished; it’s so easy to get alcohol poisoning, especially in college. But with weed, you just sit down, eat some food, draw or write something. It inspires a person, makes them jolly then a bit hungry, then sleepy.”
Marijuana, a plant that naturally grows the drug tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on its leaves, makes users feel sensations of happiness or contentment, and intensifies vision and touch of their surrounding environment. Other effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, distorted perception, loss of coordination, hunger, excessive laughter and fatigue.
According to UCI’s “E-toke,” an online quiz concerning marijuana use on campus, a 2007 Core survey indicated that only 13.6 percent of UCI students use marijuana at least once a month, and 86.4 percent claim they do not use marijuana at all in a typical month.
Sergeant Steve Monsanto of the UCI Police Department reported having responded to 11 marijuana-related incidents last month, which is significantly lower than some other Southern California campuses. For example, according to Sergeant Larry Ponting of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo police department, there were 24 marijuana-related incidents on that campus in the same month.
Abe’s friend Jeremy commented on the possible reasoning for the smaller numbers of marijuana smokers at UCI.
“I think it has to do with the fact that a lot of people who go here have Asian parents who are more strict and uptight about these types of things. Also, there is a huge Christian, Catholic and conservative presence on campus, and those three groups tend to lean toward not smoking,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy adds that the weather in Northern California is more privy to marijuana growing, while Southern California residents have less access to potent marijuana.
“I’m not saying people in Southern California don’t smoke,” Jeremy said. “I just think that there are significantly less smokers in comparison to NorCal.”
Connie, a devout Chinese Christian, agrees with Jeremy’s theory of religion being a possible contributing factor to the small number of pot smokers.
“I personally don’t smoke, ever. It’s bad for you, and I’m not interested. And yeah, religion is a pretty big reason behind my decision not to smoke. If my parents ever found out that I had tried marijuana I might be removed from [their] will, too,” Connie said.
In addition to marijuana, other top drugs used on campus include cocaine and ecstasy, which follow close behind in the survey.
Cocaine, a crystalline derived from the coca plant, significantly increases one’s heart rate, blood pressure and euphoria for the user. After 20 minutes to an hour, the user will feel a sense of sadness or paranoia, and the need to take the drug again.
Ecstasy, comprised of synthetic oil called methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), allows the user to feel extreme physical, mental and emotional pleasure. The MDMA is usually mixed with speed or cocaine, which makes the user feel energetic or hyperactive.
John, a fraternity member, claims that many members of his fraternity use marijuana regularly, but sometimes dabbles in cocaine and ecstasy.
“Coke is for special occasions, and [ecstasy] is too. But a lot of guys [use ecstasy] before big dance parties or raves,” John said.
However, one sorority member stated that the biggest drug used among college fraternities and sororities is alcohol.
“There’s a group of about five or 10 girls in my sorority that smoke pot. There have been rumors about some girls doing coke, but I haven’t seen anything firsthand. But by far, the intoxicant most widely used is alcohol,” said the sorority member.
The sorority member also noted that in a fraternity with which she spends a lot of time, marijuana is looked down upon while alcohol use is heartily encouraged.
Meanwhile, a small group of underground prescription drug users take pills, not for their pain-killing qualities, but to focus on school. Robert is one such student.
“Around finals time, I cram, and I always pop a couple Adderall. It helps me focus,” said Robert.
Adderall is a prescription drug used to help patients diagnosed with either ADD or ADHD to focus while doing work.
“It’s not bad, though, taking pills,” Robert concludes. “It’s not like I’m smoking weed or doing coke or being a crack head or anything.”
Be it Adderall, cocaine, marijuana or alcohol, drugs are still part of student life at UCI, whether at a frat party or the day before that Calculus final.