Sos, speed, molly, X, keta, aunt G, lsd and 2c-b. For most Dutch people, this is probably an unusual expression. But not for students, say Tilburg student factions and student associations. They express their concerns: “It is not normal for young people to turn to drugs in the nightlife or at home on the couch”.
Tilburg student factions and student associations are concerned about the increasing drug use among students. The student faction SAM even asked questions about this under the University Council. Vice President Tessa Chambon explains, “In my own environment, but also outside, students are using more and more drugs. They recognize this problem and are increasingly sounding the alarm.”
Bastiaan Heerius, president of the Tilburg Student Corps Sint Olof, also states that drug use has increased among Tilburg students: “When I started studying five years ago, far fewer students used drugs. Today, it is more accepted and talked about in public without embarrassment. In fact, I think it is plausible that many first-year students already used drugs during their high school years. For the seniors, it’s incomprehensible: We might be able to keep a few beers down too much. Drug use was really a show far from my bed. This increasing drug use is also related to the corona virus. During the lockdown period, drugs were simply a form of entertainment for many. ”
Increase due to corona
It is indisputable that increasing drug use and corona are closely linked. In the autumn of 2020, Lieve Mark – an initiative of seven students from Leiden, Delft and Utrecht – was already researching the changing drug use among students. They published the results earlier this year. What do you think? Four out of ten students started using more drugs during the corona period. Nineteen percent have started drinking more, ten percent use more drugs and twelve percent use more of both. Researchers say that the main reasons for this drug use are boredom (65 percent), that they would feel better (41 percent), and that people in the area have also started using more (37 percent).
Not only in Tilburg, but also in Utrecht, student associations are concerned. Recently, the student associations in Utrecht decided to join forces and express their concerns out loud. In the national campaign Where do you draw Line? they try to make students aware of the deep social, personal, and societal consequences of excessive drug use.
A concentration pill
The use of stimulants is not limited to festivals and home parties. Medications and drugs are also used more often while studying. Charlotte Hüser, board member for external affairs at the Student Party Sam, explains: “For example, Ritalin is increasingly being used to promote academic achievement. By taking only one pill, a student can sometimes concentrate for hours. Ideal if you need to keep a lot of balls up, or if you want a good grade for an exam ”.
Group colleague Chambon mentions the increased pressure to perform on students as the reason: “In order to stand out in an admissions committee or a future employer, you must be able to show more than just a nice list of grades. Students take extra courses, participate in activities outside the curriculum, often gain work experience during their studies, get an internship and sign up for volunteer work. In addition, they are also expected to see friends and family and visit the gym. For many students, it’s just too much. The use of stimuli is then a way to meet all expectations. ”
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Tilburg study associations – like other study associations in the Netherlands – have a zero-tolerance drug policy. Heerius explains: “This means that members are not allowed to use drugs during activities organized by the association. If this happens, they risk a suspension of at least four months with Olof. Thanks to this social control we have [het bestuur, red.] therefore not the idea that members use drugs during Olof’s activities. But of course we do not know exactly what is going on behind the front door of student housing. Nor what happens at parties that Olof does not arrange. ”
Isa Beuk, secretary of TSR Vidar, agrees: “It is difficult to give an indication of drug use among our members. One does not know what is going on outside the association. Drug use is not tolerated in Vidar, but it is tolerated in many other places. ”
Logically, members are more likely to use drugs out of sight of their association. There they run no risk of possible consequences if they are caught using drugs. When asked what it takes to reduce drug use among students, Heerius answers: “There is a lot more talk about the negative consequences of drug use. It should also be less normalized. It is not normal for young people to turn to drugs in the night life or at home on the couch. ”
Where does Tilburg draw the line?
The campaign Where do you draw the line? According to Heerius, it is therefore at the right time: “In terms of awareness about drug use, this campaign is a good first step. But both the government and the universities also have an important role to play here. They should focus more on prevention and information. I think it is an illusion to assume that drug use among students will disappear. But I believe that education and preventive measures can ensure that frequent use is reduced. ”
Beuk also believes that there is a role for the university: “The university is not obliged to do anything about it. But she is in a unique position to inform students about drug use and make them aware of all the negative consequences. This allows the university to express its moral commitment to the well-being of its students. “