It is a truth universally acknowledged that when in university, you will be offered drugs.
It's a Saturday night in Bang Bang, two girls are sitting on the floor giggling into their tap water as they grab their cards out of their purse and start racking up lines. It's like a scene out of Skins, except these aren't young A-levelers, they're Plymouth Uni students.
Regular drug user Claus* says; 'I barely bought any class As last year but with the new availability me and my housemates have been ramming drugs up our nose left, right and centre. Between me and my mates we've bought well over £500 worth of cocaine, cannabis and MDMA since the start of Freshers 2013. Last year we only ever spent out on bud and Mandy. £40 for a nice gram of chop is so cheap and between two of us it's just enough for a night out.'
When asked to comment, The Harbour Drug and Alcohol Services were reluctant to say anything and we were told that 'this is a PR issue and I will get someone to call you back as soon as possible.' The call never came.
From further research, an article in the Plymouth Herald stated that there had been a 228% rise in drug trafficking in the city, which coincided with the start of the new term. Chris* agreed with Claus* saying, 'I've definitely noticed the increase but it's no bad thing. There's less sick on North Hill now.'
According to David Nutt, former government drug advisor, 'alcohol is more harmful than LSD and ecstasy' and with celebrity endorsements for the legalisation of marijuana ranging from Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson to Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, most students NOT smoking pot or experimenting are now seen as the outsiders here in Plymouth.
Here at the Tab, we don't condone the use of drugs. There can be various dangerous outcomes of using them, ESPECIALLY when mixing them with alcohol. Our general advice would be to stay clear.
However, we are aware that plenty of you will ignore our warnings, so please at least, adhere to these key pieces of advice:
1. Buy from someone you know, not a local
'One student I knew cut his coke with Creatine, which was fine. It didn't make a difference. He told me he knew of a local bloke who cut his with silica. You can die from that so easily but he didn't care. I'd never buy from a local, they never give a shit about students.' says Kelly*, an occasional drug user.
2. Don't take them out with you.
'Bouncers in Plymouth are nuts! One in Cuba took my MDMA off me and I swear he pocketed it. Usually, if you give over [your drugs] then they'll still let you in but it depends on how nice you are.' Luke*, a local stoner commented whilst we interviewed his housemate.
3. Make sure you relax into it.
'Its these idiot kids that ruin it when they drink too much and take something. I used to do it all the time and it's sweet.' A bouncer from a local nightclub gives his 2 cents on the topic.
Furthermore, during our initial interviews for this article, the one piece of advice that kept reoccurring was 'Don't do ketamine'. Ketamine destroys the lining on the bladder when taken on a regular basis, thus causing incontinence and in males it's likely to turn your wee into a hair gel-like substance.
In a nationwide Tab poll last year 71% of students admitted to trying drugs; that means a majority of the people you surround yourself with will try them at some point, so it's got us thinking there must be some fun to be had.
However, other people's opinions on drugs can affect your social life. When asked, second year student Jackie* told us, 'I was told not to attend a house party because the students living in the house were convinced I was a 'druggie' because I'd smoked a joint at a previous party. I felt ostracised and let down by people I'd assumed were my friends. That was last year though and this year I've found more people smoke pot than don't and those that don't are now seen as the weird ones.'
Worryingly, none of the people interviewed had ever received any information, good or bad, about drugs from the university. In fact, when I called up and asked whether UPSU had any literature on drug issues, a woman from the ADVICE CENTRE told me 'No we don't sorry... goodbye' and then quickly hung up.
Should it be addressed? No one's died yet so should we really make it a big deal? The users would argue NO. Unfortunately, this is a running theme in university cities across the UK.
Swansea, a city similar in size and complexion has also been through this process. Plymouth student from Swansea, Sandy* told me, 'The party scene amongst students has increased resulting in clubs taking a more relaxed stance on users, but my best friend worked in a club over the summer and she saw over 15 people overdose on drugs like ketamine and meow.'
It concerns me that the Harbour Drug and Alcohol Service didn't really care and UPSU have clearly not noticed this issue.
We always get told to practice safe sex... so why not safe partying?
*all names have been changed to protect the identities of those interviewed.
This article was originally published by The Tab Plymouth in 2013.