Acceptance, academic pressures push some students to use drugs

There are no visible needle marks on Anna’s arms; no glazed, bloodshot eyes and no signs that show she is a drug addict.

She rarely makes eye contact as she discusses her years of drug use and the prevalence of drugs at the University.

Anna’s first year at the University has brought her back to a life of drug use she tried to leave behind.

Anna said that she started using drugs in high school and has spent the last two years using cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine.

She said that both times she started to use drugs, she did it to make friends.

“I thought that was, like, the way to do it,” she said.

Three weeks ago, she decided to limit herself to smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, she said. The 18-year-old prospective nursing student said that she started using drugs when she was 14.

She said she feels drug use is more prevalent at the University than the public would suspect.

“I think there’s quite a lot of use,” Anna said. “You know people are smoking inside their dorms because they set up fans to blow (the smoke) out the windows.”

In places such as her Frontier Hall room, there is significant peer pressure for first-year students to use drugs to fit in and make friends, she said.

“Coming to the (University), (drug use) was sort of thrown in my face,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of peer pressure in the dorms.”

Smoking marijuana is as socially acceptable as drinking beer, she said.

Academic pressures force some students to use prescription methamphetamines to stay awake to study, she said.

“More people here use the prescription one because it’s more socially OK,” Anna said.

Marijuana, prescription methamphetamines and cocaine are most popular among University drug users, she said.

Prescription pain killers such as Vicodin are also growing in popularity, Anna said.

The drug culture thrives more than University police and officials might recognize, Anna said.

“I think they’re a little out of the loop,” she said. “I know a couple of drug dealers that deal straight out of their dorm rooms.”

Anna said she doubts a police crackdown would stem drug use on campus.

Anna minces no words over admitting her drug addiction.

She said she spends approximately $200 a month on drugs and uses them almost daily.

What started with marijuana and drinking progressed to injecting and smoking methamphetamines, she said.

A boyfriend introduced her to methamphetamine, and she said she has given an untold amount of her income to his addiction over the last couple of years.

She gave him more money as he made the move from user to dealer, she said.

While the relationship with her boyfriend ended recently, regret over her addiction lingers, she said.

She has betrayed friends, lied to loved ones and skipped school to feed her addiction, she said.

She said addiction “sort of takes over your life and puts itself first.”

Anna is keeping an eye on her future and tries to keep academics before drugs, she said.

“I knew that if I used, I would have to keep my grades up,” she said.

Anna said drug use can also lead to experimentation with sex.

When Anna would use drugs, sex would often follow, she said. Anna said she is addicted to both.

“I think people who experiment with drugs are more likely to experiment with other things,” she said.

She said she hopes to enter recovery again soon, fearing that drug use could ruin her dreams of becoming a nurse.

“Whenever I would start using, I would just dive in. I can’t just use socially anymore,” she said. “I realized that if I’m going to succeed at college, then I can’t continue use.”


Katie studies late at night in her Dinkytown apartment several times a week. When she needs a little boost to help her focus, she said, she turns to cocaine.

“I use it more like for studying, and for fun, too,” she said. “I use it to study and stay up late.”

Katie, a junior, said that she began using cocaine after she dated someone who used the drug as a study aid.

She described cocaine’s effects as being similar to coffee.

“Coffee makes me really jittery,” she said. “Coke does the same thing but it makes me focus, and I get really excited. I have to be doing something while using it.”

Katie also said she smokes marijuana every day for social purposes or to relieve stress.

She said her drug use doesn’t affect her grades. It might benefit them because she can study better, she said.

“I get really good grades. I get, like, pretty close to all ‘A’s,” she said.

She said using drugs is no more distracting than going to a movie instead of studying.

Katie said that she started using drugs while in high school. Growing up in a small Wisconsin town, she said, she was often bored and looking for something to do.

“I used way more drugs in high school than I do now,” she said. “It was a small town, usual kind of stuff. Drinking parties.”

She said she has never been caught and only uses drugs at home or at her friends’ houses. She said she carries a vial with a spoon if she is using away from home.

As for being addicted, Katie said it costs her “too much money,” but she can stop using drugs if she wants.


Joe is a psychology senior. He said he uses marijuana socially with friends.

“It’s a chance to get together with friends and do something instead of just sitting there watching TV,” he said.

He said he has done cocaine, acid and mushrooms. He stopped using those drugs when he began his first year of college, he said.

“I just kind of grew out of it, just wanted to see how it was,” he said. “I have no interest in doing it anymore.”

Joe said he also stopped using drugs other than marijuana because it was too expensive.

“I just didn’t really have the money to do it,” he said. “And my friends stopped as well. It was harder to get it.”

Joe started using drugs during his last year at a suburban Milwaukee high school. Drug use was kind of common among students, he said.

He said that his family’s perception of him has not changed because of his marijuana smoking habits. It has probably helped him to meet more people, he said.

“It’s a social thing,” he said. “I play music with my friends. We hang out, go to movies.”

Joe, a guitar and bass player, said he and his friends are currently trying to form a band. He said they play jazz and fusion music.

He played in a band while in high school, he said. He also played soccer and basketball.

Joe said approximately 90 percent of his friends smoke marijuana. His friends also supply him with the drug, he said.

“It seems like something that is accepted and pretty common,” he said. “I don’t plan on doing it until I die. Eventually, I will probably cut back or stop completely.”