It’s 6 p.m. on a Thursday evening and a GW student is leaving his Munson Hall room. He has an appointment in Riverside Towers Hall, the same appointment he has had every day since the beginning of the school year. He walks briskly over to Riverside, where he is signed in and walks upstairs. Inside the residence hall room, he sees three familiar faces – the same three faces he sees everyday at 6 p.m. They lock the door and put a towel at the bottom of the door to keep the smell from escaping. They put on some music quietly and several small, green buds into The Binger, the group’s trusty bong.
This is the side of GW that isn’t found in Something Happens Here, the movie that is sent home to prospective students. It is both an extremely private and social atmosphere where marijuana is king, ecstasy is queen, and other drugs are members of the court.
Several students described their take on GW’s drug culture, all speaking under the condition of anonymity.
Behind the scenes
Cliques can form around drugs, and drugs can gain you access to certain cliques, said a junior who lives off-campus.
One of the key aspects to drug use is the social ramifications that it brings, according to students.
Whenever there is a group of people that do drugs, you’re going to find a couple people who just hang out and don’t do drugs, said a sophomore living in Munson. It’s not like (not doing drugs) isn’t socially acceptable.
Students say that finding people who use drugs is not difficult. There’s always that group that you can just tell puffs, he said. With some people, you can’t really tell (if they use drugs), but, if I don’t know, I just ask. It’s not a hard question to ask.
I just want to say that I was blessed with a great floor in Thurston last year, said another sophomore living in Riverside Towers Hall. I just walked around Thurston, and it was easy to find people to smoke with.
He said that through interactions with other drugs users, he was able to decide which people he enjoyed being with the most, both when high and sober. From there, he formed a group of himself and three others who smoked pot daily in his bathroom.
It went bits and pieces until we found a group that we liked, he said. When other people would come and puff with us, it was like an event, something different.
Drugs, especially marijuana, carry with them certain rituals, according to a student living in Madison. Whoever brings the weed packs the bowl and usually gets the first hit, he said. Then you pass it around in a rotation so that everyone there gets a hit. It’s up to whoever brings the weed to decide how much weed you smoke. These, he said, are the general rules. But everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to smoking marijuana.
I have one friend who owns a bong he named `The Green Lantern,’ and he’ll only smoke out of it if there is ice in the water, he said. I know another person who owns a 4-foot tall bong, and now that’s the only thing he will smoke out of. It’s another level of choices people can make. They can choose to smoke, they can choose who to smoke with, and they can choose how to smoke.
He describes the bonding experience that comes with doing drugs.
It’s a `band of thieves’ mentality, he said. When people do something illegal together, it brings them closer together.
He tells of an experience on psychedelic mushrooms that brought him and his roommate closer together.
We made mushroom tea and then went to J Street for dinner, he said. After dinner we were starting to feel the effects and spent about an hour planning what we were going to do. We walked down to the (Albert) Einstein monument and then lied on the grass at the duck pond staring at the clouds.
One of the clouds seemed to turn into a lion and blow wind on me, he said. It was all very spiritual. Then we went swimming in the reflecting pool. It was something I would never do sober, but it felt incredible.
However, drugs are not just a social thing, said a junior living in the Dakota.
People will roll by themselves or trip by themselves because they are interested in learning about the way the drug affects them. It’s another way of looking at the world, and they want to see it.
But I love going to clubs and rolling, she said. When you roll, you get such a euphoric feeling, you’re happy about everything. It heightens your senses, and you feel kind of empathetic, like you can relate with everyone’s problems and needs. It’s easy to be friendly.
I like clubs especially because of the music. It feels like it goes right through you, like you’re one with the music.
A popular club for some GW students who use drugs is Sting, formerly known as Buzz, a rave-style party held every Friday night in Southeast D.C.
Most of the people at Buzz are rolling, and it’s real easy to find (ecstasy) and other drugs there, she said.
The student said her first experience with ecstasy, a chemical drug that comes in pill form, happened at Buzz near the end of her sophomore year. But she said that the experience was a little scary.
I went to Buzz with a big group of friends. As soon as we were inside, a guy asked us if we need any `E’ or `K,’ she said, referring to ecstasy and ketamine, a horse tranquilizer. We each bought a pill and took it, but as I was waiting for the roll to hit, I got separated from the people I was with. This kid I was dancing with kept asking me if I was OK and if I wanted to sit down as the roll began to hit me. I felt OK, but he was really bugging me out.
I just stood in the same place on the dance floor for about 15 minutes trying to calm myself down, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to handle what was happening to me, and it would have been really bad for the next three hours.
The most common side effect associated with smoking marijuana is amotivational syndrome, extreme laziness that has been found in many instances of marijuana use.
While most students admit that doing drugs is physically taxing, most do not see it is a big problem.
I get my work done, said the sophomore who lives in Riverside Towers Hall. I don’t let pot control me. I get grades that I am satisfied with and know that if I need to, I can get a better grade.
He said some people can’t handle being high and doing work but that for him marijuana can motivate him to study.
You are just in a really relaxed state, he said. If I smoke and study a day or two before the exam, I find that my recall is very good. It doesn’t work if you smoke before the exam itself.
A junior living off campus said that while amotivational syndrome is not commonly associated with using ecstasy, the drug can leave users too tired to do schoolwork.
Doing `E’ really tires you out, usually because you are out all night at clubs when you do it, she said. If I roll on a Friday night, chances are I won’t do any studying on Saturday or Sunday.
Student drug users cited the high price of marijuana and other drugs around GW as a key deterrent to using drugs.
Prices for marijuana range from $20 to $60 for an eighth of an ounce, or roughly 3.5 grams, according to students.
I can pay $60 for an eighth kind bud (high-quality marijuana) around here that I can get at home for $40, said a freshman living in Thurston. Some people don’t care about quality, but if they do, they’re going to pay for it.
He said that some people, like himself, get involved in dealing small amounts of marijuana in order to offset costs.
I’ll usually buy an ounce and then sell most of it to close friends, said the freshman. I don’t like to call it dealing because I’m not making any money doing it.
He said that he buys an ounce for about $400 from a student who lives in Thurston and who has a connection at another college in D.C. He notes that selling marijuana has a much higher risk than simply smoking it.
If you have two eighth-ounce bags in your room and you get busted, then they get you with intent to distribute, which is pretty serious, he said. That’s why I try to keep a low profile and only sell to friends. If the word gets out that I’m sell
ing, then the wrong people might hear about it.
I get a little nervous smoking in my room in Thurston, he said. Especially when there are a lot of people there. The 11:30 showing of `The Simpsons’ in my room has become pretty well-known as a time to come and smoke, so I might have to stop that if it gets out of control.
A sophomore living off campus said that the high prices and risk of getting caught are worth it.
Weed is easy as pie to get, she said. Sometimes the campus goes dry, but that just means it’s a little harder to get. If you want it, you can get it.
The stress it puts on your wallet is pure, unadulterated, constant misery, she said. But I’d rather be spending money on drugs than on material things.
She said she thinks a lot about the consequences of getting caught, but that the possibility of getting caught seems very remote.
Smoking pot just seems so easy sometimes, you stop thinking about getting caught.
Some students say ecstasy is also readily available around campus, though at times is harder to find than marijuana. Ecstasy can cost between $20 and $25 for one pill. Combined with the price of a cab, the cover charge at a club, and water, a night doing ecstasy can easily cost around $60, according to one student.
Law and order
The Substance Abuse Prevention Center, located in Thurston Hall, is the organization that officially deals with illegal drug use on campus. The purpose of the center is to teach responsibility, said SAPC Manager Candace Miller.
The most disturbing thing about drug use by college students is that drugs get in the way of their planning for big futures, Miller said. Laziness and lack of motivation are damaging to students who are part of such a competitive atmosphere.
The center seeks to teach students about options to drugs for both stress reduction and having fun. It is responsible for GW’s no-tolerance policy on illegal drug use in residence halls.
The penalty for marijuana use in dorms is quite severe because it has to be, she said. Drugs are, after all, illegal.
Miller said that the prevention center does not give up on students who are caught using illegal drugs in residence halls. The SAPC uses harm-reduction techniques, such as their Last Call program, to follow up on students who have been expelled from residence halls for drug use.
`Last Call’ is a psycho-educational approach where students work one-on-one with a professional to talk through different issues concerning drugs, Miller said. If there is a situation where the student is going to keep using drugs, we want to make sure they don’t ruin the rest of lives because of it.
The center is compiling a study of drug use around GW. Miller said that she expects the study to show that marijuana is the most popular drug among students. She said that ecstasy is also popular around GW.
The frequency of use, Miller said, is a reason that the University sees marijuana use as a bigger problem than the use of ecstasy.
People who use ecstasy usually do it on weekends, Miller said. People who smoke marijuana, however, sometimes smoke a few times a day. The cumulative effect can be devastating.