“People have offered [recreational drugs] to me since I’ve been here,” said a first-year Scripps College student who wished to remain anonymous. “I’ve been offered molly (MDMA), cocaine, Adderall, Xanax, and weed of course, and my friends have taken shrooms, LSD, and probably other things I don’t know about.”
Based on student interviews, her experience reflects that of many other students coming to the Claremont Colleges. Some students see the 5Cs, with their relatively lax enforcement, as a safe haven for drug use. But to the student, there are other risks.
“No one I know has shown any side effects from the drugs other than the desired ones, but I don’t personally use drugs because I don’t think the negative effects are worth it,” she continued. “The risks are too high for a few hours of ‘fun.’”
Jasa Cocke is Pomona College’s Drug and Alcohol Counselor and a confidential resource to Pomona students. Cocke operates from a harm-reduction standpoint and aims to help students understand what their drug and alcohol consumption means for them, rather than to entirely stop students from drinking and using drugs. Cocke said she wants to be a therapeutic resource, not a punitive authority.
“I’m not here to make you stop drinking or stop using, unless you want to,” Cocke said.
For Cocke, the drug that poses the biggest health problem is alcohol.
“People drink alcohol abusively,” Cocke said.
One Pomona student who wished to remain anonymous agreed with Cocke that alcohol is the largest drug problem at the 5Cs.
“Alcohol is one of the most unhealthy drugs that you can do,” the student said. He said that he tries to keep his alcohol consumption low due to the negative health consequences. The student also said he avoids addictive substances like tobacco and cocaine. “I try to stick to psychedelics because they are healthier.”
He continued to explain the importance of researching the potential harm of psychedelics and other drugs. According to him, pure MDMA (the drug in ecstasy and molly) does not pose a significant health risk. However, the student said that due to the nature of the drug market, one cannot be sure ectasy and molly are pure and therefore, in his opinion, safe.
Cocke mentioned that psychedelics, specifically LSD, can present a mental health risk. “They can do emotional harm. Everyone is different and not everyone can handle the length of a LSD trip.”
Student Health Services (SHS) rarely sees students who have a recreational drug problem, according to Dr. Jennie Ho, Director of SHS.
However, if substance abuse did become a problem for a student, “SHS would refer to outside organizations [for medical care, counseling, rehabilitation] on an individual basis … and to local hospitals for emergency situations (i.e. respiratory distress, fluid resuscitation),” Dr. Ho wrote in an e-mail to TSL.
For the anonymous Pomona student, Pomona’s drug culture has provided a safe and healthy environment.
“Obviously Pomona has a drug culture, and it has a more diverse drug culture in terms of what kids are doing than other places, but I would say in general that we have a healthier drug culture,” said the student.
He specified that the alcohol culture at the 5Cs is less prevalent than at larger schools.
“Being in an environment of research-minded, level-headed kids has certainly created a more positive drug culture, and kids here in general are more focused on their futures and aren’t about to take something without knowing what exactly it will do to them,” the student said.
Cocke said drug and alcohol education has room to improve at Pomona and the other colleges.
“I would really like to see more alcohol and drug education,” Cocke said, specifically in reference to Pomona. However, in Cocke’s opinion, “more education needs to happen on all of the campuses.”
First-year students at Pomona are required to take AlcoholEdu, an online alcohol education program. In addition, the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) recently instituted the Teaching Alcohol Abuse Prevention (TAAP) program last semester. Neither program covers drugs other than alcohol.
Liza Ach SC ’16 said that she feels drugs are often generalized into one category, which does a disservice to students in their understanding of the health consequences associated with using drugs.
“Different drugs have different side effects. When we talk about drugs, we talk about weed [as one category] and group everything else into ‘hard drugs,’” Ach said.
According to Ach, marijuana is the most prevalent drug on campus, but she said she believed that the health effects of marijuana are not as severe as other drugs.
Brendan Thyne is the Substance Abuse counselor at Pitzer. The other colleges do not have drug and alcohol counselors.