Some students may wish to join the so-called “holy trinity” of university life: sex, drugs and rock and roll. Since both sex and rock and roll are legal practices, Perdeby provides a brief insight into the world of illegal substances.

Johnny Stash*, reintroduced to marijuana by certain members of his residence, decides to try it again after having experimented with it in high school. Besides, all his new friends are doing it. As expected, he grows quite fond of the relaxed feeling it produces, despite the level of paranoia that comes with smoking the drug. It’s a small price to pay to reach this euphoric feeling that helps him escape his stressful schedule as a mechanical engineering student.

Psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms and LSD were popular among the original hipsters, hippies and tree-huggers of the 1960s. These drugs primarily produce hallucinations, believed by some cultures to be visions from paranormal sources. Magic mushrooms are very rare today, but LSD (better known as acid) is still common.

Stash believes that psychedelic drugs should be used in conjunction with visually stimulating environments such as botanical gardens or 3D movies in order to gain the best experience from the drugs. However, if the environment is too visually stimulating, or if the user uses too much of the substance at once, they may experience what is commonly known as a “bad trip”. Rock legend Jimi Hendrix is one of the most well-known users of marijuana and LSD. It is believed that he used both drugs before performing. Sadly, in 1970, Hendrix died of an overdose while on tour in Europe.

Similarly, other controversial figures such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were part of the religious movement known as Rastafarianism. These individuals regard the smoking of marijuana as an important part of their religion. “Weed chills you out. You feel relaxed and look at things in a completely different way. I liked smoking up before I study because abstract concepts seem to make more sense when you’re high,” says Stash.

Surprisingly, despite its well-recorded history, not a single person has ever been reported to have died from a marijuana overdose.

Nevertheless, there are countless incidents across the globe in which marijuana (known as a “gateway drug”) is linked to subsequent use of stronger substances such as crystal meth and “cat”. Dr Madeleine Nolte, head of Student Support at Tuks, said that, “They [drug users] start by using dagga and eventually go on to using more serious drugs. It’s a chain reaction to more serious offences.”

Studies by the South Coast Recovery Centre show that the health consequences related to marijuana use are similar to those of cigarette smoking. It also has a tendency to relax you to such an extent that it interferes with everyday human functioning. “Along with feeling relaxed, weed also makes you lazy,” says Stash.

Kurt Cobain, lead singer of grunge band Nirvana, was a self-proclaimed heroin addict. According to the South Coast Recovery Centre, heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs to use. It is so addictive that some users who have been admitted to medical centres are administered a small dosage of heroin to prevent their system from going into shock.

When asked why he used heroin, Cobain said that the drug relieved the severe pain from his stomach ulcers. In 1994, aged 27, Cobain committed suicide. Although there may be numerous conspiracy theories about his death, post-mortem examinations conclude that Cobain had a higher concentration of heroin in his system compared to the average lethal concentration.

According to Bes Liebenberg, coordinator of student support in residences, drugs are popular among students in Pretoria. “At the University of Pretoria, there are definitely students who are dependent on drugs, but these are isolated incidences.” While some may argue that drug use is innocent and merely for recreational purposes, Liebenberg maintains that the effect of drugs on students and the possibility of addiction causes it to extend far beyond that.

Nolte believes that the low drug-related incidence at UP may be due to the fact that substance abuse is illegal and that guilty students fear prosecution.

Two years ago, Stash and a friend tried to buy marijuana from a few passers-by. They were hijacked, loaded into the boot of his friend’s car and taken to an abandoned area. “I would never buy anything from the streets again,” says Stash after the experience. However, when asked whether this event changed his opinion about the lifestyle in question, Stash simply smiles and asks: “Man made booze, God made weed. Who would you trust?”

*Name has been changed.

Photo: Eleanor Harding

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