From these interviews with students it is already clear that drug use among students is quite normal. EM would like to know more precisely; which substances do students use and how often? Are you curious about this as well? You can help us find out by filling in the EM drug survey.

Joris, age 20

“I use drugs very regularly. Generally about three times a week. The drugs I take are XTC, MDMA, cocaine, speed and ketamine. I snort drugs and take pills when I’m partying, but every once in a while I’ll take them at home, too, with friends. I’ll often take ketamine on my own because it gives you wonderful dreams. I don’t know if I’m addicted. I do often have drugs in the house, and sometimes I’ll sell them to friends. I’m in touch with several dealers who get me the stuff. I pay for it with my student loan and the money my parents give me. I don’t think the drugs necessarily affect my academic performance. I’m resitting some exams this year, but that has nothing to do with the drugs I take, and everything with [my lack of] discipline and motivation. In addition, I’m a member of a student society, which takes up a lot of my time. People regularly take hard drugs at my society, which makes it all the more normal and easier to do so.”

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So what is the deal with students taking hard drugs? That is what the Trimbos Institute (the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction) is currently investigating. “We have found that hard drugs are more likely to be used by highly educated people than by poorly educated people,” says Eva Ehrlich of the Trimbos Institute. “Students go out clubbing relatively often, which will often involve drugs such as XTC, cocaine or laughing gas. And many students take Ritalin, for instance when revising for exams and sitting the exams.” Ehrlich says laughing gas is not considered a hard drug. It is a legal high and can often be purchased at parties.

Isabelle, age 19

“I use drugs recreationally, when I’m out clubbing. This often happens on weekdays, and it always involves cocaine. Some of my friends use drugs, too, but quite a few of them don’t. I started taking drugs a while ago because I was regularly offered them, and at one point I found myself thinking, Why not? I think I take cocaine about once every two weeks. I know that cocaine isn’t good for me, but then many things aren’t good for me, health-wise, and this does make me feel good. I don’t think I’m addicted, because I don’t think I need it all the time. Drugs are expensive, I know that. I buy them with the money I get from my student loan.”

According to Ehrlich, drug use among adolescents is at a reasonably steady level, and no extreme increase or decrease has been observed over the years. Even so, drug use is always a reason for concern. “Every type of drug use is risky, even recreational use. People have died from taking drugs once. Of course, that doesn’t happen very often, but there are plenty of other consequences you must take into account when you choose to take drugs.” Such as, for example, water poisoning, hyperthermia, depression or vision problems.

Unfortunately, there are psychological risks, as well. “Take depersonalisation disorder, for instance. It feels as though you are no longer yourself, as if you are a stranger in your own body, as if you are a spectator in your own life. Derealisation causes you to feel like you are living in a dream, or in a nightmare.” Ehrlich admits that the risk of these disorders is low, but they may result in psychosis.

Nathan, age 23

“I mainly take drugs because I think it’s exciting. The drugs I use are cocaine and XTC. I only use them when I’m with friends and we are going clubbing at night. It makes certain parties just a little better. My friends use drugs as well – as often as I do, I think. It’s an individual decision for us. We try not to talk each other into using. I’m aware that drugs aren’t great for my health. I just don’t think they affect my health to the point where it’s harmful. At any rate, I’m not noticing anything out of the ordinary! I’m not the slightest bit addicted; I can easily go weeks without using anything. My academic performance isn’t affected by my drug use. I’m always mindful of important deadlines or exams.”

Ehrlich says it is not known whether hard drugs such as XTC actually cause lasting damage to the brain. “Too little research has been done on the subject. For instance, we know XTC causes the brain to change, but change isn’t necessarily the same as damage.” When we ask her to give some advice to students who are afraid they are addicted, Ehrlich gives a surprising answer. “The amount of drugs you take says nothing about whether or not you are addicted. Many hard drugs do not come with physical addiction; it’s purely a mental state of mind. So if you feel like you need more and more drugs to enjoy a night out, go to a bowling alley with your friends instead, to break the habit.”

At the students’ request, the names of all students quoted in this article have been changed.

EM is interested to know more about the average ‘narcotics diet’ of EUR students. Do you want to know as well? Then help us out by filling in the EM drugs survey.

If you take drugs and feel like you are in need of help or a chat, contact Jellinek for expert advice on addiction.