22 percent of UNCW students get high regularly, study finds
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 17:02
As a growing number of students at UNC Wilmington resort to smoking marijuana to relax, many of them come to their own conclusions concerning the drug’s impacts.
A 2012 Crossroads survey indicates that 22 percent of UNCW students smoke marijuana on a monthly basis, a slightly higher percentage than the National Survey on Drug Use and Health percentage of 21.4. The national average for college-aged students has steadily increased from 19.7 percent in 2008.
Wendy Donlin, an experimental psychologist and associate professor at UNCW, says some marijuana users do not understand the risks of the drug.
“More people are reporting marijuana use than they used to,” she said. “People think it’s not addictive. They’re skeptical about what people tell them about the side effects of marijuana.”
Samuel, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, is a student at UNCW and a frequent marijuana smoker.
Samuel does not smoke before large assignments, like term papers and tests, but he sometimes goes to class high.
“As long as you’re interested, you can comprehend,” Samuel said.
He also trusts his abilities enough to drive when he is high. Samuel says he has built up a tolerance to the effects of marijuana so they do not impair his driving.
Drugs, such as marijuana, were easy for Samuel to get once came to college and lived in a dorm.
“The dorms are a social web,” he said. “You can find what you want. Buying drugs was silly easy, so convenient.”
Samuel smokes regularly, but does not consider himself an addict. NIDA research indicates an estimated 9 percent of users become addicted to the drug. Common symptoms experienced by people who quit marijuana include sleeplessness, decreased appetite, and anxiety.
Darcy, whose name has also been changed, is a UNCW sophomore, and smokes marijuana once a week. She prefers smoking to drinking alcoholic beverages because smoking doesn’t cause hangovers.
Darcy only smokes on the weekends, saying it will interfere with her schoolwork otherwise.
A NIDA study correlates with Darcy’s observation that marijuana impacts the brain and school. The study demonstrated that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost up to eight IQ points between ages 13 and 38.
“It is possible to smoke pot and be responsible,” she said. Darcy is active in two student organizations at UNCW, and maintains a GPA above 3.0.
She enjoys smoking because it calms her down. “I’m a high-strung person. I have a temper sometimes. When I’m high, I’m just a nicer person all-around.”
In addition to the possibility of addiction, smoking marijuana can also have other physical and legal impacts. According to NIDA, marijuana users are more than four times more likely to have a heart attack after smoking the drug for an hour, and in 2011, the UNCW Police Department conducted 11 arrests and 116 disciplinary referrals for illicit drug use.
Though marijuana may be an effective relaxation technique for many students, they must decide if smoking regularly is worth harming their health, their grades and possibly, their permanent records.