The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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‘Puff’ the not so magical dragon

Pot use on campus higher than national average

Physicians warn of its detrimental effects on the mind and body. Users say it allows them to relax and escape daily pressures. Proponents of legalization say it’s acceptable to smoke. Researchers say that in the past decade usage among college students has risen . . .

Marijuana. The illicit drug often referred to on the streets as pot, grass, reefer, weed, herb and Mary Jane, continues to be a sensitive and controversial topic.

Marijuana, a crude drug made from the plant Cannabis sativa, contains a mind-altering ingredient known as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), but more than 400 other chemicals are also found within the plant. The amount of THC in the marijuana determines how strong its effects will be. The type of plant, weather, soil, time of harvest and various other factors determine the strength of marijuana.

The strength of today’s marijuana is as much as 10 times greater than the marijuana used in the early 1970s. This more potent marijuana increases physical and mental effects and the possibility of health problems for the user.

More than 83 million Americans age 12 and older have tried marijuana at least once, according to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. However, marijuana is not only a national problem, but also a growing local problem.

A recent study conducted at Southern Methodist University entitled the “CORE” gave insight onto the underground drug culture found on campus. Statistics show SMU is above average with 51.6 percent of students reporting they have tried marijuana in their lifetime compared to 46 percent of other college students nationally. Also, 41.7 percent of SMU students confirmed having used marijuana in the year prior to taking the survey compared to 32 percent of college students nationally.

Christen Menzel, a substance abuse counselor at SMU, attributes higher usage on campus to geographic location. “Because Texas and Mexico are close in vicinity it is easier to smuggle drugs across borderlines,” Menzel said. “Once smuggled, marijuana makes its way to the surrounding Metroplex for distribution. Since SMU is situated in an accessible and populated area, the diffusion of marijuana is much harder to control.”

Marijuana’s effects begin immediately after the drug enters the brain and last approximately one to three hours. If marijuana is consumed in food or drink, the short-term effects begin more slowly, usually in half an hour, and last up to four hours.

Smoking marijuana deposits several times more THC into the blood than does eating or drinking the drug. Within a few minutes after inhaling marijuana smoke, an individual’s heartbeat begins to quicken, the bronchial passages relax and become enlarged and blood vessels in the eyes expand making the eyes appear red. The heart rate, normally 70 to 80 beats per minute, may increase by as much as 50 beats per minute. This effect can be even greater if other drugs are taken simultaneously with marijuana.

As the potent chemical THC enters the brain, it causes the user to feel euphoric by acting in the brain’s reward systems, which are areas that respond to stimuli such as food and drink as well as most of drugs abuse. THC activates the reward system in the same way that nearly all abused drugs do, by stimulating brain cells to release the chemical dopamine.

A marijuana user may experience pleasant sensations and colors. Sounds may seem more intense, and time appears to pass very slowly. The user’s mouth feels dry, and he may suddenly become very hungry or thirsty. After the euphoria feeling passes the user may eventually feel tired and depressed. Occasionally, marijuana use produces anxiety, fear and distrust.

One anonymous SMU student recalled his first encounter with marijuana. “The first time I ever smoked weed I felt extremely nauseous and dizzy. I vowed I wouldn’t smoke again, but then I was persuaded by my friends and each time I got high it just seemed to get better and better. It totally mellows you out and everything around you seems really funny.”

Marijuana’s long- term effects impair a person’s ability to form memories, recall events and shift attention from one thing to another. THC also disrupts coordination and balance by binding to receptors in the cerebellum and basil ganglia, parts of the brain that regulate balance, posture, coordination of movement and reaction time. Other more serious long-term effects of marijuana usage include: increased risk of cancer, problems with sexual development and desire, weak immune system, a motivational syndrome and addiction.

Although most people consider marijuana a harmless drug, it has critical consequences. More teens enter drug treatment centers for marijuana than all other illicit drugs combined. According to the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 60 percent of teens currently in drug treatment are placed there due to their addiction of marijuana.

“Marijuana is kind of like alcohol in the sense that you build a tolerance, and before you know it, you’re smoking not because you want to but rather because you need to,” one SMU student said.

Marijuana is not only a physical burden for its users, but a financial burden as well. “Marijuana is one expensive habit,” admits an anonymous SMU student. “For roughly $50 you can purchase an one-eighth of an ounce. Depending on how frequently you smoke, you can easily spend a few hundred dollars each week.”

Commonly, people imagine the typical drug dealer with the preconceived notion of a man dressed in a long, dark trench coat standing on a corner in a run down part of town pushing drugs to addicts and junkies. But as Menzel previously mentioned, SMU’s geographic location makes it more convenient for both buyers and sellers to attain marijuana. Therefore, as the images of the trench coat dealer fade into the past, designer clothes and flashy cars disguise the new dealers found on the SMU campus. College kids are especially lured into the drug scene because of the adrenaline rush and the fast cash it brings. Dealers can effortlessly make hundreds of dollars by dealing to peers. In fact, “Most frat houses on campus have dealers within the households, so weed is always easy to find,” stated one anonymous fraternity member.

SMU has a strict policy for drug violators. If a student is found with an illegal substance or paraphernalia the violator must make an appearance in front of judicial court. Confirmed drug use or possession may result in a minimum of one semester suspension. Suspension from the university means withdrawl from all classes, and students are not allowed on the campus for any reason. Marijuana is a serious offense, and as a result not taken lightly.

Menzel, along with other certified counselors are on hand at the SMU Health Center to assist individuals with substance abuse problems or any other drug- related issues. A 24-hour hotline is also available to help students in case of emergencies.

Menzel’s advice to students is to “avoid any foreseeable situation in which the usage of drugs will be present. By doing this, you protect yourself from any possible temptation that may consume you.”

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