Sipping, toking, snorting, shooting on the rise
November 29, 2007 9:15 AM
In the time it takes most students to complete their bachelor's degree at SF State, the campus has seen an overall rise in drug use.
Although previous reports on drug and alcohol use in the California State University system indicated that negative consequences associated with drinking are on the decline at campuses, a recent survey taken by about 5,000 SF State students suggests otherwise. In fact, the amount of SF State students consuming alcohol is at roughly the same level as it was five years ago and the use of marijuana, heroin and cocaine have gone up.
"I think numbers can be helpful to see where we need to concentrate our efforts," said Bita Shooshani, a clinical counselor at SF State’s CEASE (Creating Empowerment Through Alcohol and Substance-Abuse Education.)
According to the National Core Alcohol and Drug Survey created by the Southern Illinois University and conducted at SF State by CEASE, 73 percent of the students surveyed reported consuming alcohol within the last 30 days in 2007, up from 71 percent of SF students in 2002. Marijuana use among students also rose 2 percent in 2007, with 23 percent of students reporting smoking marijuana in the last 30 days compared with 21 percent in 2002.
SF State's alcohol use is consistent with the national average of 72 percent of students who reported drinking in the last 30 days. However, only 17.5 percent of college students nationwide reported smoking marijuana in the last 30 days—about 5 percent fewer students than on SF State's campus.
Michael Ritter, coordinator of Prevention Education Programs at SF State’s CEASE said this may be reflecting San Francisco’s drug culture.
“I think that has mirrored the development of more of a common acceptance,” he said.
Cocaine and heroin use, although at much lower levels than alcohol or marijuana, has seen an upswing at SF State since the 2002 survey.
In the 2002 survey 1.8 percent reported using cocaine compared to 3.4 percent in 2007, and heroin use rose from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent. Ritter said the rise in these numbers is consistent with the national level.
Ecstasy and methamphetamine usage is declining. According to the 2002 survey results 2.9 percent of SF State students were using ecstasy compared with 1.7 percent in 2007. Methamphetamine use at SF State was at 3.4 percent in 2002 and at 2.1 percent, five years later, according to the 2007 statistics.
According to Shooshani this year's higher freshman population may account for the increased drug and alcohol use, and Ritter cited the school’s transformation into a more residential campus as another possible explanation.
Although SF State is right on track with other U.S. colleges in regards to drug and alcohol usage, the school does have fewer substance-related incidents such as drinking and driving. Twenty-three percent of SF State students reported driving a car under the influence compared to 26 percent of all U.S. college students and just 7.5 percent of SF State's students reported having been in trouble with the police, residential hall, or other college hall authority for drinking compared to 14 percent of the students in the reference group representing all U.S. colleges.
Also, 15.3 percent of SF State students admitted to having a problem with drugs and/or alcohol while only 10.6 percent of the national reference groups did.
Shooshani said she sees this as a positive and attributes these statistics as reflecting a "greater consciousness" towards drugs and alcohol use at SF State.
"I think people are talking about it more," she said of drug use. "Although people are talking about legalizing marijuana [they're also discussing] what's a problem and what's not a problem."
SF State student Dan Neeson, 23, said he drank every day while studying abroad in France last semester. Now that he's back home, Neeson estimated drinking about three times a week. While Neeson admitted to binge drinking occasionally, he said it wasn't something he did that often or let get of hand. But Neeson said he had a friend in England who had a drinking problem that interfered with his college course work. Neeson said his friend's teachers helped him through the school work and let him off a little more easily because of it.
"Here I don't think that would really fly," he said of SF State.
"I don't believe that," SF State student Nancy Phu, 22, said of the survey statistic that stated that 23 percent of SF state students smoked marijuana. "A lot of them are liars."
Phu said she drinks, but not as often as she did when she was younger.
"I don't party a lot, maybe if I was a freshman or a sophomore, but I'm a senior and am focusing on graduating," she said.
Phu also mentioned that she felt as if SF State was beginning to take on the image of a "party school," adding that one of her professors told the class that SF State was right up with Chico State due to the amount of partying in the Park Merced area.
Regardless of whether the survey underestimated the amount of students smoking marijuana, it indicates more work needs to be done.
According to the survey 25 percent reported drinking three or more times a week in the more recent survey and 39 percent reported binge drinking—consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting—within the two weeks prior to taking the survey. Ritter suggested that students who fall into this category might benefit from seeking counseling from CEASE.
Ritter said students are often referred to the CEASE program by teachers when students come to them admitting they have a drug problem or when students are caught with drugs in the residential halls.
Shooshani said that they have seen an increase in the amount of students seeking counselors over the past few semesters and, at this point, all time slots to see a counselor are full until the rest of the semester.
For this reason, CEASE will be holding a group meeting that will deal with individual drug and alcohol assessment with a CEASE counselor on Dec. 4 from 3-4:30 p.m. in room 208 in the Student Services building. Shooshani said drop-ins are welcome.
In addition, SF State offers on-campus alcohol and narcotics anonymous meetings and students can assess their own alcohol and marijuana use by taking the anonymous e-chug and e-toke surveys at www.sfsu.edu/~cease/.
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