Students are notoriously known for participating in nightlife and club culture and experimenting with recreational drugs. In a survey published by the NUS, thirty-nine per cent of students responding to the survey currently use drugs.
In a pre-lockdown world some of the most common recreational drugs used by students were ‘party drugs’ such as cocaine and ecstasy. For many, drugs enhance their experience of nightlife. Drugs are easily accessible and are simple ways to get cheap thrills during a night out for students, many of whom have never tried drugs prior to starting university. However, as nightlife has essentially come to a halt, students are chasing different highs in the form of psychedelic drugs (a recent study showed that 19 per cent of people aged 18 to 34 have been microdosing, for instance).
Globally, psychedelic drugs have made a comeback in the past year due to the chaos of the real world and the unpredictable new reality we’re living through. In a time where people are trying to adjust to extremes, they turn to substances such as magic mushrooms or LSD to help understand themselves and the new world they find themselves – or simply to tune out of it.
Students are not alone in experimenting with new drugs as a recent study has shown that many adults globally have been turning to recreational drugs as a coping mechanism during the pandemic. Some use drugs out of boredom and lack of stimulation in their day to day lives; others have started to self medicate to help with mental health (use of psychedelic drugs for the personal treatment of mental health issues has risen from one in five people before the coronavirus outbreak to one in two during the pandemic.)
I spoke to some Midlands-based students, each of whom have tried psychedelics during the pandemic. Prior to this, most of their experimentation included more commonly used drugs such as cocaine and cannabis. They detailed that the anxiety, boredom, lack of motivation and lack of hope caused by this pandemic encouraged them to act “spontaneously” in hopes of adding value to their university life.
“I feel like tripping is a rite of passage, and I’m glad I did it. And what better time to try new things than in the midst of a global pandemic. I wanted to be in a safe environment and it is something me and my partner wanted to experience together.”
She highlights that the nightclubs being closed and socialisation being limited to smaller circles was also another motivating factor. “I tripped on shrooms with my partner while we were together in my uni house over lockdown, by that point we were tired out by the pandemic and I had run out of motivation to study. The trip added excitement to my life in a time that felt so grey.”
“It sounds cliche but I genuinely felt revived after tripping. I’m so glad I did it because it brought me and my partner closer. It was an experience neither of us will ever forget and will try again.”
Preceding the pandemic, Meera was reluctant to try drugs as intense as LSD and magic mushrooms because of the comedown horror stories. However, going forward, she is now willing to experiment with different substances with her partner and close friends.
Charlie*, a 22-year-old student, had only ever tried ketamine before their first trip on magic mushrooms in October 2020 and 2CB in November 2020. “I’ve smoked every now and then, and did bumps at events and festivals”, they said. They outlined that prior to the pandemic, drugs were merely a social enhancer to help them bond with friends and enjoy an event. Going forward, they may consider using psychedelic drugs while at festivals.
“One day my housemate asked if I wanted to trip, she said she knew this guy, John*, who could buy us mushroom chocolate from the dark web. It was really random, the semester had just started and I was already really stressed with uni so I thought why not, I wanted to give it a try before assignments and exams start. After that, we just wanted another thrill so a few weeks later we decided to trip on 2CB.”
Since tripping, the real world seems bleak and boring. For Charlie, coming to the realisation that living in a pandemic during politically turbulent times will permanently juxtapose the euphoria of tripping on psychedelics has left them dissatisfied with real life. Since taking the psychedelic drugs, Charlie has also taken ketamine but claimed that the high caused by ketamine did not match that of psychedelic drugs.
Jay* took an LSD tab in September 2020. He suffers with depression and while he said that the trip itself was one of the “best experiences of his life”, he also said that the comedown left him feeling empty for several weeks after the trip. He claimed that the experience was similar to that of taking MDMA, a drug that he takes several times a year at events, but much stronger as it resulted in him experiencing an ego death.
“I’d 100 per cent do it again, but I’d just warn people about being in the right headspace before going into it. It’s intense.”
In recent years, scientists have been researching how using psychedelics can be used to treat mental illnesses such as depression. Scientists are proposing new models of treatment which include being induced by small doses of psychedelic drugs and would involve a rigorous process of assessment, preparation, and integration
John, the student that Charlie purchased the mushrooms from, regularly supplies other students with recreational drugs that he buys from the dark web. He stated that recently more people have been asking him for psychedelic drugs such as 2CB, whereas prior to the start of the pandemic these types of drugs were less sought out for. Ketamine and poppers were “still in demand”, he outlined, however there has been a general rise in interest in psychedelic substances.
In these unprecedented times, it is undeniable that we will continue to see a shift in how recreational drugs are used, especially by young people who otherwise would be enjoying nightlife and festivals. Taken safely, psychedelic drugs have the potential to alter the way in which you perceive yourself in the world, therefore adding an element of excitement to an otherwise mundane day to day life and potentially revealing practical and spiritual-like epiphanies along the way and that could be a real benefit during lockdown.
For honest information about any of the substances mentioned in this article visit Talk To Frank
*names and have been changed
Aneesa Ahmed is the Editor-in-Chief of Redbrick. Follow her on Twitter here