Reckless living on campus

By Emily Merlino

“I know myself, but that is all.”



Amory Blaine, the ambitious protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s semi-autobiographical literary debut “This Side of Paradise”, a Princeton graduate and survivor of two failed romances with high-profile beauties,  has spent his entire life trying to morph himself into something he is not, and at the end of it all, he has only achieved self-knowledge.

Blaine spends much of the novel wandering around the storied lawns of Princeton attempting to claim a coveted spot on one of the school’s famed Dining Clubs. His college experience, and the majority of the novel, documents Blaine’s exhaustive attempts to reshape himself, a middle-class Midwesterner into a more couth, aristocratic character.

After all of his meticulous efforts, however, Blaine does not have the social dominance he craved but instead realizes that he will never be American nobility.

Although Amory Blaine attended college and attempted to morph into a false version of himself about a century ago, his story still rings true today. Almost every student comes into university looking to change and grow, and there is nothing wrong with that, but too many students believe that personal growth can only be achieved through experimentation, which can rapidly descend into dangerous situations.

College students experiment with sexuality and drugs, neither of which should ever be taken lightly. However, with today’s relaxed attitude pertaining to drugs like Adderall and LSD, more and more college students are putting themselves into potentially hazardous situations.

Such behaviors are frequently shielded under the polished mask of “growth,” but the fact of the matter is that self-knowledge and personal enlightenment can be found without toying with a harmful substance, which is neither a game nor a frivolous novelty.

Many college students experiment with drugs such as prescription pills and LSD. Around midterms and finals, the nickname “Addy,” short for Adderall, began to be thrown around quite frequently and casually, with some students even taking requests for the drug on their respective dorm’s Facebook pages. Adderall does not yet have a huge presence outside of the college world, theoretically because college students put tremendous amounts of pressure on themselves to succeed and outdo their classmates.

It is a felony to sell or take the Adderall, prescribed to treat ADHD, without a prescription, but apparently that has not deterred college students.

Martha J. Farah, director at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at University of Pennsylvania, cites a college survey that documented that about 25 percent of college students have used Adderall or similar drugs in the past year in order to make it easier to study.

A drug that makes studying easier may seem like the perfect pill: They suppress one’s appetite, cause the brain to focus, and may cause insomnia. These effects appear to be a great study aid when midterms and finals roll around, but with risks including heart problems, severe sleep deprivation, drug addiction, and even prison time, the costs far outweigh the benefits.

Arguably, an even more dangerous and popular drug among college students is LSD. According to an article published in “The Nation,” about 10 percent of college students have taken LSD. This is not by any means an epidemic, but it is something to be concerned about.

LSD, at $5 a capsule, the equivalent of two trips, is fairly cheap and very exciting. Many users report feelings of enlightenment, self-knowledge and revelation. However, the drug is also incredibly damaging.

In a study done in the 1960s and reported on by “The Nation,” a lot of students were found to drop out of college after ingesting LSD once a week or more. Recurring flashbacks or hallucinations can be another side effect, even if the drug has only been ingested once. Additionally, just one dose of LSD can yield psychological problems, such as paranoia and violence, which can last for years, even if the user has never previously suffered from psychological problems.

Drugs should never be treated casually, but college students tend to romanticize their effects and experiment with them. College is often viewed as a prime time to test different things and the effects they have on the body, and as a student one is virtually responsibility-free and their bodies are in their prime. However, this often leads to injury or even death. An acid trip or a great grade on a test is simply not worth prison time or death.

College students are often guilty of glamorizing and idealizing, two personality traits that can often lead to trying harmful drugs. Because movies like “Almost Famous” and “The Social Network” show drugs as something used by the very rich, very eccentric and very talented, there is often a false idea of glamour and enlightenment in using these drugs.

Perhaps the most treacherous thing of all is the idea that “you only live once,” and thus college is the perfect time to experiment and thus grow as a person. This kind of reckless attitude is simply “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” as said by Lord Byron’s lover Lady Caroline Lamb. Growth in college is expected and by all means encouraged. Self-enlightenment and knowledge, however, cannot be expected to be achieved safely, if at all, by popping a pretty colored pill.

Emily Merlino is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]