BOULDER — Two University of Colorado student groups are joining together because they want to ensure that students on the Boulder campus use drugs safely.
The Psychedelic Club and Students for Sensible Drug Policy want to create a joint student group office inside CU’s student center, possibly as early as this fall, to provide students with information on drugs and how to use them responsibly.
“If someone wanted to come get some educational materials, say, on the proper dosing for (marijuana) edibles so they don’t overdo it, they can come and get that information,” said Beth Henneman, who leads Students for Sensible Drug Policy at CU.
Henneman’s group is the local chapter of a national organization that seeks to reform drug policies and laws. The Psychedelic Club is working to eliminate the negative stigma around psychedelic substances, such as peyote and psychedelic mushrooms.
Neither group encourages the use of drugs, but both operate under the assumption that some college students will.
“We go with the approach of ‘OK, we acknowledge that this is a college campus, people are going to use,’ but at least what we can do is provide information to them to make healthy and safe choices while they’re using,” Henneman said.
Henneman said she believes students at CU use an array of drugs, mostly responsibly, including hallucinogens, stimulants, depressants, cannabis and others. She worries most about undergraduates who are new to college and may be experimenting.
“CU’s a pretty academically rigorous school, so I wouldn’t say that it’s the majority of students using drugs or even that they use them in an unhealthy way,” she said. “But part of the other services we’re providing is, say, an 18-year-old freshman comes in and has been sheltered their entire life, their parents haven’t really talked to them about drugs or choices they make at parties.”
According to data from the spring 2015 National College Health Assessment, 7 percent of CU students reported using pot daily, with nearly 65 percent of students saying they’ve used it at some point in their lives.
About 19 percent of students have used cocaine, 2 percent have used methamphetamine and 19 percent have used hallucinogens. About 20 percent of students have used ecstasy.
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Henneman said she was saddened last summer by the death of Samuel Forgy, an applied mathematics students at CU who was shot and killed by police after he reportedly attacked people with a knife and confronted police with a hammer.
Forgy’s autopsy indicated that he had ingested several substances before his death, including cannabis, caffeine, LSD and amphetamine.
Henneman believes that Forgy’s death could have been avoided if he had more information about potentially dangerous drug interactions and if the people near him understood how to calm him down.
That’s where the Psychedelic Club comes in. The club coordinates trip-sitting, which is when a trained individual coaches someone through their first experience with psychedelic drugs.
The club also provides drug-testing kits so that students know what they’re ingesting.
James Gould, outreach director for the club, said if students are going to use drugs, they should be informed about risks and potential reactions.
He pointed to the widespread use of Adderall, a prescription drug that students take to stay alert while studying or writing papers.
“I would certainly classify that as a problem,” he said. “Adderall is a very dangerous amphetamine and most students don’t realize that. They see that since it has medicinal purposes, they shouldn’t be worried about using it and they don’t know the harms, they don’t know the downsides. That’s true for a lot of these substances.”
For its part, university leaders feel they already do a good job educating students about drug use. They outlined a full list of those efforts in 2014 in a biennial report required by the federal government, including a 2013 public health campaign about Adderall and orientation programs for new students and their parents.
The university’s top priority is to implement programs that prevent the unlawful use of illicit drugs, though officials said they also encourage students to know their limits, make responsible decisions and take care of themselves and their friends.
“We know some students will use these substances and they need to know their impacts,” said campus spokesman Ryan Huff.
“They also need to know that alcohol and marijuana are illegal for those under 21. They further need to know that the use of other drugs are felonies, illegal for anyone to use and also quite harmful to their health and not permitted on campus.”
Sarah Kuta: 303-473-1106, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/sarahkuta