Survey shows decrease in pot usage on campus

By Julie Zvitkovits

Marijuana use on college campuses is decreasing although pot maintains its status as a common recreational drug.

A 1987 NIU University Health Service survey reported that nearly one in four NIU students had used marijuana within the last 30 days.

“The 1987 survey showed NIU to be identical with national surveys,” said Michael Haines, NIU Health Enhancement Services coordinator. But since 1987, substance abuse has been declining in all areas except alcohol abuse, he said.

Health Service informational fliers report that occasional marijuana use is not particularly harmful, but heavy use over a long time can be dangerous.

The Health Service also reported that an estimated 62 million Americans have tried marijuana and 18 million smoke it regularly.

Health effects include stress on the heart, lungs and immune system, according to the flier. Those most at risk include pregnant and nursing women, young people, heart patients and emotionally unstable people.

Bob, an NIU sophomore pre-business major, said he tried marijuana. “It’s something new and experimental for most people,” he said. Marijuana is more of a college experience, he said.

Marijuana was rated the second drug of choice by college students, according to a Health Service report. Alcohol ranked first.

But many occasional marijuana users said they feel the drug is no more harmful than alcohol.

The difference is that alcohol becomes legal at a certain age, said Eileen, a freshman sociology major.

Despite the declining use of marijuana on college campuses, there is still a significant problem, said Rick Johnson, community education coordinator at DeKalb’s Ben Gordon Mental Health Center.

Along with the decrease in use, police receive fewer tips about substance abusers.

“The anonymous reporting of (marijuana) use has decreased over the past four or five years,” said University Police Lt. Kenneth Kaiser. One of the biggest dangers is the temptation to earn money from dealing marijuana, he said.

Selling marijuana can become a source of income for students, Kaiser said. On Feb. 2 and Feb. 5, two NIU students were arrested and charged with the possession of marijuana and intent to deliver. Police confiscated $2,100 from their room.

Kathleen, a freshman liberal arts major, said, “I tried it once. It scared me because I was afraid of becoming addicted.

“People say its psychologically addictive, but anything could be,” said Donald, a freshman pre-journalism major.