What comes to mind when you think of drug use? Something along the lines of a decrepit house, dirty clothing and scabbed skin, degenerates going nowhere, blank stairs and shallow breathing. A scene straight out of Trainspotting. Mindless, pointless and destructive. Not a pretty picture, but a stereotype painted in the minds of the most of the population.

Don’t put yourself down like that Mark!

Those who experiment with substances are highly stereotype and stigmatized. Outcasts in society, burnouts with poor morals and deviants going nowhere in life. Try it once and your hooked, try it once and there’s no going back. This stereotype may be the dominant one, but it is not representative of everyone who uses drugs. I want to preface this by saying that I do NOT encourage substance use, and believe that for the most part drugs are harmful and negatively impact people’s lives. I could counter this by going into the medicinal effects of marijuana , LSD’s treatment of PTSD or MDMA’s use in combating depression, but that’s not what this article is about. Although drugs are generally bad, it does not mean that people who use drugs are bad. They’re actually pretty cool.

I currently attend a mid-sized liberal arts university in the Pacific North West. The attitude here is very creative, outdoorsy and progressive. These regional characteristics are conducive to substance use, and it is widely accessible and accepted here on campus. After four months here I have found myself in a social group that is attracted to substance use, and experiments with some frequency. Although it is not my cup of tea, I have learned quite a lot about how students go about drug use and how it effects them. Again, I want to reiterate that recreational drug use is not good for you, and I do not encourage it in any way. The way I watch some of my peers go about it isn’t entirely bad either. This is how I see drugs effecting students here at school…

Drugs Bring People Together

Humans are social beings. Everybody wants to meet new people and make new connections. Substance use is one such way that encourages this. The shared experience of a drug can often unite people in a different way, connecting them in an experience that is special and unique. It helps people get out of their comfort zone, speak honestly and connect on a very emotional level. I have seen people bond over a trip, connected on another level that only they will remember and understand.

Drugs Help You Reflect

Altering your perception with a substance changes the way you perceive the world, the people around you and yourself. In a safe environment this is very conducive to deep introspection and reflection. I have heard plenty of stories about drug trips that helped people notice and work through problems they were facing in their life, and then implement these changes in the future. Getting out of your head and looking at yourself from a different perspective can be incredible helpful, and when done in a safe place substance can prompt this experience.

Drugs Teach You Your Limits

With any risky, dangerous behavior you are bound to push your limits at some point to increase that rush. This is a natural behavior for young adults, whether its action sports, driving fast or climbing very tall buildings. I have noticed this to be the case with substances as well. This sounds unlikely, but the people I know who do push themselves are incredibly calculated about going deeper. There is a high level of research, forethought and detail put into trying something new. I think this shows an understanding of safety when taking risks, and a consciousness of one’s own abilities and limits.

Recreational drug use is not for everyone. Drugs can hurt people, destroy relationships and get you into a lot of trouble. Uncheck, substance use leads to dependence, addiction and destruction. But people continue to use them, regardless of legality and negative effects, and I don’t see that changing. I think the way that drug use is approached in this country is incredibly critical and condemning, portrayed as always negative and harmful. What I have learned being surround by these users is that they are people too. Smart, wonderful people with good morals and positive outlooks on life. Yes, sometimes they like to get out of their mind and alter their perception, but the intent is never unconstructive. For those who know how to experiment safely and moderate themselves, I think that substance use doesn’t have to be bad, and does not make you a bad person.