Does GW do more drugs than the rest of the country?

Drugs are always pining their way into public discourse, whether it’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying marijuana is only “slightly worse” than heroin to the rising opioid epidemic (shameless plug for my previous article on the subject).

College students are often perceived as big partiers or drug users, at least in comparison to the general population. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of college students who smoke marijuana daily increased from 3.7 percent in 1995 to 4.6 percent in 2015.

Additionally, NIDA’s data supports the argument that college students drink more than adults their age who are not in college. The study reported that 38.4 percent of college students have been intoxicated in the last month, compared to 24.9 percent of non-students.

So, how does GW measure up against the nation? With the exception of marijuana and LSD, it appears the percentage of GW students who have ever used certain drugs is right around the national average.

It is important to note, however, that the national data, coming from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is more scientific and surveyed many more people than mine, so take the GW numbers with a grain of salt.

These are the numbers of people over the age of 12 who have tried each drug, not necessarily been a habitual user (also, the fact that 12 is used as the lowest age is probably a sign that we aren’t winning any war on drugs).

As I said, the outliers are marijuana, which four out of five GW respondents said they had used, as well as LSD. Although only 21.3 percent said they had tried it, it’s still more than double the national number.

The percentage of GW students who have tried ecstasy is more than the nation average but it’s possible that the discrepancies are due to concerts and music festivals, which tend to draw in college-aged crowds and are often associated with drugs such as ecstasy, molly, and LSD.

The bigger differences come when asked about regular use — that is, if the respondent has used a certain drug within the last month.

The big difference in the bar graph isn’t necessarily because huge numbers of people are using certain drugs, but because recent usage is much lower than lifetime exposure. When it comes to the past month, however, GW students have used drugs at a higher rate than what we see nationally.

However, very few people who participated in my study had used drugs like heroin or meth, and since my survey pool was not nearly as large as SAMSHA’s, this data isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of the school as a whole.

You might notice the “devil’s lettuce” (marijuana) is missing from the above chart, but that’s because the large number completely skewed the graph and results. Nationally, 8 to 10 percent of Americans have used marijuana in the past month, compared with 57.3 percent of GW students.

With marijuana again excluded for visual reasons, here’s a look at the percentage of people who have ever used drugs versus those who have used in the past month.


Despite all this drug talk, 20 percent of respondents said they never used drugs, and over one-third said they had never tried drugs prior to college. Since people who had used were more likely to take a survey about usage, this number could actually be higher

So, whether you’re Willie Nelson or Ronald Reagan, “Raise High GW.”

Originally published at by Emily Milakovic on 3.27.17.
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