When Paige was applying to college, access to cocaine played a big role in her decision to attend the University of Miami.
“At the time I applied to colleges, when I considered UM, I thought, ‘Miami, there’s a ton of coke there – I’ll go there,'” said the sophomore, who asked to keep her last name private.
Paige said cocaine is cheap and easy to obtain in Miami, but she stopped using the drug during her first year at UM.
“I didn’t necessarily want to quit, but doing coke changed from being a social, fun thing for me,” she said. “It became more of a literal escape, rather than a social activity that I could convince myself was okay.”
Marie, who attended the University of Miami her freshman year and asked to be identified by her middle name, said that cocaine has affected both her grades and friendships.
“It’s so addictive that your life revolves around coke,” she said. “I was failing school, and I wasn’t going to class because you don’t really have the desire for anything [while] on coke.”
Marie, now a sophomore at Miami Dade College, said her GPA kept her from attending UM this semester. Since she stopped taking the drug earlier this year, she said her grades improved. Now she hopes to re-enroll at the University of Miami as soon as possible.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, short-term effects of cocaine include euphoria, additional energy and mental alertness.
Marie said loss in appetite is another side effect of the drug, a factor that has attracted some people to it.
“After they’ve done it for a while and realize it helps them lose weight, they get attached to it for that reason,” she said. “I’ve even used it that way.”
Paige agrees. She said she lost nearly 30 pounds her senior year of high school from cocaine use.
“I didn’t even realize [I was losing the weight] until it was pointed out to me by others,” she said. “I didn’t see the difference in myself until I look back now.”
But that’s not all, Marie said, noting that people are also drawn to cocaine because it is a party drug for celebrities and the wealthy.
“There’s this idea that if you can afford coke, you’re living the high life,” she said. “I have never been in a club in Miami where I haven’t seen at least one person blow a line.”
Both Paige and Marie said that cocaine is commonly seen among students that enjoy partying.
“I don’t enjoy clubbing or South Beach, but the people I have made friends with because of cocaine definitely like that type of atmosphere,” Paige said.
Yet some students who do not use cocaine said they do not like to be around people who take the drug.
“It’s destructive – I feel brought down when I’m around a group of people doing cocaine,” said junior Roxanne Back. “People reach the point where all they want is more cocaine and they forget about everything else.”
According to the university policy listed in the Students Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, drug use is strictly prohibited on campus.
Nanette Vega, assistant dean of students and director of the Sandler Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education, said sanctions are administered on a case-by-case basis when students are caught using, or in possession of, cocaine. She said offenders could be fined between $100 and $200 and receive additional educational sanctions, such as a referral to an off-campus inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation facility.
“The minimum sanction is final disciplinary probation,” Vega said. The Handbook states that if a student violates final disciplinary probation and is found guilty of another offense, the minimum sanction is suspension.
Vega said that over 35 million people over the age of 12 in America have used cocaine, according to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Marie said the effects of cocaine become so addictive that trying to quit without outside help is difficult.
“You need support,” she said. “The person has to come to the realization that it hurts them, and that realization takes time.”
“We need to educate them on the dangers of the drug and the resources available to them,” Vega said. “Many don’t realize the danger the first time you do a line.”
The Sandler Center can be contacted at 305-284-6120 and the Counseling Center at 305-284-5511. Referrals and anonymous communication may be done via email or through http://miami.edu/pier21.
Cocaine Side Effects
– Heart attacks
– Respiratory failure
– In rare cases, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Did You Know?
According to drug-statistics.com, adults 18 to 25 years of age have a higher percentage of cocaine use than any other age group.
The Drug Abuse Warning Network reported that cocaine alone or in combination with other drugs was found in 39 percent of drug misuse deaths.
Treatment providers in most parts of the country (save for the west & southwest) list cocaine as the most commonly cited drug of abuse among clients (NITA).