XTC and shrooms stave off boredom
Tripping through the lockdown
When twenty-year-old Lana found herself sitting down on the ground in the middle of the Groningen city centre, exhausted, she knew something wasn’t right. Heart palpitations and an intense headache had forced her to dismount her bike and take a breather. She had been taking drugs every day for the past two weeks. ‘I’d clearly overdone it’, the arts student says. Sitting on the ground, she decided enough was enough.
Lana took a host of different drugs during the corona pandemic: XTC, cocaine, ketamine, weed, shrooms, LSD, 2C-B, 2-FMA, 3-MMC. And she took them a lot. Not that she’d never done drugs before, but her use had steadily increased over the past few months.
She isn’t the only one: forced to stay home, students have been getting bored. They can no longer go out or go to festivals, which makes it all the more attractive to party at home with a pill or two.
‘It was intense, but really cool’, is how medical biology student Emma (24) describes her first time taking truffles. Before the pandemic started, Emma would occasionally do XTC at festivals, no more than four or five times a year. She’d also smoke a joint sometimes, but she’d never done truffles before last summer. ‘Two friends and I sat down in the park. It was a lovely day, and we had a great time.’
There’s more time to experiment
European languages and cultures student Vera (21) also tried truffles for the first time in 2020. ‘I was completely spaced out and hallucinating’, she says. Before the pandemic, she’d take drugs no more than twice a year. She’s not become a regular user, but she did more drugs than normal during the summer holidays. ‘There’s more time to experiment. Especially since we can’t go out’, she says.
Emma and Vera have noticed other students turning to drugs more often. ‘The other day we heard our downstairs neighbours using laughing gas when they were hungover’, says Emma. Vera thinks students are more open to experimenting right now. ‘The threshold to do drugs is lower. We have more time and opportunity. Especially when you’re close with the people you live with; a lot of people experiment together with their roommates.’
That festival feeling
Marcel Seuninga, prevention officer at Verslavingszorg Noord-Nederland (VNN), has no definitive numbers on how many drugs students are doing in the pandemic. ‘We’ve heard from local police officers, youth workers, and schools, who do feel that more people are experimenting with drugs’, he says. ‘But none of our research so far has shown that the general population has started to use more drugs.’
It beats sitting on the couch all night
As Emma explains it, drugs can ‘help make this weird time into something special. XTC can turn a gathering of just a few people into a really good time.’
To emulate that festival feeling, she and her roommates purchased a bubble machine, laughing gas canisters, lollipops, and popsicles. ‘We’d all be out on the balcony on a nice day. It’s a lot of fun.’ It’ll never be as good as a real festival, she says, ‘but it sure beats sitting on the couch all night’.
Vera also says drugs are a way to alleviate boredom. ‘It’s a great way to pass the time, and something you can all look forward to’, she says. ‘It’s something to do.’
Previously, Lana would only use drugs when she was out with friends, but it’s become more of a habit over the past few months. ‘The days were all the same and I was bored. Normally, I’d focus on my studies and my work, but now I had neither. I just wanted to feel something. I wasn’t even looking for positive emotions necessarily. As long as I could feel something’, she says.
It didn’t always turn out well. ‘Because I had so much free time, I thought I could use as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted.’ She realised she has trouble limiting herself. ‘I went too far. I’ve learned that I don’t necessarily have a healthy relationship with drugs.’ She realised she mainly did drugs to not feel bored, so she’s been trying other things to occupy her time.
It can turn a gathering of a few people into a good time
A recent study by the Trimbos institute on the influence of covid-19 on alcohol, tobacco, and drug use during the first lockdown shows that Lana isn’t the only one struggling. The researchers interviewed 4,460 respondents between sixteen and thirty-five years old. Out of all of them, 71.2 percent said they felt isolated and ‘needed support in terms of social contacts, daily planning and activities, or how to deal with negative emotions’, the report reads.
It’s difficult to say whether the pandemic led to a rise in drug use. Some of the respondents said they use less alcohol and fewer drugs now that they can’t go out because of the lockdown, but the same situation has led to increased alcohol and drug use in others.
‘It’s possible the use of XTC has gone down considerably, since many people prefer to use that during a party’, says Seuninga. ‘There’s also a chance that people who’d only drink in the pub now drink less.’
But he can’t say any of these things definitively. The VNN has seen no increase in people having their drugs tested at their testing site in Groningen. ‘But that could be due to other factors’, says Seuninga. ‘We had to close down during the first lockdown, and after that, people had to make an appointment to have their drugs tested. That meant people didn’t come in as easily.’
For Vera and Emma, drugs serve as a welcome distraction during the time of corona. ‘For New Year’s Eve, some friends and I bought a smoke machine and some lasers’, says Emma. ‘We turned our house into a mini festival. We all took XTC and just vibed all night.’ Vera: ‘Drugs allow you to have a great time with just a few people.’
The names of the people interviewed are fake. Their real names are known to the editorial staff.