The Rise and Rise of the UK’s Student Drug Dealers
If the greatest architects, theorists, and social planners who’ve ever lived were revived to design the perfect marketplace for drug dealers, they’d come up with a dorm. A nest stuffed with trainee adults, bankrolled by mom and dad, waiting like baby birds with their beaks wide open for their next life-changing experience. Dealers might not be allowed to actually vomit the drugs into the mouths of students, but dorms—which are often called “halls” in the UK—nontheless remain a drug merchant’s wet dream. Which is why they’ve been living in them for decades.
Nearly three quarters of Britain’s 2.5 million university students have taken illegal drugs. So it follows that somebody has to be there feeding the country’s future politicians, business leaders, and unemployed actors their weed, MDMA, cocaine, and ketamine (that last substance is up to ten times more likely to be used by students than non-students).
In fact, the student drug market is so sought after that dealers have been known to enroll in colleges specifically to take out student loans and sell drugs on campus. Then, of course, there are all the student dealers—those who begin their higher education with good intentions, but realize that working at a bar isn’t much fun and start selling drugs as a source of quick cash. If you live in halls and don’t know who this guy or girl is yet, take it as a sign that you should get some more friends.
We Need to Talk About London’s Club Drug Problem
Dr. Owen Bowden-Jones is the founder of London’s Club Drug Clinic, started in 2011, which aims to provide aid to people who have “begun to experience problems with their use of recreational drugs.” After they were overwhelmed with users of ketamine, cocaine, ecstasy, and legal substances who wanted help, a second clinic was opened earlier this year.
Unlike heroin and crack, for which many rehabilitation and counselling services exist, party drugs often aren’t associated with bad things like addiction, losing your job, losing your mind, and ruining your life. Owen hopes that in addition to helping individual users, his clinics will spread understanding of the dangers of these relatively new drugs through the medical world.
I gave Owen a call to find out what he’s discovered from treating people.
VICE: Has drug use changed much in the UK in the past ten to 15 years?
Owen Bowden-Jones: What we’ve seen are relatively major reductions in heroin and crack use and an increase in a new group of drugs called “club drugs”—things like ketamine, MDMA, and mephedrone.
I’m familiar with the category. What about the ways in which people take them?
Actually, we’re finding that quite a few of these people are beginning to inject their drugs, especially mephedrone and ketamine. So all of the very real dangers that we used to see with heroin injecting, we’re now beginning to see with these newer club drugs.
Oh, dear. What are the drugs that cause the most problems?
Here at the Club Drug Clinic, the four main drugs we’ve seen have been ketamine, GBL or GHB, crystal meth, and mephedrone. You can often determine the drug someone’s using [when they come in]. It seems to split along the lines of sexuality. We’re seeing a lot of gay men using crystal meth and GBL—for sex—while we’re seeing a lot of straight clubbers and students using ketamine and mephedrone. Interestingly, we’ve hardly seen anybody come into the clinic saying they’ve got a problem with MDMA or ecstasy—that just hasn’t happened.
Interview with a Ketamine Scientist
There are medicinal chemists who work on an unseen side of the pharmaceutical industry. Like their legally sanctioned counterparts, they work to synthesize drugs they hope will produce therapeutic effects in their users. But they do not work with billion-dollar budgets or advertising agencies; doctors are not bribed to distribute their products with ergonomic pens or fine terrycloth beach towels. Their advertising comes solely from word of mouth and semicautionary articles like the one you are about to read.