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I Prologue: Students and Drugs PDF Print E-mail
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Books - Students and Drugs
Written by Richard Blum   

Over the past several years, public concern has greatly increased over mind-altering drug use among students. That concern has been evoked by a flow of reports from individuals, mass media, the police and other governmental agencies, educators and, only incidentally, from social scientists. The reports are consistent in telling of a remarkable expansion of student interest in and use of drugs which are illicit or exotic.1 It is an expansion which is nation-wide and which, at this date, is rapid. In the period to 1963 or so, the students who were primarily interested in these psychoactive substances were, it appeared, mostly graduate students (Blum and Associates, 1964), but as the years have passed, the statistics as well as clinical and journalistic observations have implicated increasingly younger student groups. Undergraduates first became—and remain—a focus of concern, then high school students, and nowadays even some grade school pupils are also described as prone to use illicit-exotic drugs. The very young children of drug-using parents are also being "turned on." In addition, there has been, since about 1966, the rise of the hippie movement, comprised of young people who are not in school and who have proclaimed a way of life which, among other aspects, centers on the use of illicit and psychoactive compounds.

Public concern about our rapidly changing patterns of drug use stems from many factors. Some of these have been considered in Drugs I. Undoubtedly, there has been much anxiety,lest young people suffer direct damage to their physical or mental health: There has also been concern about their safety in terms of accidents occurring because of drug-induced deficits in judgment or coordination, worry about the ability of students to study effectively, about their wanting to stay in school, or their engaging in unwise social activities, such as sexual indiscretion or the disruption of friendships arising out of drug-related impulsiveness. Parents and others have also been rightfully concerned about the risks their children take in engaging in illicit acts. The latter is no small matter in view of the stigma attached to being called a "drug user" and the penalties upon being convicted, which can range up to twenty years in some states for a first offense. In two states even the death penalty can be applied to a young adult if he is convicted of drug sales to a minor

Beyond these specific and, in some cases, quite justifiable worries, public concern has a broader focus. People wonder what the meaning of this preoccupation with drugs is, the social significance and the implications for the lives of the young people involved. Why should students intentionally violate the law and take drugs widely believed to be a hazard to health, to psychological adjustment, or to personal reputation? More than that, what does it signify when students emulate the hippies, those exemplars of the "drug movement," and wear long hair and beads, walk about unkempt and perhaps unwashed, and espouse philosophies or platitudes which jar the ear of conventional people? Why do students bother to listen to Leary's invitation to "turn on, tune in, and drop out" and why have some few accepted that invitation? Parental and public concern is also expressed another way in the question "Why are intelligent and supposedly respectable young people doing things which bring on the extreme disapproval of their elders?" One also may ask—in view of much that has been said in praise of hippies, marijuana, and the like—how much of the public "concern" is, in fact, admiration of the new dissent and fascination with the possibility of delightful drug effects?

Even if there were adequate—or at least consoling—explanations for the appeals and persistence of drug taking itself, these would not suffice to divert public attention from the college campus, for the campus "scene" provides a good deal of other excitement for the older generation—stimulation ranging from admiration to fright and fury—which seems to have nothing to do with drug taking. On many campuses a variety of student activities have surprised and sometimes confronted conventional society. In addition, these activities have also surprised a large number of student peers as well.

It is our impression that of the several forms of student conduct which have been perturbing to some if not most citizens, activism as such has received a greater share of public interest and mass-media attention—possibly because it is visible, dramatic, and sometimes verges on violence—than has student drug use. Activism, which includes a variety of protest demonstrations, the construction of experimental programs (for example, free universities), the development of fledgling political movements, and the enunciation of several distinguishable ideologies (for example, the New Left, pacifism, and anarchism), has also had the advantage of a great deal more scientific study and scholarly comment. The response to student surprises—whether activism and/or hippie styles—on the part of public officials, journalists, and probably millions of unquoted adults appears to have been more immediate and their characterizations more negative and sweeping than those of the scholars. Since the former have a wider audience than the latter, the general public has been encouraged, if not induced, to adopt pat judgments as to what is going on. One hears the words "rebellion," "social rejects," "escapists," "outlaws," "anarchists," "self-indulgence," and that old standby, "communists." Such descriptive diagnoses of students make it easy for the self-appointed critic to feel that understanding has been achieved and that he has insights which close the circle linking such diverse events as the violation of drug laws, activism, and dropping-out.

However satisfying it may be to feel that things fit together after all, this sense of closure may be premature. Certain features of student behavior are not accounted for by any easy diagnosis, however qualified. In the first place, most students do not appear to be interested in illicit-exotic drug use, in the New Left, or in dropping-out. Consequently, any diagnosis of student drug experimentation or activism which says "students are . . ." misses the fact that most students are not. In the second place, even the students who are (activist, drug-oriented, or drop-outs) are by no means—as we shall later see—a homogeneous group. As the semanticists used to warn, student1 is different from student2, is different from student2, and so on. So even if some students are . . . something . . . others in the groups which attract attention and/or concern are likely to be something else. A third point is that the espoused beliefs of many students who do subscribe to drug use, activism, and dropping-out proclaim a number of positive values which sound so much like the things that conventional people say they also want that one wonders why so much emphasis is on differences. To say, "They are . . . but / am not . . ." overlooks that old and young share a great deal in common. Consider that among the revolutionaries of the inner world, the drug-oriented, the goals espoused read much like a Christian sermon —fellowship, love, peace, religious experience, personal expansion, and artistic development, among others. Consider that the revolutionaries of the outer world, the activists, espouse goals which sound like a presidential campaign speech—peace and international accommodation, freedom at home and abroad, democratic sharing of power, justice for all, opportunity for all, and so on. How can these young ministers and politicians worry us so? Is their rhetoric so different from that of the conventional world?

A fourth problem in a premature assessment is the insufficiency of quick easy labels or quick explanations to provide any genuine understanding of even part of what is happening. Whatever labels may tempt us—whether they be disapproving ones such as "anarchist" or "addict" or even laudatory ones such as "progressive" or "idealistic" —insofar as they lead no further than classifying young people as good or bad, they do no service toward understanding. Neither damnation nor praise of young persons tells us who among students can be accurately characterized in the above manner. Such labels tell us nothing of the correlates of a particular condition, they tell us nothing of how the students came to be that way, nor do they indicate how any one group of students views the world.

The alternative to a premature sense of closure, to resting contentedly on our labels, is to remain uncertain while gradually throwing light on the matter through study and thought. Fortunately, many citizens have been willing to tolerate the distress of uncertainty and, as a result, have encouraged objective appraisal. Consequently, there have been both a stimulus to and an audience for studies and inquiries undertaken by school administrators and other educators, civic groups, governmental agencies, and social or behavioral scientists. People have been attentive to what the students themselves have had to say and, through student speeches, newspapers, and, of late, books, they have enjoyed first-hand appraisals. Going to the source itself is a good practice and conforms to a fundamental rule for all lost travelers, policy planners, detectives, or examining physicians: "If you want to know something from someone, ask him!" Asking may not be enough, but it is a splendid beginning.


In addition to the good beginnings of inquiry and attention, there have been in recent years a number of advanced steps as well. For the most part, these have been studies of the characteristics of various student groups conducted by psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, and educators. There has also been a rapidly expanding literature of research and commentary which has dealt with closely related topics. A few examples are as follows: (1) college-student development and the impact of schools on students (Freedman, 1967; Jacob, 1957; Katz and Associates, 1968; Newcomb and Feldman, 1968; Sanford, 1966, 1967) ; (2) the history and characteristics of universities, including studies of them as organizations and of faculty-administrative roles (Morison, 1966; Rudolph, 1962) ; (3) studies of high school functions and needs, such as Conant's, 1959; (4) studies of adolescent development and psychology (Adams, 1967; Douvan and Adelson, 1966; Erikson, 1963) ; (5) studies of social movements as such (Kohn, 1935; Toch, 1965; Weakland, 1968) ; (6) evaluations of students, their values, characteristics, and so on (Butz, 1964; Gold-sen, Rosenberg, Williams, and Suchman, 1960; Sutherland, 1962; Pervin, Reik, and Dalrymple, 1966) ; and (7) works aimed at placing student drug use in perspective for the education of school administrators (Nowlis, 1967).

The foregoing are but samples of areas and work which aid in providing perspectives on contemporary student behavior. The activists themselves have written (Cohen and Hale, 1967; Draper, 1965; Jacobs and Landau, 1966). They have also been objectively studied and have stimulated much scholarly commentary (Bay, 1967; Block, Haan, and Smith, 1967; Fishman and Solomon, 1964; Flacks, 1967; Katz, 1967; Keniston, 1967; Lipsit, 1966; Lipsit and Wolin, 1965; Miller and Gilmore, 1965; Newfield, 1966; Peterson, 1966; Sampson, 1967; Trent and Craise, 1967; Watts and Whittaker, 1966; Westby and Braungart, 1966).

The foregoing are by no means all of the studies. More complete bibliographies will be found in the Journal of Social Issues (1967, volume 13), in Katz (1967), and in most of the articles cited above. Attention in the literature to activists as such should not obscure the fact that at least some studies have concentrated on conservative students or have compared one group with the other (for example, Barker, 1963; Schiff, 1964; Westby and Braungart, 1966).

For our purposes three principles emerge from the work done on activists. One principle is that simple explanations do not accofint for what has occurred, but rather that—as with most human social behavior—a complex set of factors within the student, his family, his peer group, his university, and society at large have all contributed to the development of activism. The second principle is that those who surprise conventional people need not be bad, incompetent, or "sick." To the contrary, the findings on activists are reasonably consistent in showing that, on the average, they are good students, are psychologically "healthy," and probably are more independent, more mature, more egalitarian, more dedicated to helping their fellow man, and more responsive to the ideas imparted by teachers than are their inactive peers. They can also be close to their families rather than rebellious and can reflect intellectual, humanistic, and democratic ideals fostered in the home. The third principle is that students differ and student groups differ; all those who are changing, who are unconventional, who shock, or who intentionally challenge laws cannot be lumped together.

Various observers propose different typologies; for example, Block et al. (1967) identify six groups among whom are the alienated (hippies or "beats"), the antisocial, the activists, the individualists or conservatives, the constructivists, and the apathetic. Sampson (1967), following Keniston (1967), differentiates the alienated (such as hippies) from the activists but notes there may be brief united fronts; within these groups Sampson notes the need to distinguish on the basis of motives, leadership vs. followers, and kind of commitment. It is Keniston's thesis that the activists are basically optimistic, socially concerned, and traditionally American in the sense of democratic values, whereas the alienated are pessimistic, private, nonconforming, incapable of responsibility, and likely to be psychologically disturbed even if they may also be talented and artistically gifted. Keniston sees the protesting student as promoting his parents' democratic values and, in contrast, the hippie as rejecting them. His own finding is that the child who becomes a student hippie comes from a family where there is schism between father and mother, where the father is depreciated by mother and son, and where mother and son have a special alliance of understanding and maternal control. Keniston finds the attraction of alienated youth to drugs compatible with their social withdrawal and their interest in intensifying subjective experience. These youth reject basic American values, are apolitical, and do not become involved in organizations or long-range activities. Keniston (1965), in a sensitive and comprehensive study, presents the details of his case studies of alienated and nonalienated students. Interestingly enough, he finds that dropping out of school is not related to activism and dissent, although it may be associated with alienation.

As to how many collegians may be alienated in Keniston's sense, there can only be estimates. Boyd (1967) proposes that 4 per cent "suffer from severe alienation." With about six million students enrolled in colleges and universities, that would mean 240,000 estranged and unhappy students. In public-health terms one would expect this 4 per cent—if that estimate is accepted and if alienation is predisposing to illicit-exotic drug use—to be "at risk" of symptomatic centering of their lives around such drug use.

Keniston's work, based on a careful study of individual subjects as well as on an appraisal of group studies, is one of the few which focuses on the drug-using student, although his emphasis is on the basic syndrome of alienation rather than on drug use for itself. Our concern in this book is, on the other hand, directed toward the use of drugs by students. There have not been many studies which bear directly either on styles of drug use or on the correlates of that use among students. These few relevant investigations, along with several commentaries that have come to our attention, will now be considered.

Goldstein (1966) observed drug use on fifty campuses from the vantage point of a journalism graduate student. His casual interviews with students, police, and administrators led him to conclude that marijuana was used by one out of seven students but that use of illicit or exotic drugs was rare. He considers most students simply to be dabblers or occasional (for example, week-end) smokers while only a very few are potheads. He views the latter to be psychologically disturbed individuals who are ethnocentric, anti-authority, vulnerable to progression to more dangerous drugs, and preoccupied with being "cool"—that is, with not being involved or emotional. Goldstein cites a number of stated goals for taking marijuana, among which seeking pleasure is the most frequent. Taking it out of curiosity, to achieve status or prestige in a social group, to relieve boredom, to express rebellion, and to have intense personal experiences are also common. He points out that the incidence of drug use varies greatly by campus and he attributes this to the location and orientation of the university or college and the composition of its student body. He notes that-so-phisticated urban schools initially had the highest student use of marijuana and other illicit-exotic substances but that there is now a spread to rural and less elite institutions. Whatever the prevalence on campus, the emphasis is on smoking as a social experience—one learned from others, done with others, and meaningful because it is a shared value and experience. Because it is a group activity and one which binds students together in expressing a style of living—even if it is only a fad —any student group may employ it. Smoking pot, he says, is not the prerogative of hippies or swingers on campus; instead, any strong in-group, whether in an Ivy League residence house, a Midwestern fraternity, or a California cooperative may take up smoking. Thus, outward signs, beards or beads, are not enough to signal who may employ marijuana and who may not. Goldstein makes the important observation that alienation insofar as it is displayed by costume and pronouncement may in itself simply be a campus fad to which the students conform. Students may strive to appear alienated, but as an explanation for what they do, Goldstein holds such "alienation" suspect. The student "has adopted the style of alienation without assuming its emotional attitudes. . . . His connection with drugs . . . is just as faddish. He is one of the crowd, not one of the disturbed. . . . The big beat now brings us alienation a go-go" (p. 231).

Simmons and Winograd (1966), a sociologist and a journalist respectively, have offered a portrait of the youth scene. They describe the hang-loose ethic, the phenomenon of tripping out, the idea of the happening, the psychedelic-drug scene, new politics, new music, and related activities. Their thesis is that the university, or at least the California university, "is a showplace of what is happening throughout our society" in the sense that it is the leading front of social change. They suggest that irreverence toward conventional Americana is the theme, a theme stressing humanism, the value of personal experience, distrust of dogma, primacy of spontaneity, tolerance, and social equality. Property as the highest value is repudiated and so is duty or obligation as such—that is, the hang-loose people will not do what they "should" but only what they want to. "Concretely, this means that they will break a law they disagree with, will desert a spouse or friend they no longer love . . . ."

Regarding trips, of which the drug trip is one variety, they are any "raw sensuous-emotional experiencing" and "tripping out is the most definitive and the most controversial thing that happeners are doing." Today's happenings are attributed by Simmons and Winograd to rapid social change with origins in the social fringes and with a high negative correlation between "fringiness" and morality-legality according to conventional standards. As to what is "happening," the authors propose that there are "a million joints (marijuana cigarets) a day smoked in California and an increase of about five percent per month." They state that "The greatest participation is among West Coast youth, then the East, then the Midwest, and the least in the South." Discussing drug use, the authors propose that "the majority of those involved are otherwise ordinary people" (except for their fringe activities which are labeled illegal), that extralegal organizations, stirred by profit motives, have grown up to meet the demands, and that "happenings are a spontaneous groundswell." There is, they say, wide geographical spread for making connections for drugs, sex, and friendship within the new circles, so that the university-hippienew world atmosphere is like "folks getting together for a big party"; yet, both beat and conventional society move toward each other, "so that the lines between hip and square, cool and straight, philistine and bohemian are blurring and more people slip back and forth or inhabit the many-shaded areas between." The authors discard the notion of alienation as applicable, suggesting that the happeners are comfortable and lighthearted and enjoy good fellowship even while opposing the established order and feeling demoralized in the process of growing up.

Simmons and Winograd consider the drug scene central to what is happening in America, the "crossroads of conflicting ideologies," the place where "generational change . . . most vividly thrusts itself forward. . . ." Drug use is, they say, an escape from the conventional world, a "kick" of an experience. Discussing the many forces producing drug interest, they note that smoking marijuana has become the thing to do, that drug users are the children of the Establishment liberals who run things, that they are seeking a new and different inner world, that drug experiences do change people, and that some changes of the sort which happeners demand in the conventional world are in order. They quote Aldous Huxley: ". . . widespread training in the area of cutting holes in cultural fences is now the most urgent of necessities. . . ."

The authors consider the role of education as a force producing the youthful drug users. They note criticisms that education functions to produce people to meet the demands of the social order, not the needs and potentials of students. In essence, educational instiCutions are molds for plastic plants, not nurseries for growing flowers. The authors appear to agree with Paul Goodman—and with many students—that middle-class children are educational slaves. The university is criticized for being a service center for society, one which reflects the wishes of the "power elite" rather than being a student-centered cultural fair which is rich, nurturant, and uninhibited in its offerings.

Simmons and Winograd have much more to say—all of it provocative and insightful, none of it cursed or blessed with statistics or any of those other scientifically "respectable" devices for developing or proving a point. Their descriptions of hang-loose youth conform to what many other observers have also seen; yet one does not know "for a fact" that either their estimates of drug-use incidence or their characterizations of causes, feelings, and life styles are objectively the case. Theirs is an interpretation of what is happening, and for many it would feel correct.

With reference to the increase in drug use itself, all of the data are in support of the trends—if not the numbers—which Simmons and Winograd propose. Consider, for example, that in California in 1967 juvenile arrests for marijuana went up 181 per cent over 1966 and dangerous-drug arrests (mostly amphetamines or amphetamine-barbiturate combinations) went up 89 per cent. There were only a few "hard" narcotic arrests in the state among juveniles, but the increase for these was over 300 per cent. The rise in juvenile drug interest is by no means limited to the United States—any more than is the rise of student activism on campus or of hippie or "provo" groups. Reports from Great Britain, Japan, and Sweden, reviewed in Drugs I, show widespread illicit use; for example, Herulf (1967) in a total sample survey of all ninth-grade Stockholm students found that one child in three had access to drugs and that one in five had tried illicit drugs. Hashish was most often used by casual experimenters, but among the heavier users Preludin (phenmetrazine hydrochloride) was more popular.

In the United States, scandals and arrest statistics have been more often reported than study data with regard to drug use among high school students. Fortunately, a few studies are available. Miller (1967) sampled 2,600 students in a Great Neck, New York, high school. Findings indicated that 8 per cent had tried marijuana, 6 per cent had taken barbiturates without medical advice, 6 per cent had tried glue sniffing and cough syrup, and 2 per cent had experimented with hallucinogens. Most users reportedly intended to continue illicit use; ill effects from drugs were reported by only a few students. Settings for the illicit user were most often the home, parks, and parties, in that order. Students participating in school organizations reported illicit use less often, as did students with better grades. In California two 1967 studies in the San Francisco Bay Area are available. One Castro Valley questionnaire survey (Price, 1967) was directed to eleventh- and twelfth-grade students in two high schools. The results showed the following: 43 per cent of the boys and 33 per cent of the girls smoked tobacco; 50 per cent of the boys and 38 per cent of the girls had been drunk upon occasion; 35 per cent of the boys and 22 per cent of the girls had tried marijuana, and over three fourths of these had used it three or more times; 15 per cent of the boys and 9 per cent of the girls had taken LSD, and three fourths of the boys and half of the girls had taken it three times or more; 22 per cent of the boys and 18 per cent of the girls had taken amphetamines, with three fourths of both groups having used them three times or more. Settings for use were said to be either when out with "the gang" or at home; the average age of first use was fifteen to sixteen years; and the use of most drugs was initiated by classmates who were also the source of supply. Most students apparently felt there was "nothing wrong" with taking drugs. A study in a San Mateo high school (1967) found 8 per cent had used LSD, 4 per cent more than three times, and 18 per cent had used marijuana, 11 per cent more than three times. The per cent using these drugs increased the higher the grade level. A total of 20 per cent had used either LSD or marijuana. In a companion study, all juveniles referred for "narcotic" use (all drug offenses) in San Mateo County (a very wealthy county) were compared with a sample of delinquents engaged in other than "narcotic" offenses. Base data showed that narcotic-offending juveniles were more often older girls. Matching for age and sex to control these variables, researchers found that the narcotics-using juvenile who was apprehended was more likely to come from a stable middle-class home than were other offenders. The drug offenders were, in almost -half of the cases, above average or intellectually superior; most had not been discipline problems in school, although the majority of boys had prior records (nondrug complaints) of police or probation contact. The girls, on the other hand, who were drug offenders did not, for the most part, have prior records. School-attendance problems were common for both boys and girls who were drug offenders.

Two final entries in the statistical parade describe results from questionnaire surveys conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1968. One, by a Marin County high school paper, indicated that 46 per cent of all students in that suburban San Francisco Bay Area school had tried marijuana and 45 per cent said they were still using it. The other, the largest scale survey done to date, covered all students in San Mateo County high schools. It indicated that 32 per cent of the students surveyed said they had tried marijuana and 17.6 per cent said they had used it more than ten times. More than 10 per cent of those questioned said they had tried LSD, and about a sixth of the students said they had used amphetamines. Only 24 per cent said they had never used a psychoactive drug—including alcohol and tobacco.

None of these high school statistics can be taken at face value. Not only are they affected by sampling bias, possible underreporting and overreporting, but, more importantly, they are outdated by the time they are printed. Since marijuana use is primarily a social phenomenon and its adoption is part of a series of rapid changes in the youth culture, it responds to those kaleidoscopic events which shape social movements, fads, symbolic expressionism, and other features of the high school age.


More survey data are available at the college level, although few studies are based on carefully conducted random samples. A San Mateo County (California) junior college sampled 700 students (Devonshire, 1967) and reported that 23 per cent had smoked marijuana, most more than once, and that 8 per cent of the students had used it more than twenty times. Another 7 per cent of the students intended to try it; 18 per cent were not sure whether they would try it or not. Seven per cent of the students had tried LSD, most more than once. About 12 per cent of those with LSD experience had taken it more than twenty times. Ten per cent of the students had had experience with other hallucinogens, including mescaline, banana peels, and catnip. Among nonusers, 6 per cent intended to try the so-called psychedelic drugs and 19 per cent were not sure. Regarding alcohol, 62 per cent of the students said they drank upon occasion and one in four among the drinkers have become drunk. Only 40 per cent of the students smoked cigarettes; among that group about a third smoked more than a pack a day. Asking about the age when the use of various drugs had begun, Devonshire found that a third of the LSD-experienced sample had begun its use in high school as had 22 per cent of the marijuana-experienced students. More than half of those using alcohol and tobacco had begun before the age of sixteen. Most students wanted more information about drugs.

Drawing by unspecified methods a sample of a hundred students from San Francisco State College, Harrison (1965) states that 60 per cent of the student body used drugs illicitly during their college career, pep pills being the most common. One fifth to one fourth reported smoking marijuana and about 3 per cent said they had had experience with LSD. Eells (1967) sampled students at the California Institute of Technology and found that 20 per cent had tried marijuana and 9 per cent LSD. Eells reports that the highest per cent of users was in the junior class, whereas there was little use by graduate students. With respect to future intentions, half of the undergraduates and about three quarters of the graduate students stated that they did not expect to use marijuana, whereas 65 per cent of the undergraduates and 85 per cent of the graduates were not interested in beginning the use of LSD. There was no evidence of "hard" narcotics use on campus.

Demos and Shainline (1967) administered a questionnaire to 540 students at California State College at Long Beach. They report that 50 per cent of the students had taken some type of drug without medical advice, that 11 per cent had taken LSD, mescaline, or marijuana, and that 21 per cent of the students who had not used marijuana or hallucinogens were not sure whether they would begin such use. Two thirds of the students indicated that they had learned about illicit drugs during their teens, while a quarter of them had learned about them before the age of twelve. Most students were interested in receiving more information about drugs.

A Princeton survey conducted by student journalists with unspecified sampling procedures reported in 1967 (newspaper account) that 15 per cent of the students had taken one or more illicit drugs. The majority of users were academically superior, among the upper fifth of the students, and a third of the users were said to be varsity athletes.

A special student group in Oregon replied to an anonymous questionnaire (Smith and Blachly, 1966). These were medical students asked about their amphetamine use. Of the two thirds replying, almost half had employed amphetamines and most of those doing so had used them several times. For student physicians the source had often been a physician (although that does not imply a medical need or formal prescription), friends, or available samples employed for self-administration. (The latter brings to mind the common route to drug dependency among physicians, who have access to narcotics and the opportunity for private employment.) Most using amphetamines described beneficial effects; some combined them with barbiturates, tranquilizers, or caffeine.

Pearlman (1966) at Brooklyn College has been critical of unsubstantiated off-the-cuff estimates of student drug use, of inadequate surveys, and of the alarmist sentiment underlying statements by some police, journalists, and academic personnel. His 1965 survey of all Brooklyn College seniors employed an anonymous questionnaire mailed to students, which was returned by only 51 per cent of those receiving it. Among those responding, about 6 per cent admitted to the use of (apparently) illicit-exotic drugs during their college careers. Replies by these illicit-drug users indicated that most began experimentation while in college, that most were not currently using illicit drugs, and that friends had been the major source of supply with "pushers," doctors, and others relatively unimportant.

In spite of the lack of sophisticated methods for surveys—as, for example, the bias introduced by nonresponse to mailed questionnaires or by loaded or leading questions—there has been a range of agreement that among urban college students somewhere between 15 per cent and 25 per cent had tried marijuana by mid-1967. At that time less than half had ever been regular users; about a fourth of the non-using students were toying with the idea of trying it. Our impression, based on the studies in School I conducted one and a half and two years after our initial survey there and reported in Chapter Six, is that from 1967 to 1969 a rapid increase occurred in the number of college students experimenting with marijuana. Hallucinogens appear to have been consistently less popular, although their use also has increased. Hard-narcotics use is rare but if opium is so classified, their use is also expanding markedly.


We see that the survey information about college students has been, for the most part, rather superficial and especially vulnerable to that sampling error which arises when one relies on the voluntary return of anonymous questionnaires. In such research it is generally the case that those who do not return their questionnaires are different from those who do, just as in door-knocking, opinion-poll work those who are consistently not at home are different from the stay-at-homes. Just how the nonresponders would affect incidence and prevalence rates is unknown. Within their limitations it is clear that the college surveys through 1967 showed that most users of illicit drugs had begun their experimentation in college, that most such use was learned from peers—and inferentially from upperclassmen—and that successful and active students could be involved in illicit use fully as much as "deviant" or fringe-element students. Graduate students, especially married and career-oriented people, appear to have been less involved in illicit-drug use.

In the 1968 studies—admittedly very limited in scope and method—one senses expansion of illicit use not only very considerably downward in age and "sideways" in the sense of within college-age or class groups but also upward as well into the echelons of unmarried graduate students. There is also the appearance of increased regular use of marijuana as opposed simply to experimentation. The importance of proselytizing—that is, a missionary zeal in "turning on" others—is implied in several studies, and it is perhaps that mission which is associated in part with evidence that increasing numbers of students are involved in the sale as well as the use of marijuana. All these findings stress the importance of marijuana rather than hallucinogens in terms of the numbers of students involved; they also imply the immense amount of marijuana which must be physically available in our major cities. The LSD and other-hallucinogen users must not be discounted simply because there are fewer of them. It is that fact which makes one focus on their individual characteristics as likely to be more unusual as compared with the diversity of personalities which must exist within the marijuana-using groups. It is also not to be discounted that perhaps up to 15 per cent to 20 per cent of undergraduate students in some colleges—and more in some high schools—have taken LSD or want to take it in spite of the fact that it is the most powerful psychoactive drug known to man and that its activity is unquestionably associated in at least some students with very bad outcomes, including psychosis, suicide, judgment deficit, and unlooked-for personality change.


In recent years a number of observations made on drug-using youths have focused not on incidence or prevalence by school but, rather, on the social or psychological factors associated with individual propensities and group conduct. For the most part, these investigations have been a rich source of data on drug "abuse" as such and have enriched our knowledge particularly of heroin users, a group of young people found predominantly in big-city slums. Because our focus here is on students—and, in correlation, on advantaged rather than slum-dwelling youngsters among whom heroin plays a very small role—we shall not review the many excellent investigations that take as their cases identified "addicts." The reader is referred, for a good background, to such works as those by Chein, Gerard, Lee, and Rosenfeld (1964), Finestone (1960), O'Donnell and Ball (1966), and Stevenson (1956). Attention is also directed to the recent paper by Gordon (1967) on the widespread presence of psychopathology in gangs and to the role of drugs as possible facilitators of gang interaction and cohesiveness among these otherwise inadequate youngsters. There are also some early works on marijuana use, perhaps the most relevant of which is the La Guardia Report (1944).

Some important current studies provide a bridge between the foregoing focus on addicts or identified deviants and our interest here in student drug behavior.2 Howard Becker (1963) in his study of jazz musicians and marijuana users describes important aspects of how one learns to smoke marijuana, how that drug use is related to membership in a group, and how the group sentiment constitutes simultaneously an in-group which rejects the square world and, in turn, as a deviant group is rejected by the square world. Becker examines the beliefs and drug conduct of these "outsiders" in a way which provides insight into the functioning of student drug-using society.

Another set of studies, our own (1964), describe some of the social and psychological antecedents, correlates, and consequences of the use of LSD and other psychoactive drugs among a group of intensively interviewed Californians during the years 1962 through 1964. Among them was a small sample of "informal black market" users (the study was done during a period when LSD use was legal but supplies were controlled), some of whom were graduate students and all of whom were part of a swinging crowd which associated with university teachers and with artists and intellectuals outside the university. Theirs was a history of use of many substances—peyote, marijuana, methedrine, mescaline, and so forth. Self-styled "heads" in the sense that they spent most of their time with other drug users, they were, nevertheless, professionally ambitious young people who appeared well adjusted to life and work and whose use of drugs emphasized pleasure and partying as well as freedom from internal restraints and conventions, and the enhancement of creativity. During this period, the males especially were proselytizers; we have followed some of them over the years and seen them become temporary leaders of local drug-oriented groups, become suppliers of drugs and supporting philosophies to graduate and undergraduate students, become professionally successful while still continuing drug use (especially marijuana), and we have seen one prominent young person in the group convicted of drug offenses. In that study we identified some of the social and personal features associated, in those "early" days, with accepting or rejecting LSD, with ceasing its use or becoming a "regular" user, and with the natural history of use. We shall not cite that work further here, but in those days the common phenomenon was missionary zeal in initiating others to use, of the formation of drug-interested social groups, of the use of a variety of drugs as a common practice, and of a relationship between taking LSD and personal-life dissatisfaction, desire for inner adventure, lack of concern about loss of self-control, and the nature of prior information about the drug.

Blumer (1967), a sociologist, began a rehabilitation pilot project with youthful users of marijuana, LSD, and other "mod" drugs in Oakland, California. That program turned into an inquiry about these users, who ranged in age from seven to twenty-five, and evolved a typology. The student investigators discriminated among the criminally oriented, aggressive, and undisciplined (rowdy) children who came early to illicit-drug use. Starting out with alcohol, and glue, gasoline, or lighter-fluid sniffing, they progressed to marijuana and, in high school, to barbiturates, amphetamines, and more marijuana. Experimenters of an extraordinary order, they might also try nutmeg, sniff burning plastic, crush aspirin in cokes, soak inserts from inhalers in beverages, inject wine intravenously, and smoke genuine tea. Curiously, this sample, even though lower class in origin, did not use heroin. As late adolescents, the rowdy group might become hoods or members of a motorcycle gang; they might begin to use drugs in preparation for criminal activities (fights, robbery, and terrorizing) and through underworld contacts become, the authors suggest, susceptible to later use of heroin.

Contrasted with the unusual rowdy were those with a "cool" (self-controlled) style, although, the authors state, many rowdies might switch over to become cool. "Coolness" implies that the user controls his drug use and his drug reactions and becomes neither dependent nor openly intoxicated. Among these youth, the potheads—those who limit themselves to marijuana—were from lower-class origins, were alert, well informed, well dressed, and inconspicuous socially. In contrast, youth from middle and upper classes were more likely to use marijuana in protest (and presumably to dress in protest costume as well) and to become interested in LSD. Youth whose primary use was marijuana were not troublemakers, were not known to the law, were not otherwise delinquent, and, according to the investigators, most were likely to move into conventional society. It is our inference that some of this group would be represented in middle-class high schools and later in colleges.

The majority of the sample observed in the Oakland study belonged to a class the investigators labeled as "mellow." They were cool but ready to try anything once. Interested in parties, sex, and pleasure, they primarily used marijuana but they also employed pep pills, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine (crystal). Egalitarian, tolerant, and interested in good fellowship, the mellow user does not seek out drugs and does not orient his life around them, in contrast to the pothead, whose marijuana use is more intense and more central to his life. The mellow user is more discriminating in his drug tastes and shares a group lore as to which drugs are best at producing which effects marijuana, for example, is best for music and for sex. The mellow users are seen as moving into conventional society, and it is our inference that they, too, will be in high school and college where, when interviewed about drug use, they will be identified as experienced but not intensive drug users who began before or during their teen years.

The investigators emphasize that drug use is learned from peers and older associates, that it occurs as a group activity imbued with group meanings, and that drug use does not necessarily signify rebellion, escape, or alienation. Instead, it is, the investigators contend, one of the things which a young man living in an already illicit-drugusing society learns to do. The study did not utilize controls of any kind, and so the question as to why some learn about drugs and do not use them, others learn and use drugs sparingly, and some learn and use drugs intensively remains unanswered. In any event, the Oakland investigation reveals that among preteen and teen-age children there is an established and sometimes compelling society of drug lore, drug availability, drug sales, and drug use. Apparently, depending upon background and personality factors, those recruited into drug use will take one of several alternatives—and by no means irrevocable—routes, the most common of which appear to emphasize self-control and conventional, external appearances along with either intensive use of marijuana or extensive use of multiple drugs. Many of these youth are in high school, some will attend college, and, while there, may be expected not only to continue their own drug interests but, as highly experienced users, to introduce others into "what's happening."

One assumes that some of the Oakland children described by Blumer are on their way to becoming full-fledged hippies and that others may already be "teenyboppers," some of whom wear flamboyant costumes and show precocious involvement in a variety of illicit or adult activities other than drugs. What about the hippies or flower children, who flagrantly advertise alienation, the love ethic, and the "hang-loose" style? Regrettably, they have been understudied even though overobserved, if we take free-swinging journalistic one-day immersions as illustrative of the latter. Nevertheless, a few scholarly studies and some statistics on drug use are available. Weakland, in Drugs I, discusses "what the scene means" and emphasizes the importance of the "trip" as a means of leaving a life which is felt to be insufficient or downright damnable and of finding a more satisfying life and self—but in a way which thumbs noses at the distressed elders. He notes how both hippie child and square parent are likely to be caught in a web of convention and failure to understand, to communicate, and—we infer—to enjoy life or one another. In this and in the use of drugs as a means to alleviate pain or, optimistically, as tools by which to search for something better, hippie children and square—but aspirin-using, heavy-drinking—elders share the same assumptions and, in the vernacular, "hang-ups."

Other thoughtful observations on the hippie culture include those of Berger (1967), Davis (1967), and Lettvin (1967), who emphasizes questions of morality and judgment. Simmon and Trout (1967) reported on a casual study of hippies in college. They distinguished within the on-campus hippie community between the goal-oriented "politicals" in the New Left and the apoliticals, called "skuzzies" by their Midwestern peers. A further group of teenyboppers were freshmen (whereas in California a "teenybopper" is any child in hippie dress from age eleven to fifteen to sixteen, some of whom are extremely active on the drug and love-in scene). In the Simmon and Trout observations, campus hippies were often scholarship holders, social-science majors, Jewish, and from middle-class or upper-middle-class intact urban or suburban homes. Without social spirit or athletic interests, the skuzzies recruit from among young students who tire of left-wing political activities and who are intrigued by hedonism. A further step in their initiation is to oppose parents, drop out of school, and then, later, return. It is the younger skuzzie who smokes the most marijuana and engages more in sex; older ones are cooler and do better in school. The average skuzzie period is a year and a half with two paths out: one is by aging, working, and getting married and the other is by becoming deviant hippies—that is, heavy drug users who are promiscuous or homosexual. The authors note the speedy change in the campus hippie culture, in its spread to high school, in its spread outward from a core group of students with personal problems—arising possibly out of a difficult social environment —to a broader movement. Furthermore, the New Left, which was, to Simmon and Trout, at least partly hippie though never skuzzie, will play, they say, a decreasing role as the New Left suffers "moral unemployment," and more students will become hippie without passing through a New Left phase. They believe the hippie appeals of pleasure, self-knowledge, drugs, and hanging loose, coupled with new music and art—plus a new sexual morality—are so great that this is no longer limited campus Bohemianism but possibly a permanent appeal for many students who, responding, will change the face of the campus for years to come.

Many of these and other observations are sympathetic to the desire of young people to improve the quality of their individual lives and of society as a whole. Yet many observers criticize the efficacy and safety of the drug orientation which they display. (Lettvin's [1967] remarks are particularly apt.) The extent of the importance of drugs for hippies is suggested by the replies to a few incidence inquiries. An "underground" newspaper, The East Village Other of New York City, published ( January 1-16, 1968) results to a late 1967 questionnaire inquiry to which 1,200 "villagers" replied anonymously. Among the findings: 98 per cent had taken marijuana, 85 per cent hashish, 77 per cent LSD, 70 per cent methedrine, 50 per cent DMT, 41 per cent peyote, 31 per cent cocaine, 21 per cent heroin, 23 per cent laughing gas (nitrous oxide), 18 per cent barbiturates-tranquilizers, 12 per cent psilocybin, and so on. Methedrine and amphetamines were most often nominated as the worst trips, with heroin second and LSD third. Marijuana was elected most often as the best trip. Marijuana smoking for half of the sample had begun by age eighteen; a quarter smoked every day, most denied pot hang-overs, over half had a steady source of drug supplies ("a connection"), two thirds had themselves sold drugs, and half spent $20 or more per month for marijuana alone. Only 13 per cent had been arrested for drug offenses, most had at least some friends who were not drug users, and 14 per cent supported themselves by selling drugs; most of the rest worked at legitimate jobs. Most of the sample were between seventeen and twenty-five years of age, two thirds were male, three fourths had at least some college education, and two fifths were college graduates. It appears that over a fourth were college drop-outs.

Buckner (1967), a San Francisco sociologist, conducted interviews with fifty Haight-Ashbury hippies and received returns from 200 (of 500) mailed questionnaires as well. Most of his sample were found to be from out-of-state, to have been in California less than a year, to have had some college education, to be from middle- or upper-class homes, to be under age, and to be disassociated from conventional Christianity. Ninety-six per cent had smoked pot and 90 per cent said they had taken LSD. Regarding sexuality, 42 per cent of the males reported homosexual experience, as did 24 per cent of the females; these latter figures suggest a "polymorphous perverse" capability as much in opposition to convention as is their drug use. McNamara and Keller (1968) observed 232 Haight-Ashbury summertime hippies whose average age was twenty-one; they found them to be poor, friendless, and without skills or initiative. Half of their subjects moved once a week or oftener, a fifth had had no place to sleep the evening prior to the interview; half lived on less than $20 a week, a third on less than $10. These life styles are reflected in severe psychological disturbance in the clinical cases, in individual futility, and, we infer, social disorganization in this community of despair. Further observations on psychopathology in the Haight-Ashbury residents are offered by Hensala, Epstein, and Blacker (1967).


It is apparent that what is "happening" socially can be evaluated not only by statistics of drug use, mobility, and economics, or from the standpoint of cultural importance but individually in terms of either the effects of drugs on people or in the appraisal of kinds of people who are attracted to the drug scene. We have already discussed Keniston's (1965 ) fine case material which is so instructive.

Another psychiatrist, Kleber (1965), carefully observed twenty-one students at Yale who had taken peyote, half of whom had also taken marijuana. Kleber observes that both psychologically stable and unstable students experiment with drugs and that for the unstable ones the reasons offered—"wanting new experience," "seeking religious meanings," and so forth—were superficial and concealed serious problems of adjustment. Even admissions of rebellion were capable of more psychodynamic interpretation, specifically acting out of hostility to parents by doing a disapproved act and also experimenting with independence in risk situations. Among the unstable students using a hallucinogen, as compared with the psychologically stable and otherwise average undergraduates he observed, Kleber found more adverse effects, fewer reports of pleasant experiences, and less intention to repeat use. Among psychologically adjusted students, the reasons offered for drug use were more likely to be more accurate, showing self-awareness and not reasons which concealed adjustment problems. Many subjects reported anxiety during the drug experience; half felt drug use had improved their lives; a fourth (these confined to the maladjusted- students) were observed to have long-lasting adverse effects, including anxiety, persistent hallucinations, worsened symptoms, or drug dependency.

Kleckner (1968) administered the Cattell 16PF Test to forty college students who were psychedelic drug users and compared them with a matched sample of forty non-users, all from the same college. Users were significantly more aloof, anxious, paranoid, and had less ego strength and super ego. The 16PF interpretation also termed them brighter and more dominant interpersonally. Nevertheless, the scales were further interpreted as indicating that users were more creative, less leader-like, more isolated, and more accident prone. No other test data or life-history data were brought to bear to validate these at times inconsistent interpretations.

A very careful psychological study of LSD effects by McGlothlin, Cohen, and McGlothlin (1967) tells us much that is important about the characteristics of students who are interested in hallucinogens. The investigators recruited subjects for an experiment without telling the volunteers what the study would be. A large battery of tests was given prior to a series of three LSD sessions at intervals of two weeks and then six months after the last LSD session. Among 122 male graduate students qualifying as subjects (not prepsychotic, not in therapy, or so forth), 25 refused to take LSD when they were told what the experiment would be and another 11 remained but were fearful. These negative students were compared with neutral and positive (toward LSD) ones. On tests the students who were against taking LSD proved to be more extroverted, more organized and given to making plans, and more conventional and factual. The students who were in favor of taking LSD were more capable of regressive experience (related to hypnotic susceptibility), more intuitive, more introverted, more casual and spontaneous, more psychopathic (amoral, careless of the rights of others), more bizarre, and more excitable. Almost all of those favorable toward taking LSD had had marijuana, and fewer were married and attended church. After taking 200 mcg of LSD, students were compared with controls who took either minimal LSD (25 mcg or 20 mg amphetamine). Two weeks after taking LSD, the experimental group felt they were less tense and anxious compared with others, but objective tests did not consistently bear out "real" differences in anxiety; tests did show they were less emotional in response to laboratory stress. Six months after taking LSD, experimental subjects appeared on tests to be less defensive and reported in a questionnaire that they felt greater musical appreciation and creativity. On the other hand, tests of aesthetic appreciation, imaginativeness, and originality showed no changes.

A study by Brehm and Back (1968) identifies important personality factors associated with student drug use. Using 333 college freshmen and focusing on the broad spectrum of psychoactive drugs, the investigators identified five factors derived from the attitude questionnaire which they employed. One factor was insecurity, another was fear of loss of control, the third was sick role, the fourth was denial of drug effects, and the fifth was curiosity. The first factor contained items related to symptoms of distress and their alleviation through chemical means, as well as feelings of inadequacy and hypochondriasis. These factors were found to be related to reported drug usage. Correlations existed between the use of several classes of drugs; for example, for males especially, social stimulants, sedatives, and the use of hallucinogens and opiates were correlated. As a result, the authors conclude that there is a general orientation toward the use of pharmaceutical controls to change oneself (a conclusion in keeping with our findings). Insecurity was found to be a factor related to the use of all agents, from aspirin through opiates. Curiosity was related to the use of hallucinogens, opiates, and energizers, whereas fears about loss of control were negatively related to the use of these illicit substances. Brehm and Back conclude that ". . . the combination of doubt about and wish to change the self plus a general confidence in the effectiveness of drugs is related to using any type of physical agent, whereas a combination of curiosity about one's potentialities and an absence of fear of loss of control relate more specifically to using that complex of agents known as 'releasors.'"

The authors then went on to construct self-concept scales focusing on external self (appearances), ideal self, and hidden self. They found that the "hidden" self was the one which corresponded most closely to drug use when a discrepancy measure was employed comparing the hidden with the ideal self. Combining this with a factor analysis, they conclude that two aspects of self-perception are associated with a desire for self-modification through the use of chemical agents: "One is general dissatisfaction with oneself . . . the other is the absence of any defenses or restraints against taking this route, be it fear of loss of control, (primarily in males) or defense through denial -(primarily in females)." Using these variables as classifiers in that same sample was found to produce an accuracy ranging from 51 per cent (drug use in females) to 97 per cent (nonuse in females). Reduced success in classification occurred in subjects whose characteristics suggested either apathy about chemical agents or conflict about their use. Brehm and Back suggest that it is in this group that social, situational, and additional psychosomatic conditions may affect the use of the more powerful (and illicit) psychoactive agents.

Reviewing these diverse studies of prevalence and incidence, as well as of social and psychological features associated with drug use, we conclude that illicit-drug use is an exceedingly important activity for many young people, that the styles of student use differ considerably from the heroin involvements of slum dwellers, that the intentions and functions for drug use vary considerably within the student population which is involved and embrace phenomena as diverse as individual psychopathology and personal idiosyncrasy, leadership and followership in social movements, the accident of being on particular campuses or in particular social or resident groups, personal curiosity and exploration, and, of course, responsiveness to the pharmacological effects of psychoactive drugs as such. We also conclude that not only is there a rapidly expanding social phenomenon but that it has increasingly important implications for individuals involved in drug-centered living. For those who are interested in that drug use, it is apparent that issues ranging from the moral and ideological through the neurophysiological and biochemical must be confronted and, further, that by focusing on drug use one elucidates a host of events and problems which are intimately linked to critical issues in many disciplines and professions—as well as to our very philosophies of government and of man's relationship to nature and to his fellow man. Drug use is also linked to most of us quite personally, not only because we are ourselves likely to be users of drugs, albeit probably legal ones, but because the youthful drug user is someone most of us know and for whom we have responsibilities and affection. More than that, the youthful drug user—or the phenomenon itself—is someone to whom we react in highly intense and personal ways. Whether we respond with admiration for the pioneering or rebellious spirit, with titillation over drug effects we ourselves might like to experience, with indignation over violation of law and convention, With anxiety over the consequence for those we know, or simply with wonder about what it all signifies, our own reactions are critical and compel us not only to seek understanding of student drug use but possibly even to examine our own responses with more than ordinary reflection.

1 The illicit drugs are those whose acquisition, sale, and (sometimes) possession are prohibited by law, such as LSD, marijuana, and heroin; also illicit are those drugs which are lawful to use under medical supervision or prescription but not privately—for example, the amphetamines and barbiturates. Exotic drugs are those which are so newly developed that they are not covered by existing statutes—for example, STP, MDA, or natural plants whose use is novel, such as morning-glory seeds, banana peel, seaweed, mimosa bark, and catnip.

2 We see that student drug use is frequent enough that it must be considered within the "normal" range of behavior, at least on some campuses. We can also assume that since much of this behavior is experimental and focuses on drugs—many of which do not produce physical dependence—the concept of "addiction" is thoroughly inappropriate as a conceptual basis for its evaluation.


Our valuable member Richard Blum has been with us since Tuesday, 21 February 2012.

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