Study, Drugs and NYU


Veronica Liow

An unrolled joint lays on top of an NYU student’s homework. (Photo by Veronica Liow)

Kieran Brown, Contributing Writer

“Smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke?” These words are probably familiar with just about everybody who walks through Washington Square Park around dusk. This battle-cry of sorts is a hallmark trait of being an NYU student, the inescapable bombardment of drugs — particularly marijuana — in everyday life.

“It seems like you can’t go anywhere without smelling that harsh fragrance,” Stern freshman Nicholas Pisciotti said, and it is pretty hard to disagree.

One needs only to venture outside the supposedly substance-free residence halls to witness large groups of students and neighborhood residents alike lighting up various forms of marijuana and its byproducts with vape pens.

What makes NYU such a hotbed for this drug, considering its complex legal status in New York City? Marijuana is in a limbo of sorts in that it is illegal to possess over 25 grams, but officers can stop you and make you throw away less than that. While it might seem as though the risk outweighs the reward, many students simply do not care.

For international student and CAS freshman Yolanda Zhu, moving to New York from Shanghai was surprising in part because of the widespread drug culture here.

“For students in Shanghai, finding marijuana was nearly impossible, and as a result the stigma behind usage was dramatically more negative,” Zhu said.

Zhu said she has never tried the drug. But marijuana is not the only drug that is widespread on campus. Arguably just as popular are ADHD and ADD medications such as Vyvanse and Adderall. According to Zhu, the abuse of these drugs was also incredibly rare in China.

“In Shanghai, we were pushed to study by our parents, not by drugs,” Zhu said.

It seems as though the competitive nature of NYU along with the overwhelming pressures of high tuition and vast debt may be a pushing factor for students to try drugs that will help them perform better academically.

A pre-med student, who asked to remain anonymous, said that in their experience, study drugs are almost necessary in order to succeed.

“Consider this: I’m paying $70,000 for an education and I need to get through this with as high of a cumulative average as possible,” the student said. “Why would I not take every advantage possible?”

It seems that this sentiment is incredibly common on campus, and it’s hard to ignore the reasoning behind the student’s point.

While students taking various sorts of drugs on campus is not a revolutionary discovery, there is a lot to be said about the usage of prescriptions without a doctor’s approval. For many NYU students, it is all about guaranteeing success for the future, even if it means ignoring the harmful long term side effects. While the stereotype is that college students who take drugs are lazy stoners and reckless thrill-seekers, it is interesting to consider other reasons why students may be taking drugs.

Email Kieran Brown at [email protected]