Students discuss update to Drug Free Act

Austen Brown, Staff Reporter

Eastern students offered their take on drug and alcohol use on campus following the updated Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, which offers a strategic plan to reduce substance use on campus. 

The Drug Free Schools and Communities Act was passed in 1986 to minimize drug use on college campuses and has seen a handful of amendments since that time. 

One amendment to the act was a regulation that required schools receiving federal funding to educate students every other year on the effects of drug and alcohol use and addiction.

Andrew Hillyard, a sophomore music education major, said he has some experience with alcohol-dependent people. 

However, Hillyard said alcoholism is not as common as some people would believe on Eastern’s campus. 

“I’m not sure that (alcoholism) is necessarily a pandemic on the campus … so much as individuals probably using it more than they should,” he said.

Hillyard also said educating students on the effects of substance abuse might not be an effective way to go about minimizing it, but it could demonstrate how to safely partake in those activities. 

“People are going to (drink and do drugs) regardless, whether you tell them about it or not,” he said. “At least they know how to be safe with it … if you tell them about it, rather than continually push for them to not use it.”

Emily Becker, a sophomore psychology and criminology major, agreed that alcoholism is not a major conflict on campus. 

“I don’t personally know anyone on campus who has an alcohol dependency,” she said. 

Becker also said she believes the use of hard substances such as cocaine, heroin and meth is rare on campus. 

Nicholas Tkachuk, a senior music education major, on the other hand, said alcohol abuse is, in fact, an issue on campus. 

He said it is not an epidemic campus-wide, but the “college stigma” of alcoholism proves true at Eastern. 

Overall, Tkachuk said alcohol and drug use on campus is a result of peer pressure. 

“I think the pressures of situations put people into circumstances where they do (drugs) regardless of their knowledge (of the effects),” he said.

Educating students more on the topic of alcohol and drug abuse may or may not influence their choices. 

Tkachuk said a more effective approach to reducing drug and alcohol abuse on campus might be to teach students to avoid situations in which they would be influenced to use drugs and alcohol. 

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois, the topic of using cannabis on campuses is one of note.

Becker said educating students on the effects of marijuana use more effectively might be necessary now that recreational cannabis is legal.

Hillyard said it would not be any safer or more harmful to allow recreational pot use on campus, but the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act is necessary to maintain a healthy school environment. 

However, he acknowledged that students might smoke pot off campus and said that is not an issue. 

Overall, though, he “think(s) marijuana should stay off campus.” 

Tkachuk said use of cannabis is common among Eastern students, but most of it occurs off campus. 

He also said it would be reasonable to keep marijuana off campus as tobacco is also prohibited. 

Tkachuk said marijuana would cause problems if it was legalized for on-campus use.

He said educating students on peer pressure and use in moderation should be the bottom line for alcohol and drug education.

Austen Brown can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].