Learning Limits: College Women, Drugs, and Relationships

By Kimberly M. Williams | Go to book overview

Introduction:
The College Drug Tales of Seventy-Three Women

I have spent most of my life reading about, thinking about, observing, and experiencing drug use. As a professional teaching and researching in the field of drugs, I began to reflect critically on my own college experiences because college was the time in my life when drugs were the most prevalent and, for me, the most problematic. As I reflected, I realized that my experiences as a college woman negotiating drug use were missing from the research literature on drug use. Research that attempted to capture the complexities of my experiences as a White, middle-class college woman had been simplified and essentialized, reducing my experiences to percentages, correlations, and regressions. I felt that my experiences and those of other college women were important and needed to be considered among the research literature.

Drug use has been and continues to be prevalent and problematic on college campuses. In one week at the university where I conducted this study in February 1997, the headlines of the student newspaper were filled with drug- related problems. A woman was found naked and passed out drunk on a loading dock and alleged she was raped during a drunken blackout. A first-year student jumped to his death from a fourth floor residence hall room when the police arrived outside his room. His friends said he had taken two hits of LSD. Another young woman had been killed in a drunk driving accident.

Individuals involved in studying higher education have spent a great deal of time, energy, and money attempting to determine why substance abuse continues to be prevalent on college campuses. Although alcohol has received more attention than any other psychoactive drug in the literature on drug use and college students, this project did not focus exclusively on alcohol. Instead, it examined how a particular group of women, living in the environment of a large, northeastern, private university, made meaning of all psychoactive substances available to them. For this project, I used Ray and Ksir's ( 1993, p. 4) definition of a drug as "any substance, natural or artificial, other than food,

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