Learning Limits: College Women, Drugs, and Relationships

By Kimberly M. Williams | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
The Social Construction of Drugs

Women described a variety of drugs that they encountered in college: caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana ("pot" or "weed"), nitrous oxide ("nitrous"), prescription medication (Ritilin, Codeine, Clonopin), LSD ("acid"), Psilocybin mushrooms ("shrooms"), MDMA ("Ecstasy," "E," or "Ex"), Ketamine ("Special K"), cocaine/crack, and heroin. Women constructed each drug they encountered differently and attempted to determine their personal use limits for each drug they used based on their prior personal and vicarious experiences with these drugs within their important relationships. Experiences with and constructions of the various drugs were often different within the racially segregated groups on campus. Drugs such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol were often not considered "drugs." Some women labeled many of the illicit drugs as "bad" and "hard-core," using antidrug rhetoric. Women who were regular drug users constructed most drugs as "good," using a discourse of pleasure.


A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO HOW EACH OF THE DRUGS WAS CONSTRUCTED

Women constructed each drug differently as they struggled to learn their limits for the drugs they deemed acceptable to use. In this section, I describe each drug individually: how these women tended to make meaning of each one; if appropriate, how women set their personal use limits for the drug; and the differences in the constructions of some of the drugs within racially segregated groups on campus.


Caffeine

Caffeine was considered a safe drug for each of the women to report. The first reason is obvious--it is legal and accepted. It is not even socially constructed as a drug at all. In fact, there were no questions about caffeine use on the U.S. Department of Education's Core survey that was administered to students at this

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