How Do Students at Top Party Schools Talk About Drugs?

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For many, the college experience is as much about trying new things and making questionable decisions as it is about higher learning. It’s the period in young adults’ lives where they first establish their independence and experiment with their sexuality, and more importantly, their first encounter drugs and alcohol.

In this age of social media, where every little inane action is being chronicled and broadcasted, surely college students are talking about drugs and alcohol on their social networks.To find out more, we asked our friends over at Whisper—the social platform where individuals can anonymously post comments—to help us out.

Using the zip codes associated with universities ranked in the top 10 of 2014 Princeton Review list of “top party schools” (ranking in reverse order: Lehigh University, Penn State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ohio University, University of Florida, Syracuse University, West Virginia University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California-Santa Barbara, and University of Iowa) as a starting point, they combed for any whispers from the last six months that alluded to various substances. This yielded a total of 5,008 whispers, represented below:

Pie chart of Drug mentions provided by Whisper

Hmmm, that pie chart is boring and official-looking. Let’s put it in a much more Internet-friendly/aesthetically pleasing format:

It’s worth noting that the above graph is unscientific and that there are multiple variables that aren’t accounted for. Penn State, for example, had a much larger share of total whispers (likely due to a much broader usage of the Whisper platform), which is why we went with total raw numbers instead of averages. Also, given the anonymity provided to Whisper users, there’s no way to verify that the whispers were written by actual university students. For all we know, they could have been written by a visiting friend or a townie that happened to crash a college party.

Still, caveats aside, there’s something worth gleaning from this information. Here are our observations.

Marijuana and Alcohol are King

It probably doesn’t come as any surprise to anyone that the most talked about substances are pot and booze. Mentions of these two substances accounted for 81.8 percent of all Whispers sampled. Of the two, marijuana had more mentions (43.5 percent, to be exact).

Curiously, the most used colloquialism for marijuana was “weed,” beating out “pot” by about a 6:1 ratio. Why? We suspect it has to do with a targeted media campaign aimed at adopting the term as the preferred nomenclature. Blame it on/thank Snoop Dogg, Mary Louise Parker, and of course, Jon Stewart.

As per alcohol, the mentions were mostly evenly distributed between beer and alcohol, with the exception of Lehigh University (beer won out by a ratio of 2.7:1) and Penn State (the inverse is the case, alcohol was mentioned more than beer by a 1.79:1 ratio). No one spirit won out across the board, strengthening our theory that college students will drink ANYTHING with alcohol (jungle juice, anyone?).

Painkillers are for Old People

Regardless of sample sizes, painkillers across the board aren’t that popular amongst college students. We imagine you’d have to get to Rush Limbaugh’s age or level of discontent before you really start hitting the Oxycontin or Vicodin.

Instead, college students prefer to talk about designer drugs (ecstasy, Molly, and MDMA) and uppers (speed and meth). We blame/thank electronic dance music for that.

Iowa State, We’re Worried About You

If this Whisper is any indication, the desolation of Iowa City is really taking a toll on its University residents:

whisper from Iowa State mentioning alcohol

Aww, cheer up, emo kid. Soon (hopefully) you’ll learn that you don’t really need booze to become the best version of yourself.

Either University of Florida is Full of Really Smart Students or It’s an Easy School:

You gotta give it to this kid for not letting his or her recreational drug usage get in the way of academics.

Whisper from University of Florida mentioning Molly

Disclosure: The individual who penned this whisper is not portrayed in the above photograph. The comments do not pertain to the people in the photograph.

So, there you have it, folks. Like generations before them, today’s kids really do embody the YOLO spirit of college life.

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