The kitchen is filled with students, most of whom have never been to this flat before. The music’s on, conversations have sparked up everywhere, laughter is common and the student whose birthday it is passed out a while back – completely smashed. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves at a pretty standard flat-party at a standard UK University. Obviously, alcohol is affluent.
I walk into one of the rooms and meet someone I know. She’s with a few friends of her’s, chatting casually while using alcohol. Next to her I find a short, black-haired girl who, I think, is in one of my seminars, although I’m not sure. The guy living in the room, a blonde, well-dressed bloke around 20 years old, is trying desperately to find a particular song on his computer.
All of a sudden he opens a drawer in his desk, pulls up a small plastic bag with some pills in it and asks casually if anyone’s up for some ‘E’? [E, in this case, referring to Ecstasy].
“They’re £ 10 each,” he adds, smiling politely.
The black-haired girl who I share classes with, smiles, looks around and says she’d love to.
“But I want to stay up with someone, otherwise it’s no fun!”
My friend quickly joins her, draws a £10 note from her pocket and hands it over. The black-haired girl disappears, returning a few minutes later with cash. Over the course of 10 minutes, more or less intoxicated students in party mode join the scenery, tempted by the rumours, spreading faster than free food on campus. One guy decides to spend the remainder of his wallet, £100. But I believe (and hope) his friend stopped him. The blond guy eventually finds himself out of stock. He grabs his jacket, tells us all he’ll be back in half an hour and quietly leaves the building. When he later returns, he would have enough ‘E’ for all.
What’s absurd and somewhat disturbing about this tale is not the fact that 17-year-old university students take drugs. We know that – that’s no news. What surprised me, though, was how casually it all happened. It was as if they were talking about chocolate cookies, politely offering friends a sip of their tea in the midst of a conversation about TV series or last week’s lectures.
Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, or maybe I’ve been around the “wrong” kind of people, but I had only seen such casual attitude towards alcohol and marijuana before. Now I’ll have to add ‘E’ to my list of somewhat socially acceptable drugs. Interesting. Worrying.