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Student Drug Users Spurn Cambridge

Dealers, Buyers Focus on Campus Network as Fear Turns Them Away From City

By Joe Mathews, Crimson Staff Writers

Drugs are still being sold in Harvard Square's Pit, the sunken area between Out-of-Town News and the Square's T stop. But Harvard students won't be found dealing or buying there.

And it's just as unlikely to find students in other urban drug-buying locations like Boston's Combat Zone.

While Cambridge may have supplied Harvard drug users of decades past, today's students say they do not trust city dealers, who charge high prices for drugs of questionable quality.

As students turn away from the city and as anti-drug attitudes gain prominence, Harvard drug users say their community has divided into small, isolated pockets of users and sellers.

"I never sold to people I didn't know--and I think that it's a common practice," says one sophomore who used to deal.

Many students say they buy drugs only on campus because the urban drug scene has become too risky.

"There aren't people [students] hanging out in the streets," says one student who asked to be called Fred. "Trying something from someone out in the Square is crazy."

And some of the drug users interviewed say that either they or their friends have had bad experiences with drugs bought off-campus.

"When I was a freshman, there were freshmen who got roped in and tried to buy lawn clippings in the Square," says the sophomore. "People in Cambridge thought it was really easy to fool a Harvard kid--it is."

Greater government enforcement of drug laws has caused prices to soar, making students wary of buying on the streets. The Harvard drug of choice, marijuana, can cost between $200 and $400 per ounce, and says one senior, "You're getting pretty bad stuff for $200."

The city's higher prices force some students to buy drugs from more trustworthy home town dealers who often charge significantly less than their Cambridge competitors.

"Most people get it from their home towns and bring it back from vacations,"says Fred. "The local colleges--Northeastern, B.C.have more [drugs] because not so many people comefrom far away."

Aside from marijuana, which is by far the mostused drug among Harvard student, ecstasy,"shrooms" and mescaline are also taken in smalleramounts. But students say they've seen nothingmore than experimentation with the so-called"hard" drug--cocaine and heroin.

"Unlike most college campuses, there's a realdearth of drugs and availability. There's somecocaine, but in my experience that seems to occurmore in the prep school crowd," says the senior.

But most students agree that Harvard is not a"user-friendly" environment for drug dealers andusers.

"People don't want to have people know theysmoke," says Fred. "Athletes and real studioustypes look down on it and then there are those whosay 'I'm not going to do it, but I don't mind ifits around."

The anti-drug attitudes on campus may reducethe ranks of users. Some suggest that Harvard'satmosphere pushes those students who used in highschool away from drugs.

"Most people find it's much more straight herethan it was in their home town," says Fred. "Intheir town they were in the crowd that did it alot... most people come here and straighten up."

Although Adams House and Dudley Co-op aretraditionally targeted as the centers of drug useat Harvard, some students question the accuracy ofthese stereotypes. "I live in Adams House, thehouse that is supposed to be...the center ofcounter-culture, and almost on one does drug,"says the sophomore.

And Harvard police say they are encounteringfewer and fewer drugs every year. "We don't to myknowledge have much of a problem," says HarvardUniversity Police Chief Paul E. Johnson. "We'vehad isolated incidents with a single student beingpicked up for marijuana, but nothing more thanthat."

Johnson says his department made only fourdrug-related arrests in all of 1991--onedistribution of marijuana in Holyoke Arcade, onecocaine possession in Winthrop House, onemarijuana possession on Trowbridge Street and onepossession of hypodermic needles inside theScience Center. Johnson says he had no record ofany students being among those arrested.

Although students do not like to talk about it,many users deal to finance their drug habit,causing students other problems.

"I'm still thousands of dollars in debt overdrugs," says the sophomore, who says he used todeal hundreds of dollars of drugs each week. "Ithought selling drugs was so lucrative that maybeI was more flamboyant about my use."

And while students say they buy and sell drugsin small, confidential meetings, some wonder howextensive the campus drug net work is.

"I would only approach people that I knew andwho knew me." says the sophomore. The studentadded, however, that sometimes strangers wouldapproach him about conducting a transaction.

"There is a considerablework-of-mouth-network," he said.

And as long as that drug network remainshealthy, very few students will venture into thehub to acquire drugs.

"Most of the public places students feel theycan go to get drugs, they're just going to getripped off," says the sophomore. "Boston is justnot a good place to get drugs."Crimson File PhotoStudents interested in purchasing drugsgenerally spurn the pit and other urban areas infavor of on campus dealers.

Aside from marijuana, which is by far the mostused drug among Harvard student, ecstasy,"shrooms" and mescaline are also taken in smalleramounts. But students say they've seen nothingmore than experimentation with the so-called"hard" drug--cocaine and heroin.

"Unlike most college campuses, there's a realdearth of drugs and availability. There's somecocaine, but in my experience that seems to occurmore in the prep school crowd," says the senior.

But most students agree that Harvard is not a"user-friendly" environment for drug dealers andusers.

"People don't want to have people know theysmoke," says Fred. "Athletes and real studioustypes look down on it and then there are those whosay 'I'm not going to do it, but I don't mind ifits around."

The anti-drug attitudes on campus may reducethe ranks of users. Some suggest that Harvard'satmosphere pushes those students who used in highschool away from drugs.

"Most people find it's much more straight herethan it was in their home town," says Fred. "Intheir town they were in the crowd that did it alot... most people come here and straighten up."

Although Adams House and Dudley Co-op aretraditionally targeted as the centers of drug useat Harvard, some students question the accuracy ofthese stereotypes. "I live in Adams House, thehouse that is supposed to be...the center ofcounter-culture, and almost on one does drug,"says the sophomore.

And Harvard police say they are encounteringfewer and fewer drugs every year. "We don't to myknowledge have much of a problem," says HarvardUniversity Police Chief Paul E. Johnson. "We'vehad isolated incidents with a single student beingpicked up for marijuana, but nothing more thanthat."

Johnson says his department made only fourdrug-related arrests in all of 1991--onedistribution of marijuana in Holyoke Arcade, onecocaine possession in Winthrop House, onemarijuana possession on Trowbridge Street and onepossession of hypodermic needles inside theScience Center. Johnson says he had no record ofany students being among those arrested.

Although students do not like to talk about it,many users deal to finance their drug habit,causing students other problems.

"I'm still thousands of dollars in debt overdrugs," says the sophomore, who says he used todeal hundreds of dollars of drugs each week. "Ithought selling drugs was so lucrative that maybeI was more flamboyant about my use."

And while students say they buy and sell drugsin small, confidential meetings, some wonder howextensive the campus drug net work is.

"I would only approach people that I knew andwho knew me." says the sophomore. The studentadded, however, that sometimes strangers wouldapproach him about conducting a transaction.

"There is a considerablework-of-mouth-network," he said.

And as long as that drug network remainshealthy, very few students will venture into thehub to acquire drugs.

"Most of the public places students feel theycan go to get drugs, they're just going to getripped off," says the sophomore. "Boston is justnot a good place to get drugs."Crimson File PhotoStudents interested in purchasing drugsgenerally spurn the pit and other urban areas infavor of on campus dealers.

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