COVID-19 Isn’t the Only Pandemic

Graphic by Erin Sass

When one thinks of Montreal nightlife, one usually thinks of drinking. Quebec’s low drinking age teamed with endless bars on St. Laurent and Crescent place alcohol within easy reach for most McGill students. But, in the time of the Coronavirus, Montreal’s thriving nightlife has been brought to a halt, making room for increased drug use among students. The university is aware of the rampant drug use on campus, as can be seen with past acknowledgements and the establishing of an Addictions Unit, but McGill’s funding cuts for the Floor Fellow Program—specifically the drug and alcohol training program—has only made this situation more alarming.

Recreational drug use among university students is more common than our professors and family members would like to think. Depressants, opiates, and stimulants, despite their illegality, are predominant in student culture across university campuses and McGill is no exception. Although many of us will never encounter them—that is, unless you are seeking to—drug use makes up a significant portion of college social life. 

But, in the time of the Coronavirus, Montreal’s thriving nightlife has been brought to a halt, making room for increased drug use among students.

For context, prescriptions of Valium, Xanax, and Ritalin have increased by nearly 10% since the start of the pandemic. Non-prescribed fentanyl drug use has increased by 32%, 20% for methamphetamine, and 10% for cocaine from mid-March through May, with suspected drug overdoses climbing over 18% in the same period. 

There is no denying that illegal substances are the glue holding university night culture in place. Drug use has always been a problem among young people, but why the sudden surge of drug use on campuses? Higher anxiety rates due to the Covid-19 takeover, the constant amounts of pressure to make undergraduate years the greatest years of their lives, and preparing for a receding job market has provided the ideal environment for fostering drug addiction among students. Most significant, however, is the effect of online school stripping away university communities and social networks. Students thrive off of connection, and in the time of social distancing and fragmented social bubbles, many are left alone, struggling to make connections through Zoom breakout rooms. 

Despite the concerns voiced by parents and the clear acknowledgement of drug overdoses happening on McGill campus, university administrators, specifically teenage resident fellows, are unprepared to cope with such an issue. Zoom University and sending mental-help emails are not enough to keep students entertained and happy. Floor Fellows are no longer trained to deal with addiction, and nor should they be. Floor Fellows themselves are still children, and many take the position for the cheap room and board, not because they are concerned with the wellbeing of individuals. Making sure the mental and physical well being of every student is stable is a job for the administration: allocate the funds towards better facilities, provide private therapy sessions, and make it mandatory for Floor Fellows to host events every week to bring students together. The workload assigned to McGill students, if not too much before, is surely too much now; finding ways to cope is not easy in our new virtual world, and blaming addicts or shoving the situation under the rug does more harm than good.

Students thrive off of connection, and in the time of social distancing and fragmented social bubbles, many are left alone, struggling to make connections through Zoom breakout rooms. 

Fostering a sense of community should be the number one priority if the administration wants to see its students thriving: more online events not pertaining to academic seminars, but rather events concerned with fun activities, such as online trivia or virtual Cards Against Humanity, or hosting themed zooms. This is a time where event planning is easier and can be more creative than ever before; this is a time where every individual attending McGill needs the services they pay for to step up and take control of the situation.

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