Science of Substances Talk Provides Students With New Perspectives

Last Tuesday, Jason Kilmer presented on “The Science of Substances.” A packed room of Colorado College students spent over an hour listening to research on the effects of illicit substances. Students began to think through the possible implications of Kilmer’s findings on their perception of drugs and alcohol.

“People perceive the positive benefits of drugs and alcohol in social settings as liquid-courage,” Kilmer stated. “People are more comfortable and can be more talkative, more outgoing, more flirty, a better dancer perhaps.”

The negative effects of drugs and alcohol in social situations are commonly described as “vomiting,” or excessive honesty. “Many college students when asked this respond saying, ‘I say things I wouldn’t normally say and do things I wouldn’t normally do.’ Or, I can sometimes get more aggressive,’” said Kilmer.

“Alcohol is unpredictable,” he continued. “If you drink the same drink and the same amount each night, the way you act can still vary. Part of this is expectancies.”

“For me, the most fascinating aspect was the role that research can play in affecting everyone’s lives on a day to day basis,” said sophomore  Jason Bair. “I feel like the expectancy argument is something very real on this campus, but I had never thought about it before going to this talk. It’s hard to go out and not drink, when everyone else is drunk.”

Bair continued, “I wonder if you could adopt the mindset of being drunk, without actually having to drink. If you could enjoy the social perks, without the physical consequences. [Kilmer] really showed that alcohol isn’t this all-magical solution, but that it’s mainly your decision to turn it into that. It’s made me step back and think a bit more about some of the rhetoric we use surrounding alcohol and how much of that actually builds into the abuse that we often see on college campuses.”

“I found the research he did on the impacts of marijuana to be really important,” said first-year Christian Kitchen, “I think the lack of extensive research on the subject is how a lot of behavior is justified.”

Kitchen continued, “The impact on attention, concentration, and memory are worth taking into account, considering that’s basically what we have to do here at CC. I don’t know if you should change all your behavior because of what he was saying, but definitely take it into account. Life is a balance. That’s what I got from the talk.”

Bobby Clemens, a sophomore, said, “It’s insane what your body can do. The whole part about getting used to certain situations in relation to alcohol and preparing itself for drinking before drinking even occurs is pretty impressive. We don’t really talk about that. We say first-years get drunk because that’s what happens when you first go to college. But, maybe we should talk more about if they’re actually meaning to get that drunk. We should eliminate some of the stigma about it and openly talk about alcohol. Fearing the consequences of being caught prevents new students from asking questions and obtaining crucial information.”

“I appreciated the fact that he started off the talk by saying it wasn’t about simply ‘no’ or ‘yes’ to drugs,” said sophomore Katherine Nelson. “It was focused on the nuanced arguments of both sides. With more knowledge, we can make informed decisions about how, if we do want to engage in these activities, we can mitigate some of the most adverse effects.”

She continued, “I wish it was a part of every First Year Experience, since he did a great job of combining essential information with humor that prevented it from becoming too preachy or potentially judgmental.”

Visit the Catalyst’s Soundcloud page to listen to the full hour-long lecture from Jason Kilmer. Along with the lecture in its entirety, the Soundcloud page features interviews with students following the talk, the Q&A session with Kilmer, and a one-on-one interview with Kilmer. The Catalyst’s audio content is curated by sophomore Zach Zuckerman.

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