As part of the Daily Iowan special edition that focused solely on drugs, I wrote about how international students at the University of Iowa had different perceptions and views of drugs compared to local students.
Data from the UI 2015 National College Health Assessment report shows international students consistently say they have never taken drugs. According to the data, 91.5 percent of international students have never used marijuana, 97.2 percent have never used cocaine, and 88.3 percent have never used synthetic marijuana.
For domestic students, those numbers are much lower. According to the same study, 54.1 percent of domestic students have reported to have never used marijuana; 90.2 percent have never used cocaine, and 85.4 percent have never used synthetic marijuana.
Here is the full story: Daily Iowan Link
UI international students mull over the drug culture in the United States.
By Anis Shakirah Mohd Muslimin
For many non-domestic college students, it is common knowledge that America is well-known for many things — Hollywood, road trips, cowboys, American football, peanut butter, and marijuana.
Besides the country’s progressive drug policies in some states, the land of the free also has one of the highest drug-use rates in the world, prompting mixed opinions from some University of Iowa international students who hail from countries with the harshest drug laws.
“Where I grew up in Malaysia, I didn’t really see or hear about [illegal] drugs a lot, unless someone was being busted for it or because some other country had people come in to the country with drugs,” said Lai Poh Yee, a UI graduate from Malaysia who is currently waiting on a job offer in Iowa City.
Data from the University of Iowa 2015 National College Health Assessment report shows international students consistently say they have never taken drugs. According to the data, 91.5 percent of international students have never used marijuana, 97.2 percent have never used cocaine, and 88.3 percent have never used synthetic marijuana.
For domestic students, those numbers are much lower.
According to the same study, 54.1 percent of domestic students have reported to have never used marijuana; 90.2 percent have never used cocaine, and 85.4 percent have never used synthetic marijuana.
For international students, the U.S. is a completely different drug scene than some have previously experienced.
According to 2015 data from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, the U.S. is ranked among the top-three drug-using countries for cannabis, cocaine, opioids, prescription opioids, and prescription stimulants. The country also ranks first in the world for use of both prescription opioids and opioids.
Additionally, the use of both recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in the states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
Lai said one difference that she noticed from her experience with illegal drugs in the States compared with that in Malaysia is the contrasting portrayal of drugs in the media.
“In the U.S., you hear people talk about drugs. There are some people who think that some drugs are good, and there are places where marijuana is legal, like Colorado,” she said. “So you just see a different perspective on drugs compared to a place where drugs are such a taboo.”
In Malaysia, the law mandates the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers. The mandatory death sentence also penalizes individuals in possession of 15 grams or more of heroin and morphine, 1,000 grams or more of opium [raw or prepared], 200 grams or more of cannabis, and 40 grams or more cocaine.
Rumu Meng, a UI sophomore from Beijing, said the purchase and distribution of drugs in China is a serious offense that can result in severe punishment.
“You can be caught in jail and have some real serious punishment for [purchase and distribution of drugs],” he said.
The Chinese drug laws are equally strict to the Malaysian drug laws.
Anyone caught smuggling no less than 1 kilogram of heroin or methyl benzedrine may face the death penalty in China. The same sentence is also given to people who traffic no less than 50 grams of other narcotics, which include cannabis, opium, and cocaine.
Three people in China were executed for drug trafficking in June 2008, and 12 people were executed in June 2009 for the same reasons, according to data from the Cornell School of Law.
Meng said he has no plans to try drugs while studying abroad. However, he said, some international students might be tempted to experiment with drugs while in the United States because of the distance and lack of restrain from family members.
“I guess [students] start taking drugs because they are curious, or because they like a challenge, to see what they can do,” he said. “I just don’t want drugs to destroy my body.”
One international student, who preferred to remain unnamed, said her experiences with marijuana were not what she expected — the way drugs are discussed in her home country bring out images of strung-out and overdosing teens.
In her experiences, it’s really not that bad.
“I have tried certain things, and I have tired marijuana and found out that it is not as bad as it is,” she told *The Daily Iowan*. “I actually don’t have the same effect of what people would think it actually has, like getting high on a couch and eating pizza all day. To me, my experience has helped me sleep better, and I used it to help me fall asleep when I was stressed with work.”
In Singapore, capital crime isn’t limited to murder but also includes unlawful use of firearms and engaging in drug trafficking. Fifteen grams of heroin or 500 grams of cannabis can earn the offender a trip to the gallows.
Sun Sijia, a UI senior from Singapore, said the drug laws in her country does affect her views on drugs because the country’s drug laws have an effect on society, which in turn, influence individual choices.
“For me, it’s personally not about the law,” she said, citing her upbringing as the major influence in her choice. “I know the drug laws in the U.S. are a bit lenient, but personally for me, I wouldn’t try a drug that isn’t really a hard drug like marijuana. I’ve never really thought about it.”
Hussain Ali Al-Shabeeb, a UI junior from Saudi Arabia, said his experiences with drugs are limited, because coming from a collective society makes it harder for him to experiment with drugs, which can be considered “shameful.”
“My family name is Al-Shabeeb, so if someone caught me using drugs, they will say Hussain Al-Shabeeb using drugs, it will be known by the family name,” he said. “We treat each other like a unit, so it will be hard to find a job, to find a wife, and many things.”
Shabeeb said Saudi Arabia students at the UI are unlikely to experiment with drugs while in the U.S., because they are constantly under the watch of the Saudi government. He also said he is restraining himself from using drugs because of his religion, which prohibits drug use.
“The majority of Saudis are supported by the government and I think a lot of them don’t want to lose the their opportunity if they get deported. If they use drugs they will lose all their support,” he said.
Both Al-Shabeeb and Meng said coming to America did not change their views on drugs, and they still consider drugs to be harmful.
Beth Ripperger, a behavioral health clinician at UI Student Health and Wellness, points to these cultural differences as potential explanations behind the gap between international and domestic students.
“In America, we are culturally encouraged to binge drink and possibly experiment, and we are a little bit individualistic, so when we take drugs, alcohol, and whatnot, we start to see this as this is my own choice, and I’m not affecting other people versus other cultures, which may be more community oriented and not individualistic; that could potentially affect it,” Ripperger said.