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Cannabis – the class B ‘gateway drug’ is entirely illegal in the United Kingdom, but nonetheless is prevalent in most average British communities. Living in a lower-class neighbourhood in a region planted with four universities within the student run cities of Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland, I was never short of knowing a dealer.
For many students, anxiety and stress are all strains of mental issues suffered throughout the years of formal education. Having discussed it with former university peers, I know that I was not alone in having panic attacks be the norm in times where the pressure to reach assignment deadlines was particularly high.
The weed smoking began in my second year of university, where the shock of extremely low marks from the previous semester sent me into regret. A regret of wishing I had just sat down and started the assignments earlier, instead of having anxiously procrastinated my way into third class grades.
I was always someone who struggled with forcing myself into the habits of an academic. I compared myself to my naturally higher achieving friends who made it seem so effortless. I knew my potential but always failed when put to the test; when put under pressure. I had always come short of success or full satisfaction with my grades and I was determined that that would not be the case for my bachelor's degree.
Smoking weed was a form of mental preservation. I had never been a cigarette smoker but weed was not new to me, having smoked it at house parties from the age of 16. Feeling the onset of panic one afternoon, I rolled a joint with the left over £20 pack in its sealable sachet that had remained hidden in my drawer since my 21st birthday party. When I realised the effect it had on me, it became a habit.
Whenever I felt a small tinge of stress, I would roll a joint and like magic medicine, I was fine. I no longer had to deal with the stress that had burdened me into academic shortcomings. It allowed me to get on with my work and in the end, resulted in me achieving a first-class degree.
Some will argue that smoking cannabis only masks the problem and that it is a short-term solution, and I am fine with that. Perhaps it is a short-term solution that disguises a problem that can only truly be solved with mental training or meditation or therapy. But the results are in the grades and those are facts that I cannot deny to anyone.
I will disclaim that never was I chemically addicted to cannabis. I did not even crave a joint – not in the same way that one may crave for sugar or nicotine. I would take it with the onset of stress or panic and with it, I breezed through the rest of university. As soon as my education was over, I stopped smoking cannabis and went back to the occasional joint at a house party with my council estate friends and funnily enough, never my upper-class university friends who always belittled me for the habit with distaste, not understanding my reasons.
We live in the digital age where everything is instantaneous – we live our lives in a hurry and sometimes, all we need is a quick fix in moments of tension. There is not always the chance to sit and work on our inner peace and meditation. If it can plug out inconvenient feelings of lonely silent suffering in a matter of minutes, to stimulate temporary productivity towards academic achievements or work goals, then I will take it regardless of the legality.