Written by Aenea Towns-von Stauber ‘22, SSDP Fordham Chapter Leader
How did you hear about SSDP?
I heard about SSDP through MAPS. I’m interested in going into psychedelic research, and was reading about ways I could start working towards that. From there I started looking into SSDP, and I decided that if I want to go into a career involving psychedelics at some point, I also want to understand drug policies and be able to advocate for more sensible ones.
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start an SSDP chapter?
The more I read and learn about the War on Drugs, current drug policy, and the stigma that surrounds drug users, the more I understand this is a broken system that needs to be fixed. The misinformed and harmful ideas that many hold about drugs and that are mirrored in our policy are so deeply entrenched that it makes changing policy a daunting task to take on. At the same time, I feel hopeful about change knowing that so many people are committed to creating a more sensible approach to drug policy and drug use. I wanted to create a chapter so that there would be a place for people to connect with others who share the goal of ending the War on Drugs, and work together to be a part of reaching this goal.
What has the reception been like in your community? From friends, community members, advocates, etc.
So far the response has been supportive! I’ve had professors help me get the word out about the chapter, and friends have been excited to engage in conversations.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for this year?
I’d like to plan a day to volunteer with a harm reduction center I have volunteered with, where we can go learn more about the harm reduction efforts in NYC and train in overdose prevention. Planning a documentary screening to get more people involved with the chapter is also something I would like to do.
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting your chapter so far?
I think the most challenging part of starting a chapter has been realizing how much I have yet to learn, and it makes me somewhat nervous to put myself in a leadership position because of this. At the same time, there’s a lot of excitement that comes with this nervousness. I know I’ll learn a lot from the people around me, and I can’t wait to see how the chapter and the people involved grow in the process.
What is the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part has been expanding my knowledge of the subjects of drug use, current drug policy, and the history behind them. I’ve also begun to connect the dots between a lot of subjects I’m really interested in and have always felt some link between, such as Neurodiversity and psychedelics, and seeing that there are many other people who are interested in these intersections is exciting. It’s also been rewarding to go beyond what I was initially interested in (namely, psychedelic policy) and confront my own biases about different drugs that I’ve always been taught are dangerous. Overall, I’m thrilled to be part of a community of smart, forward thinking people, and I can’t wait to learn more!
What are you most excited about for your community/state/region right now?
I’m really excited about the new psychedelic medicine programs in New York, and the first safe injection sites in the U.S. opening here.
What is your vision for your involvement in SSDP and the drug policy reform movement? What are you hoping to see 4 or 5 years out?
I’m coming up on my last year in college, and I hope the chapter will continue to grow. As for myself, I think I will continue working in the drug policy reform movement and harm reduction. 4 or 5 years out, I hope there is less of a stigma around drug use, and that the narrative surrounding drug users is less negative, kinder, and more understanding. I hope people will continue to get interested and involved in drug policy reform, because it’s going to take a lot of work.