Introducing Webster University SSDP

Written by Dennis Caus ’21, Webster University SSDP Chapter Leader

How did you hear about SSDP? 

I was going through MAPS’ website looking at information for students that are interested in getting into psychedelic/drug research in the future. I found an article that mentioned setting up a chapter of SSDP while in undergrad, so I found the website and began researching what they are about.

Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter? 

The main reason I wanted to start a chapter was because I felt there was not a lot of proper drug education in my campus community. I was really attracted by the Just Say Know program and thought it would be a beneficial resource for students to have on campus. Although I go to a liberal campus, most talk about drugs is kept on the down low, even in class discussion, so I wanted to create a space for students to speak openly and honestly about drugs. Not only that but I feel it would be a great way to get students together for some policy change on campus, such as reversing the CBD ban they recently put into place, or better educating the housing staff on the topic of drugs as well as overdose responses. The big thing was bringing more education about drugs to my campus as I believe more education will lead to more change. 

What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc. 

So far the reception on campus has been great! The Student Government Association is giving me the green light to be recognized by Webster, and the wheels are turning on that process but it has been somewhat slow going. Any students or teachers I have brought it up to think it’s a wonderful idea and are very supportive of it. Hopefully, as the word begins to spread more people will contact me to join the chapter.

What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester? 

I would like to begin hosting Just Say Know seminars after my peer education training is completed, even if it has to be done through Zoom for the time being. I am really excited to be able to bring honest drug education and harm reduction practices to my peers in order to make the campus a more educated and safe environment. Hopefully, I can get the housing staff to attend as well, as I believe they need a revamp in their view on drugs and the people that use them. I would also like to begin at least one policy change, which would likely be reversing the recent CBD ban on campus.

What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far? 

So far the most challenging part has been going through the Student Government Association at Webster, which I understand as it is a strange time with the pandemic and they likely have other work that is happening in parallel. It has just been somewhat slow going recently and I would like to get started soon.

What is the most rewarding part? 

The most rewarding part has been seeing how excited other students are getting about having something like this on campus. It is pretty much unheard of for most of them to have a space where people can openly and honestly discuss drugs and drug policy and they seem happy to have that resource coming to them soon.

What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region right now?

I am really excited to tackle the misinformation sphere around the topic of drugs. Most people have a very skewed view of drugs as well as people that use them. I hope to team up with other local drug activists to bring a clearer image of what these drugs actually do as well as what most drug users actually look like to break this stigma.

What is your vision for your SSDP? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?

My hope is that by next year I will not be the only peer educator, but that other students will join me in that venture as well. I truly believe that more education leads to more change, so I want as much honest drug education and harm reduction education happening as possible not only to ensure safety on campus, but to show these compounds can be used in non-destructive ways. Within the next few years, I hope for some policy change to begin occurring at least within my school. I would really like us to change how the housing department in particular deals with finding students with drugs and how they view students that use drugs.  Unfortunately, I will be graduating in 2022, so I will be passing the torch to someone else, but I will be sure that SSDP Webster University continues to educate and create change for as long as possible.