Ross Haenfler
Ross Haenfler
If you go

What: Conference of World Affairs panel on "Addy, Oxy and Molly: College Drug Use"

When: 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Tuesday

Where: UMC Room 235, University of Colorado campus

More info: colorado.edu/cwa

Ross Haenfler is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Mississippi. Growing up in the hardcore, straight edge and punk rock scenes led to a lasting interest in youth subcultures, social justice and do-it-yourself politics. His interests revolve around how people pursue social change in their daily lives as part of lifestyle movements.

While in graduate school at the University of Colorado at Boulder, he co-authored "The Better World Handbook: Small Changes That Make a Big Difference," an action-oriented guide to creating a more just and sustainable world. He is also the author of "Straight Edge: Clean Living Youth, Hardcore Punk and Social Change" and "Goths, Gamers and Grrrls: Deviance and Youth Subcultures." His forthcoming book is called "Subcultures: The Basics."

Haenfler currently studies abstinence/virginity pledgers and how participants in youth cultures transition to adulthood.

Q. What do you think about college drug use?

I identify as straight edge. I never used drugs. I haven't drank since I was 15. On the other hand, I'm not a puritan. I tend to take a very practical kind of approach. I always tell my students that it's not necessarily the drinking or the drug use, it's more about the social compulsion. So many young people come to campus expecting a party atmosphere. They don't always totally want to live into that, but they feel like that's what I'm supposed to do. That peer pressure never totally goes away.

Q. What kind of drug use do you see at the University of Mississippi?

I ask my students in my classes: Are we a pot campus? Are we a coke campus? They tell me that prescription drugs are really where it's at for young people.

Q. What do you plan to talk about on the panel?

The drug scares that are recurrent themes in our culture -- laws against Chinese opiate dens, "Reefer Madness" in the '70s, ecstasy scares in the '90s, prescription drug scares now. Usually, these kind of scares are an effort to control undesirable groups. I often think we fear the wrong things. Adderall and marijuana, these drugs get a lot of attention and panic. But, in fact, alcohol is what causes the most problems. Alcohol use in college is monitored, but is largely seen as legitimate.

Q. What's the appeal of prescription drugs for college students?

Authorities or adults or people in power rarely acknowledge the culture that will produce this substance use. Young people have for some time been getting the message that every paper, every grade, counts. There's so much pressure. Any kind of advantage, including performance enhancing drugs, they're going to take it.

Q. What expertise and perspective do you bring as a panelist?

I study people who break the rules and, more importantly, I study how society makes the rules. People argue over why alcohol is legal and marijuana, until recently, is illegal. It's about who's in power, who makes the rules and how do they use the rules to control certain groups and for their own political ends.

-- Amy Bounds