University students and the normalisation of illicit recreational drug use

Arne van den Bos (First author), Eric Blaauw, Bert Bieleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The last decades have seen an increase in the use of illicit recreational drugs. In this article we take a detailed look at the current state of normalisation of the three most popular illicit recreational drugs among Dutch university students in the Netherlands (MDMA/Ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamine) by zooming in on five established aspects of normalisation and expanding on one of those aspects: social accomodation, by adding a behavioural subcomponent (setting of use). For this purpose, we used quantitative data, obtained from four studies (2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020) among Dutch university students in a prototypical university city in the Netherlands (Groningen). Results show that three aspects of normalisation are clearly observable. The drugs are perceived as highly accessible, the last year prevalence of use is high, and experimenting, especially with MDMA/Ecstasy, is common. Accurate knowledge of the drugs and acceptance of occasional use, account in some measure for social accommodation. However, as students do not talk openly about their drug use with everyone in their environment, one cannot speak of cultural accommodation. Thus, although clear signs of normalisation of illicit recreational drugs, especially MDMA/Ecstasy, are observable among Dutch university students, there is no full-scale normalisation of these drugs.
Translated title of the contributionStudenten en de normalisering van drugs
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)894-906
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2022


  • university
  • students
  • drugs
  • normalisation


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