Schneck on LGBT drug use

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ken Schneck, dean of students at Marlboro College

Ken Schneck believes LGBT college students are much more likely to abuse chemicals because they tend to congregate in places that inherently have alcohol and drugs. Photo by Jeff Wood.


Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) college students are much more likely than their straight classmates to use alcohol and drugs.

That's the message Ken Schneck, dean of students at Marlboro College, Marlboro, Vt., shared Oct. 19 with an Atwood Theatre audience.

His assertion is based on personal experience and a study by Michael P. Marshal of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

When Schneck told friends and family he was gay, his parents stopped paying his tuition at New York University. His connections to family and mainstream values were severed. Schneck abruptly began using drugs to ease his pain and confusion.

"That one night, my first night really doing drugs, I did crystal meth, ketamine and cocaine," Schneck said. "Didn't continue with crystal meth. Didn't continue with ketamine. But, my drug of choice was absolutely cocaine and I used it for about a year." 

To spur audience discussion, Schneck showed nine film clips, including an excerpt from the Academy Award-winning 1994 Australian film "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." The clip, which focused on two drag queens and a transsexual in an Outback bar, illustrated another Schneck point about relationships between queer students, alcohol and drugs.

"For most of your college peers, in order to socialize with other gay people, they must go to a gay bar," he said. "They must go to a place that inherently has alcohol. That is not the same for straight students."  

Schneck bemoaned the lack of survey research on the topic, but did point to Marshal's analysis of 18 recent studies.

Marshal's study suggests gay teens are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than are heterosexual teens. The study, which was published in the April 2008 edition of the journal Addiction, documented a prevalence of drug or alcohol use among bisexual youth that is 340 percent greater than the rate among straight teens. Among lesbian youth, the number rises to 400 percent.

Schneck suggests LGBT college students use alcohol and drugs with a unique "layer of intention." They purposefully use alcohol and drugs while engaging in sexual activity, knowing they can explain away a sex act by saying they were drunk or high.

"It's a panacea," Schneck said. "It's a get-out-of-jail-free card."

A former stand-up comic, Schneck praised St. Cloud State University for having a LGBT Resource Center, a service center not found on some campuses. But he urged the formation of an LGBT-specific Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on campus, arguing that recovery needs are different for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Schneck holds a doctorate from Fordham University in New York City. His dissertation discusses the painful meanings of the throwaway slang phrase "That's so gay!"

Before joining Marlboro College in 2007, Schneck's career included four years as assistant dean at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y., and a stint as assistant director for residence life for the School of American Ballet, New York City.

Schneck's presentation was sponsored by the LGBT Resource Center and UChoose. UChoose leads St. Cloud State's efforts to reduce high-risk drinking among students, on- and off-campus.


-- Jeff Wood

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