The U of C and its drug-addicted students

In the happy PR-filled world of alumni magazines, it’s not uncommon to read stories about people who

By Andrew Alexander

In the happy PR-filled world of alumni magazines, it’s not uncommon to read stories about people who grew up with abusive parents, started using drugs at age 14, spend time in jail for dealing–and then miraculously turned their life around and graduated summa cum laude from Harvard.But of course the U of C has to be uncommon. That’s how you get articles like this one about a student, Mark Allen AB’01, who grew up in a privileged home, came to the U of C a total square, and left a drug addict:

During the spring quarter of his third year, friends had finally convinced him to come out for a few drinks. One beer turned into 12 in a cozy blur that felt comfortable … Within months he started using cocaine to fuel his drinking binges. He first experimented at a party with friends from a martial-arts gym he had joined. After a cocaine-mushroom-absinthe spree Allen woke up inside a fireplace, naked and bleeding under a blanket. … In his final quarter at Chicago—with basketball finished and his front-loaded academic career a couple courses from completion—he started smoking crack.

This next line is my favorite. I hope they put this in the “The Rest of Your Life” part of the Chicago Life booklet that everyone gets during O-Week:

A year earlier Allen barely knew the frat houses and bars his friends frequented. Now he went to Cabrini-Green and the Henry Horner Homes, alone, to buy drugs.

The nostalgia-inducing anecdotes continue to pile up. I bet rich alumni will whip out their checkbooks as soon as they read this one:

One morning—in his fragmented recollection it must have been May 2003—Allen’s girlfriend found him outside her Hyde Park apartment building, unconscious in his running car, bruised and reeking of vomit.

The article goes on to talk about how Allen turned his life around, after he was far away from the University of Chicago. In Tuscon, to be precise. And what was it that helped him get off drugs? Competitive boxing.Chalk another one up for the Life of the Mind!