This article originally appeared on VICE UK
A word of warning: student loans don't last nearly as long as you think they're going to. Turns out buying 12 beers, taking an Uber, ordering a gram, paying club entry, losing a fiver in a cubicle, taking another Uber, then buying a hangover Domino's Meal Deal with a 1.5L Coke, all for yourself, doesn't come cheap, especially if you're doing it three nights a week.
Nothing takes the sparkle out of a wet-behind-the-ears fresher like having to pour pints because you've blown so much of your loan that you can no longer afford basic sustenance. This was my reality, so I took the only logical step for a middle class teenager who had very quickly out-lived his means: I turned to crime.
Becoming a successful student drug dealer is effortless. Basically, you spend half an hour learning to use the dark net, the postman delivers a package and you're set. I started off only selling to people I knew, but it wasn't long before I was getting calls off strangers. Most students would rather buy their drugs from another student than get in a freshly-buffed Honda with an adult man calling himself "Turbo".
A recent study suggested that around 56 percent of university students take drugs – which seems like a modest estimate. In my time at uni, pills, ketamine and benzos were in higher demand than condoms and Netflix logins. I always tested products myself first and gave dosage advice, but there were plenty of times I refused to sell to people who I thought were buying too often or had taken enough at the time.
The money was good. One Halloween I made £700; one summer I made over £4,000. I heard you can deposit anything under a grand with no questions asked, so I'd drop in £990 every few weeks. In hindsight, this was obviously dumb: different banks have different guidelines, and it's likely the amounts I was depositing wouldn't raise any eyebrows, but had someone taken even a passing look at my situation – an unemployment student making hundreds of pounds on a weekly basis – it wouldn't have taken long to put two and two together.
I left university with good grades, but there's surprisingly scant post-grad careers advice offered to people who have got used to being flush literally all the time. A lot of student dealers think they'll go straight, but – once you're done with uni – your landlord won't pause your rent while you find a decent job, and that recruitment firm starting salary looks as unattractive as ever, so the only logical thing to do is keep on selling. Plus, being a NUS card-carrying trapper gives you a really shitty work ethic.
"I think the problem is that, when you replace shotting with a regular job, you feel cheated," says a friend who was also a dealer. "You've raked it in with minimal effort, and now the rewarding life you've been planning on just leaves you skint and depressed, so you feel like you have to carry on, otherwise it's a step back."
So, instead of calming down like my graduate friends, I did what my other dealer mates did: started looking further afield for customers.
Before long, I noticed that less familiar numbers were calling my phone, and that the people I was meeting were unpredictable and clearly had a problematic relationship with drugs. The job was beginning to make me paranoid, and I was starting to realise that selling drugs might actually be as terrible as BBC Three wants us to believe.
"At uni, I knew everyone who would bell me, but when I carried on after it all went nuts," says another friend who sold drugs. "My number went round some people and I ended up getting calls from this lost cause of a person. I went to meet him and he had so much powder round his face it looked like a Geisha, and his teeth were blue from chewing Valium all day. For whatever reason he thought I ripped him off, so he started phoning me and saying he's going to kill me. That went on for months before I managed to shake him."
It took nearly two years out of university before I decided to call it a day: drugs were still paying the bills until that point, but paranoia, lack of fulfilment and the fear of getting left behind began to affect my mental health. By this point I'd done so little proper work that my CV looked like Amazon's tax invoice, and I was unceremoniously dropped back at square one.
The student market is a goldmine for drug dealers, but it has a shelf life. You need to get out before you turn into the guy whispering "coke, pills, weed" at 18-year-olds outside a student union.