The Reality of Teen Drug Abuse
Nearly 21 million Americans use or have used an illicit drug in the past year. With the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, more and more teens have abused this substance and have even begun to abuse more potent and dangerous products.
A survey of 68 WHS students was conducted on drug, alcohol, and tobacco use. 66.7% of students say they have tried alcohol in the last year and 45.6% percent say they have smoked weed in the last year. Only 29% of students reported that they have never drank alcohol and 55% claim they’ve never smoked weed.
“It makes me feel good,” shares an anonymous user, “it’s a good escape. Like a reward after I’ve done everything I have to do.”
And this is a common statement among a lot of teens that use drugs or alcohol. According to a DEA resource for parents on teen drug abuse, teens say they use drugs or alcohol to relieve boredom, feel good, forget their troubles, relax, satisfy their curiosity, ease their pain, feel grown up, show their independence, or belong to a specific group.
When asked why they smoke weed, a senior and anonymous user said they “use drugs mostly at parties to look cool, relax, be more social. And you can experiment with different people who are more popular than you. If you screw up you can always blame the drugs for being so weird.”
Marijuana has become very cheap and easy to obtain due to the new laws that have loosened the grip on marijuana control. Although the recreational marijuana laws only allow people 21 or older to use these substances, many have used their age privilege to stock up and sell marijuana products to teenagers. That is one of the many ways students get a hold of marijuana. Another way is students growing their own product and selling it. Although no marijuana overdoses have ever been reported in the history of mankind, marijuana can affect teens developing brain and can deduct ten points from their IQ levels.
“It just relaxes you and slows the day down,” said a user. “After a long day at school it helps me unwind and sleep.”
Marijuana and alcohol are not the only substances being abused by high schoolers, however. More lethal and potent substances have emerged in high school drug culture. The opioid crisis can also be seen in the high school population. Xanax, Vicodin, and codeine are the most popular drugs at the time.
According to the National Anxiety Foundation , Xanax or Alprazolam is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines which act on the brain and nerves (central nervous system) to produce a calming effect. It works by enhancing the effects of a certain natural chemical in the body. When taken in large amounts it can create euphoric episodes, can induce a deep sleep in users, and in extreme cases may cause amnesia.
“There are different colors of Xanax: Yellow, white, green,” disclosed a users. “They vary in potency as well as size.”
Vicodin is an opiate pain killer that contains hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opioid , while acetaminophen is added to increase the effectiveness of the drug. Like all opiates, its effects are achieved when the substance enters the body and connects to opioid receptors. Vicodin has similar effects as Xanax when taken in large amounts.
And codeine, a sleep - inducing and analgesic drug derived from morphine is commonly abused by teens . Codeine is most commonly found in prescription cough syrup. Codeine can also be easily extracted by your average AS Chem student from Vicodin pills and added to a cup with sprite and jolly ranchers to add a sweet taste. Cough syrup is also prepared in this way and is often called lean.
“These are really fun because you feel really warm and fuzzy and confident. They’re probably my favorite,” shared a junior user.
There are other drugs being abused by teens like cocaine and crack, but those are often more expensive and harder to get compared to the drugs above. These drugs are present the most at parties where many people pitch in to buy and share with their friend’s.
One drug that has been as popular as marijuana throughout the years is Lysergic - acid Diethylamide (LSD) or better known as acid. Acid has been around since 1938 by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. It was not until five years later on 1943, that the psychedelic properties were found when Hoffman accidentally ingested some and had the first acid trip ever. Acid induces hallucinations and can cause ego death where users will forget their identity, connect with a spiritual super being, or teleport to a nearby celestial body (not literally of course). LSD has proven harmless within itself, but the actions that it allows its users to do can be life threatening. There have been reported suicides by people who used LSD and took their own life because they experienced ego death and couldn’t figure out who they were.
A study done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America found that “LSD changes visual information in the brain. While people are on acid, they start to see activity going on in the brain, which is normally suppressed from perception...The ability to see this internal activity is likely responsible for hallucinations and visual distortions on LSD.”
Teenagers might think it’s all fun and games now abusing these drugs and being high all the time. They do many dangerous things and substance abuse is one of them. They are often harshly punished through suspension, expulsion, or even jail time. Students often resort to these drugs because they are having a hard time at school, with friend’s, or just life in general. Schools should help teens get through their addiction or out of the drug dealing ring and help them get back on track. If you are struggling with an addiction are seeking help you can always speak with your guidance counselor in the guidance office or a trusted teacher at school.
One concerned parent who did not want to reveal their identity believes “teens don’t think about the people they hurt. What will be the reaction of their parents when they get a call from the hospital at 3am saying their kid has overdosed. Students need to think about the consequences. 6 hours of a good time could result in a lifetime of pain for a parent.”
One can’t talk about drug abuse without talking about drug addiction. Thus, one can’t talk about teenage drug abuse without talking about teenage drug addiction. It is quite tempting for teenagers to try out drugs due to a variety of factors, the two most common being peer pressure and an escape from stress, and it is far easier for teens to become addicted once they try them.
Puberty and the teenage years are practically a breeding ground of factors that could increase the possibility of drug usage. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that there are five major reasons teens abuse drugs; “to fit in” or be popular with their peers; “to feel good” from the resulting high; “to feel better” and alleviate depression, stress, and physical pain; “to do better” in school, sports, and other competitive activities; and “to experiment” and satisfy natural curiosity about drugs. The NIDA’s “For Teen” website elaborates that “when making a decision, teens think about both the risks and rewards of their actions and behaviors—but, unlike adults, teens are more likely to ignore the risk in favor of the reward.” That is, teenagers are statistically more daring and less cautious than adults. Drugs are high risk but high “reward” - the risk of addiction or bodily harm contrasting with the resulting high. What an adult might deem too risky, a teenager might engage in. As well, this is only compounded by peer pressure and friends. The NIDA funded a study at Temple University in Philadelphia, that had both teens and adults “drive” a car around a computer-simulated track. The participants were often presented with a choice between running a yellow light, or stopping. The former would result in a lower time, but could also result in an accident - a high risk but high reward choice. The study found that “The adolescents, but not the older participants, chose the risky option significantly more often when they knew two of their friends were watching” . The friends never said anything to the driving teen - the mere presence of friends was enough to significantly influence the teens’ behavior.
In addition to peer pressure, stress also plays a significant role in teen drug abuse. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) has conducted back to school surveys, also known as the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse. One of the recurring results is that teens under a lot of stress are three times more likely to have used cannabis and twice as likely to have used tobacco or alcohol as teens under lesser amounts of stress . The survey specifically defined high stress as “6 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10” of stress . Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association shows that teens report an average stress level of 5.9 on a ten-point scale where ten was very stressed and one was not stressed . Adults averaged a 5.1 . 31% of surveyed teenagers said that their stress had gone up in the last year, and 34% said they thought it would go up even more in the next year . 44% said that stress had an impact on their physical health, and 48% said that it had an impact on their mental health . 30% of teens felt depressed, and 23% skipped meals, due to this stress .
The effects of stress and peer pressure on teenage drug use are astounding. According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse’s 2017 Monitoring the Future survey, 5.8% of 8th Graders, 9.4% of High School Sophomores, and 13.3% of High School Seniors abuse illicit drugs other than Cannabis, and roughly 10% of 8th Graders, 25% of High School Sophomores, and 38% and High School Seniors abusing Cannabis. 13.3% of 8th Graders, 23.9% of High School Sophomores, and 27.8% of High School Seniors abuse E-Cigarettes or Vape devices.