Drugs: Choice or Pressure?

Ms.+Lori+Pristera%27s+class+advocates+for+a+drug-free+life+during+Red+Ribbon+Week+October+20+through+October+24.

Photo by: Rhiannan Ruef

Ms. Lori Pristera's class advocates for a drug-free life during Red Ribbon Week October 20 through October 24.

Banners sporting anti-drug abuse slogans and traced hand pledges were displayed across Cam High’s campus as students and staff, along with many other schools around the country, celebrated Red Ribbon Week.

Many students, in the spirit of Red Ribbon week, wore red and made pledges to stay drug free. “I am totally against [drugs], because you are slowly killing yourself [by using them],” said Mikayla Burnett, junior.

There were just over 2.8 million new users (initiates) of illicit drugs in 2012, or about 7,898 new users per day, according to a 2012 survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Most people use drugs for the first time when they are teenagers; half (52 percent) being under 18.

“Drugs aren’t good, especially if you have a good life ahead of you,” said Margaret Thorne, freshman. “It will just bring you down.”

Many Cam High students said that students who abuse drugs usually start because of the peer pressure. This can come from crowds, friends, and even family. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, teenagers at risk for developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those:

  • with a family history of substance use disorders
  • who are depressed
  • who have low self-esteem
  • who feel like they don’t fit in or are out of the mainstream

“When it comes to peer pressure, everybody says that you shouldn’t give in, but I think it’s also really hard not to, especially if your friends are pressuring you or if you see your family doing [drugs],” said Alexis Pratt, senior.

Zac Thatcher, junior, said, “People are really pressured into doing drugs because their friends do them or they think it will make them cool. It’s pretty stupid. It’s not worth it.”

Several students agreed that the social pressures in high school in particular are quite intense and emphasize fitting in. “I think a lot of the time people do [drugs] because they want to fit in, but no one can truly fit in,” said Samantha Wilber, senior. “So everyone is doing [drugs] more and more and more because they want to fit in with [people] they thought they didn’t fit in with. It’s a never ending cycle of wanting to fit in.”

On an international scale, America has the leading rates of prescription drug abuse, according statistics taken by the Foundation for a Drug Free World. Prescription drug abuse was proven to cause more deaths than well known street drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and several amphetamines combined.

Studies have shown that one of many primary causes of substance abuse is various mental disorders. These include social anxiety, clinical depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many prescription drugs used to treat mental disorders alter the brain’s dopamine (“feel good” chemical) levels.

Several long term effects of chronic substance abuse include changes in the brain’s function, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and many varying physical deteriorations.

“Are you sick? No. Are you mentally ill? No. Okay, then you probably shouldn’t be doing [drugs],” said Wilber.

Of American substance abusers, millions are adolescents. There are multiple organizations dedicated to drug awareness, including informational websites and hotlines. For tips on staying sober, click here.