By Colin Burwinkel
Drugs and alcohol are an issue for many teens. People abuse drugs and alcohol for different reasons. Some do it to be “cool” and “accepted.” Others do it to mask their pain or overcome depression. Regardless, teenagers are at a higher risk of long term negative effects than adults.
In the spring of 2012, a study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. It looked at a representative sample of 10,123 teens between the ages of 13 to 18.
The results revealed that 78 percent of U.S. teens had consumed alcohol and 43 percents had used illegal drugs. Those numbers are quite high compared to a recent poll of our student body.
290 total students from all grade levels took an anonymous poll in their study halls and health classes, with 56 percent admitting that they have used drugs or alcohol.
In that same poll, when asked if they have been in the presence of drugs or alcohol, but abstained, 81 percent answered “yes,” an alarmingly high number.
With influences such as movies that portray drinking and drug use as “cool,” such as “Project X” or “The Hangover,” having more than half of the student body statistically using, even if it is below the national average, is a big problem.
“Illegal drugs are wrong for everyone because the law and common sense says so”, Tim Clarkson, the dean of students, said.
According to the poll, there is a 59 percent increase in drug and alcohol use from your freshmen to sophomore year. Transitioning from being a freshmen to a sophomore is a change, for some, one that is too much to handle.
“There are so many more opportunities and parties to go to your summer after freshmen year,” one sophomore said, who wished to remain anonymous. “A lot of people change when they go through high school, and some get influenced by things. At least I did.”
While people do change, the consequences do not. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), auto accidents are the leading cause of death among American Teenagers.
If 72 percent of sophomores (still lower than the national average) are using drugs and alcohol in the year when they learn how to drive, this poses an issue not just for them, but for others on the road.
While St. Thomas does offer a number of resources to prevent drug and alcohol use, these steps do not erase the temptation.
Our campus does drug test. There are frequent K-9 visits. Additionally, there are many dialogues, such as Conversations that Count, sponsored by Campus Ministry.
Alcohol has a wide range of pharmacological effects on the brain. These effects result in chemical disruptions that retard the frontal lobe development in adolescence.
The frontal lobe is the decision-making part of your brain. The dopamine that is released makes you crave for the drug used to be abused over and over again. Alcoholism is genetic and can be very dangerous, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
“Several decades of research have shown that chronic heavy drinking is associated with adverse effects on the central nervous system”, said Susan Tapert, Ph.D, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California.
As seen in the poll, the percentage of upperclassmen who have used drugs or alcohol stays about the same, right around 70 percent, with 91 percent of both juniors and seniors reporting they have been around drugs and alcohol.
“There are no positive health benefits when you use recreational drugs”, health teacher Nathan Labus said.
As students go through high school and become older, they will need to learn how to avoid drugs and alcohol.
“I commend the school’s effort of wanting to keep the well being of students, but at what point does well being become a witch hunt?” junior Josh Mitford said.
The school is here to help us, and they are willing to do what it takes, so we can stay on the path to becoming young adults who appreciate the difference between right and wrong.
“As adults and administrators, we must do everything in our power to help protect our students, and help them make the right decisions,” theology teacher Rev. Jim Murphy, C.S.B. said.
While St. Thomas students are ranked nationally lower than other students in the usage of drugs or alcohol, there are still users.
“When teens are at a time when they take risks, some will take the risk to do drugs and alcohol and harm themselves”, Murphy said.
Throughout high school, students hopefully will make the right decision, using goodness, discipline and knowledge throughout their lives and to say no to drugs and alcohol.