Drug use amongst high school students on the rise

Libby Pattan, Writer

Drug use— a trend that has been around for decades— is on the rise yet again. As substances such as marijuana become more popular among adolescents, it is no longer shocking to see an underage person partaking in illegal substances. Whether it be having fun at a party or just hanging out with some friends, different types of drugs are used and shared between teens on a daily basis. 

Although teens and drugs have been associated for a long time now, the added pressure from social media has caused the problem to skyrocket. It was previously viewed as an adventurous way to rebel against power figures and to let loose with friends; however, it has now become a factor in some teens’ everyday lives.

“When I was in high school peer pressure was huge. Whether you’re at a party or anywhere else, peer pressure happens a lot because no one wants to be that kid that’s being left out,” Fenton Area Public Schools Resource Officer Tom Cole said. “But it’s important to have a backbone because you can get addicted after one time using substances— it can happen. Peer pressure is probably over 70 percent of the reason that teens experiment with drugs.”

When a teen spends a lot of time around their peers, they generally pick up on the habits that they see in them. If these peers are experimenting with things such as drugs, unsuspecting teens who would otherwise stay away from these types of activities, will be much more likely to partake in them.

With the added aspect of social media, teens are exposed to drugs at a much younger age. Kids now have access to view things that are way out of their age range, and they begin to have a grasp on them before they are at an appropriate age to. 

For example, many social media sites allow videos and pictures to be posted that illustrate young adults and older role models using drugs and other substances that are illegal for teens. When teens see these images of people they look up to, they may assume that doing these activities is okay, and they will be more likely to want to join in on them.

Drugs have a negative effect on everyone involved. They can make people act in ways they normally wouldn’t and can cloud the mind of basic morals that determine right from wrong. However, when mixed with young minds, the outcome can be much more significant. 

Though the brain may be done growing in size, it does not finish developing and maturing until the mid- to late 20s,” The National Institution of Mental Health explains. “The front part of the brain is one of the last brain regions to mature, but it is also the area that is responsible for skills like controlling impulses. Because these skills are still developing, teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors without considering the potential results of their decisions.”

Because teens’ brains are not fully matured by the time they graduate high school, they are much more likely to experiment with drugs at a young age. Most teens have the mindset that they are invincible and think that there will be no consequences to trying something new. This, however, is not the truth.

“Criminally, at 17 you can be charged as an adult,” Cole said. “Depending on what the charge is, most likely it will go to probate court on a petition, which is basically a juvenile warrant. You’ll go in front of a judge and you’ll be put on some type of probation.” 

Although the consequences of being caught with drugs may be enough to direct some teens away from them, there are other factors that tend to pull adolescents in even more.

Many companies that sell substances that are illegal for minors tend to subtly market their products towards them indirectly. While these companies are not allowed to make illegal substances specifically for teens, they are still able to add sweet flavors and colorful packaging that will appeal to a younger audience. 

 “It has been that way for a long time. Especially with vapes, all these different flavors are directly marketing youth,” Cole said. “But they’re big multi-million dollar industries, so people don’t fight them. Which I disagree with, we should fight. However, money rules in our society unfortunately.”

As more and more teens begin to experiment with drugs and other illegal substances, it is clear to many that their young minds can’t comprehend just how negatively what they’re doing can affect their future.

While some teens would do anything to fit in and be considered cool, it is still extremely important for them to realize what they are really doing to their bodies and minds. It can lead to addiction, and other things that will possibly follow teens for the rest of their lives. That is why it is important for teens to make a conscious effort to not participate in taking drugs, and to consult a trusted parent or adult when drugs are brought up in their daily lives.