High school not the time to experiment with drugs

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Parents always hound their children to try new things — eat broccoli, ride a bike, play the piano. Although we may not have loved this constant pressure back then, we benefited immensely from stepping outside of our comfort zone. Now, as high schoolers, many of us believe that we should continue this trend of experimentation with alcohol and marijuana instead of vegetables and harmless hobbies. However, it simply is not worth it. 

Substance use is becoming a more prevalent issue in our community. In 2017, according to the Pennsylvania Youth Survey, as grade level increased, the percentage of students who had tried drugs increased. For example, 71.6% and 41.4% of high school seniors in Chester County had previously used alcohol and marijuana, respectively.

The most obvious reason why high schoolers should not experiment with drugs is that it is illegal. The drinking age is 21, and, in Pennsylvania, recreational marijuana is illicit. But for many, this is unfortunately an inadequate justification.

If this is the case, the risk of addiction should serve as a major deterrent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. If the user is younger than 18, which most high school students are, the probability increases to one in six. Likewise, as reported by Time magazine, someone who starts drinking between the ages of 11 and 14 has a 16% chance of becoming an alcoholic a decade later, as compared to the one percent chance for those 19 and older.

To some, the likelihood of addiction might be low, but there are many other negative consequences associated with drug use. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, problems include memory and concentration difficulties, increased aggression, use of other drugs, and worsening of underlying mental health conditions. So even though you may be able to achieve a brief moment of euphoria, you do it at the cost of your academic performance, ability to connect with others and general livelihood.

Often times, high schoolers use drugs like alcohol and marijuana at parties or hangouts, where their desire to experiment is paired with the strong influence of peer pressure. The danger in highly social situations like these lies in the decisions high schoolers make once intoxicated. The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens states that they are more likely to take risks, such as engaging in sexual or violent behaviors. Under the influence, you do not want to make a mistake that will stain your record and possibly interfere with your future.

Drug addiction and overdose deaths are not isolated incidents found only in news stories. They are part of an epidemic that has struck our Conestoga community, with multiple alumni passing away much too early. We grieve but think that it will never happen to us. And that may be true — the odds are not terribly high — but there is no point in deliberately increasing the chances. Sometimes family issues and other life problems can make happiness seem out of reach, but drugs are a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Perhaps the best thing to do is find something you enjoy and commit to it. Play frisbee, watch a movie or spend time with friends. That way, you are capitalizing on all of the joy without suffering from any of the drawbacks.