As an elementary school student, I can clearly remember sitting in my weekly DARE, or Drug Abuse Resistance Education class, learning about the harmful side effects of illegal drugs.
As a child, drug use seemed destructive and immoral. The risk of hallucinations, short-term memory loss, increased heart rate and blood pressure, heart attack, and even death have never appealed to me.
At the end of my sixth grade year, I “graduated” from the DARE program. My classmates and I all entered an essay competition to summarize our feelings about the program. We simultaneously wrote papers swearing off the use of drugs for the remainder of our lives.
My essay won our competition and was read in front of our school. This award only cemented my already negative feelings about drug use.
Although the hope to remain drug free is idealistic, it is far from a reality. As I grew older, I began to see issues discussed in my DARE classes happen in life.
Beginning in middle school, some of my friends began to smoke marijuana on a semi-regular basis. The issue only became more prevalent as I entered high school and college.
By this time, drug use had escalated to other types of drugs besides marijuana. Students began abusing prescription drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, in order to achieve high test scores and even snorted cocaine before a night out. Aside from alcohol, drugs became a social and common way to spend free time.
College students make up one of the largest groups of drug abusers nationwide, according to the Addiction Center. Contrary to the popularly accepted stereotype of thuggish drug dealers, typical dealers have become fraternity boys looking to make an extra buck or 4.0 students selling Adderall to classmates struggling to make an A.
A study released by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia found that the number of teenagers abusing prescription medications tripled from 1992 to 2003, with the number only increasing.
I am affected by this every day as I see my peers succumbing to the effect and addiction of drugs. Several of my close friends in college have become dependent on marijuana in order to perform well in their daily lives. Smoking before class, bed, or in order to become hungry have become a reality I have seen often.
But as these students continue to abuse drugs, I have noticed a lapse in their personality. Once vibrant personalities have dulled, tasks that once seemed mundane have become strenuous, and sitting on a couch high, day in and day out, suddenly sounds appealing. Students’ drive for schoolwork, friends, and life in general is minimal. The effect is glaring.
The occasional recreational use of marijuana and other drugs have been surpassed as students continue to experiment. In many ways, marijuana can be considered a “gateway drug” and is likely to precede the use of other illegal and hardcore drugs.
Although this idea has long been surrounded in controversy, I firmly believe the use of “gateway drugs” leads to the progression of more serious drugs, such as coke or ecstasy.
At some point, the high you experience when regularly using marijuana may become old and unsatisfactory. I’ve seen this firsthand with many of my friends as they begin to try other hardcore drugs craving a new or “better” high.
According to data from the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders, adults 18 and up who use marijuana regularly are highly susceptible to other substance abuse disorders. To me, this statistic is concerning. Based on this data, a majority of youths will develop a serious drug problem if this pattern continues.
Because of the presence of drugs in society, the prevalence of drugs on campuses has become a norm. Sadly, the typical student is unfazed when seeing someone snort a line or coke or smoke a joint at a party. We, as college students, associate drugs with fun and not life threatening substances.
The attitudes I experienced as a child towards drugs, have significantly changed. Whether this is from prevalent drug use in society, the desire for students to perform well, or the high, people have become desensitized to them.
Drugs have become an accepted norm with no real concern for their consequences. The effect they exhibit upon the individual goes unnoticed as they crave the high the drugs provide.