Addressing a silent issue: Understanding the severity of drug abuse in teenagers

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Drug and alcohol abuse is not uncommon among teenagers, but it is still an issue that is not well addressed.

Muskan Basnet, Copy Editor

Today, it is not uncommon to see drugs as a part of typical teenage culture. Many claim to do it for fun and others use it for stress relief. The normalization of drug use in teenagers has underplayed the severity of this issue. 

In a school like PV, where education and success are prioritized, students deal with constant stress coming from all sorts of avenues. This level of stress is slowly pushing teenagers closer and closer to dramatic needs for stress relief. 

A quick fix to a week’s worth of studying, testing, practicing and stressing seems to be the consumption of drugs and/or alcohol. The seemingly perfect way to relax and reward oneself for a week of hard work, or perhaps not. 

This cycle of high levels of stress and relief through drugs leads students down the path of addiction. They begin to find comfort in the sensation of being inebriated, eventually longing for it when in moments of stress. A seemingly harmless weekend can snowball into a crippling addiction. 

To students, it might not seem like there are a lot of options when it comes to stress relief. They must continue their education and extracurriculars to ensure safety in their future, leaving them little time to find healthier stress relief options. They latch onto the quickest way to feel good. 

Former PV student Grace McMonagle has struggled with addiction in the past and commented on her experience. “It’s hard to pinpoint just one reason as to why a student would turn to drugs. There is always so much going on in the world nowadays that it can range from seeing an influencer do it or by trying to cope,” McMonagle said.

“Due to drugs, I lost a lot of my high school experience. It cost me my relationship with my family and even my good friends. Smoking basically controlled my life. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t high off weed, which led to skipping and not caring for school, and I even dropped out not even a week into my junior year,” she continued. 

The lack of regard from the administration is concerning, however. This issue is not a secret; students and faculty know how prevalent the use of drugs is among the study body. Yet no true action has been taken to help and protect students. 

McMonagle also expressed her concern on the lack of awareness of teenage drug abuse. “I honestly don’t think the ‘issue’ of drugs is addressed enough. So many kids don’t realize what a majority of the ingredients are in substances whether it’s weed, carts or vapes. You never know if your dealer laced what you got, and a good majority of the time they don’t even really know all of the ingredients just because everything has advanced so much since when drugs were first found,” she stated. 

However, this issue is not specific to PV. Teen drug usage is common all over the country, in urban and suburban areas alike. What is being done to address this issue?

Finding the root of this problem is crucial. Is it the level of stress students deal with? Is it a change in social culture? It is important to understand what addiction means. When an individual has an addiction, it means that they are relieving an emotional pain in their brain through the release of dopamine. 

Drugs can provide this. When the brain experiences that euphoria and temporary pain relief, it begins to crave more, thus initiating the addiction. So, what is causing teenagers this pain that they feel the need to relieve with drugs? 

This might be different for every teen. Some might deal with more academic stress than others. Some might deal with financial struggles. And some with familial issues. Regardless of the source of stress for teenagers, it is vital that they are being taught healthy ways to deal with it. 

PV Alumnus Varun Vedula believes that students have a lack of purpose, which is often the cause of addictions. “There are a select few staff members [at PV] that put in effort to inspire people, but no one has a true sense of purpose. For that reason, students fill their time and boredom with Netflix, TikTok, porn, alcohol, weed and more,” commented Vedula. 

Support is a key factor in helping students dealing with drug abuse, and McMonagle highlighted her experience with recovery. “My parents wanted nothing but the best for me, so they enrolled me into a boarding school in Florida, where I worked on my sobriety. I even finished highschool early with a 3.5 GPA,” she explained.

Providing resources like counseling and therapy are beneficial. It is important to destigmatize these helpful resources to encourage students to take full advantage of them. Educating students on proper stress management skills not only helps students step away from the world of addiction, but it also helps them better prepare themselves for the future.