Who Decided Drinking and Drugs Were Cool?
by Adaeze Okoli, age 16, and Claire Miller, age 18
It’s Saturday night. Red and blue plastic cups are scattered across the floor. You are wasted. You stand up and attempt to walk, but you struggle with each step.
Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot…You’re using all your concentration to focus on moving your feet forward. The room begins spinning. You lose control and fall flat on your face.
Your “friends” then begin to laugh and jeer at you. You still can’t think straight, let alone walk straight. So you lie there on the floor, stomach churning, feeling nauseous. Your “friends” roll in laughter.
Most of us already know that this lifestyle can have serious and negative long-term effects. Being a substance abuser can severely damage your social life and your finances. And, most importantly, it will damage your physical and mental health. While your future plans might not be set in stone, substance abuse is a surefire way to ruin any goal.
Many people experiment with controlled substances with little result. They wake up in the morning with little more than a hangover. But if you assume that the long-term negative effect won’t catch up with you will happen with if you continue using is just plain wrong. The short-term effects may not seem serious, but in the long term they will hit you hard.
Young people start experimenting with drinking or drugs for a variety of reasons, but most people are first introduced in social settings.
Some people begin using controlled substances to numb the pain of depression. They may know, but don’t care, about the consequences.
Others might start because they feel pressured to use drugs or alcohol to elevate their social status. If someone tries to pressure you into doing drugs or drinking, they don’t deserve to be your friend.
Still others begin using out of sheer boredom. But however bored you may be, there are so many more interesting and entertaining things to do with your time. Spend some time with friends who make good decisions, work out, watch a movie, read or even write a book, play a game, go to a museum, practice something… the list goes on for days.
This list could easily go on for days—or a whole lifetime. And everything on this list is way more fun than throwing up or looking stupid. Becoming an object of humiliation by not being in control of yourself is just not cool.
The media and its glamorized images of glorified binge drinking and drug use don’t tell the story. T.V. and the media constantly bombard us, but rarely show the real effects of alcohol or drugs. In fact, did you know that the shows with the highest ratings among teenagers have alcohol advertising? Research shows that by being exposed to alcohol advertising through television, teenagers are desensitized to the harmful effects of alcohol.
Substance abuse can seriously damage a user’s physical and mental health. This is especially for teenagers. Early drinking increases the risk of addiction by as much as six times. Alcohol is also a gateway. Statistics prove that teenage alcohol users are much more likely to use other drugs.
The earlier a person starts using drugs, the more long-term the damage to the brain. Experts tell us that human brain is not completely developed until age 25. The parts of the brain that control judgment, motivation, and emotion continue to grow during our teen years.
Unfortunately, these are the same parts of the brain most affected by substance abuse. Damage done to the brain while it is still growing can be permanent. Want a damaged brain? Just drink some whiskey.
Substance abuse can also lead to a slew of problems associated with mental health. For example, depression and suicidal thoughts are 11 percent higher among kids who drink regularly than those who do not. Delinquency among drinkers is 34 percent, while only five percent of non-drinkers are delinquent.
The facts are actually quite clear. Drugs and alcohol have many negative effects. To take chances with your brain, your life, or your future is just not very smart. Your finances, social life, and health are way too important to throw away on a whim.
[Sources: Dane County Coalition to Reduce Alcohol Abuse; The New York Times; The Marin Institute]