Leila Zein-Phillipson | Torrey Pines High School Junior
“I get high because the world is low. [Drugs and alcohol] are my escape from the reality of life and the pressure from school, and from society to be perfect.”
There are many expectations for teens, for example, being faultless academically as well as socially. Many teens find comfort and relief from these pressures by altering their natural state of mind by using drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol are used by teens, not only as an escape from pressures, but also for social acceptance.
“I started using in 7th grade. I was pressured into it by a friend who lived next door. It was a way to relate and I didn’t see a problem with it because it seemed to be so accepted in society through media display,” said Jake* who escalated his drug usage from Marijuana to stronger drugs including Cocaine and Percocet within three years.
For many teens, their measure of self-worth is directly related to acceptance by their peers, and their desire for social acceptance can drive them to engage in destructive behaviors, even if they know the risks they are taking.
Robert’s first experience with drug and alcohol use was at an unsupervised social gathering. “As teens we feel we are invincible and when we just want to have fun and be careless [by doing drugs and alcohol] we’re not going to think about the consequences that could affect us in the future. We live in the now.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, by the 8th grade, 52% of adolescents have consumed alcohol, 41% have smoked a cigarette, and 20% have used marijuana.
A 2005 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 5.8 percent of 12- to 17-year olds required treatment for alcohol abuse.
“[Drugs and alcohol] are certainly a big problem at high schools, especially living [in San Diego]. There is a lot of wealth around us and I feel here they may be more accessible,” said Victoria.
The San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) offers a program titled, Recovery Education Alcohol Drug Instruction (READI), for teens in the district struggling with drug and/or alcohol abuse. Students are referred to the READI program if found under the influence or in possession of illegal substances by the school or law enforcement. Students face suspension or choose to attend the program, which takes place at La Costa Canyon High School. Students and parents may also voluntarily choose to participate in the two-day program.
However, despite the temptation to use, some teens do not succumb. According to Rachel drug use is pointless. “Teens can have a good time without being under the influence. I have never given in to peer pressure and have never been asked to because I am respected for my decision to stay drug and alcohol free. I have values.”
If a teen chooses to do drugs or alcohol, it is solely their decision, whether it be for social reasons or to alter their state of mind. Other teens choose to stay substance free.
*all names changed to protect identity