A High School Student’s Perspective on the World of Drugs
Drugs are bad. A phrase you and I have heard so much that all of the meaning behind it is lost. We have been given pamphlets that told us not to do meth because it will rot our teeth and ruin our bodies, and while these are true, they were given by adults with little to no connection with the youth. In this article we will explore the effects of drugs but from a high school student’s perspective.
Marijuana, pot, weed, or even jazz cabbage¹. So many names for a such a simple drug shows just how deeply ingrained marijuana is in our culture, and yes, it is true that marijuana use is safer than alcohol use, but that does not mean that it is completely safe (even though many marijuana advocates may have you believe otherwise). Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, ranking higher in likelihood of abuse than cocaine², and in 2016, roughly 653,249 people were arrested for the violation of marijuana-related laws. In 2016 there were more arrests for marijuana law violations than rape, murder, robbery, and aggravated assault combined. In 2013, Washington state experienced a total of 436 fatal crashes and of those drivers, 40 tested positive for THC and in 2014, out of the 462 fatal crashes, 85 drivers tested positive for the drug³. Here is where the negative effects of marijuana begin to show. THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol4, and is the chemical compound that results in the psychoactive high of smoking pot. When marijuana is smoked, the THC compound enters the lungs and is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, allowing it to quickly reach the brain and give off the “high” feeling. Along with this high, most users will receive a heightened heart rate (20-50 bpm) due to lowered blood pressure, short term memory impairment, poor coordination/slowed reactions (potential causes of car crashes) and heightened anxiety. Anxiety holds a strange relationship with marijuana because on one hand, it can be used to treat anxiety, but on the other, it can induce panic attacks. In fact, many studies show that heavy/frequent consumption of marijuana during adolescence may contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder leading into young adulthood. One study suggest that marijuana can also cause or lead to depressive symptoms, because those who usually smoke marijuana have depressive symptoms than those who do not (Lev-Ran et al., 2014; Pacek et al., 2013). Not only this but long-term use can lead to early onset psychosis and alzheimer’s, inflammatory lung problems, and even gum disease. Many issues with marijuana arise after using for an extended period of time 5, so those getting into marijuana would believe it is okay to do marijuana occasionally but, it is highly addictive6 and getting hooked on pot is easier than they would think. Another big problem with pot addiction is how it will burn a hole in any man’s7 wallet, and contrary to popular beliefs, many heavy users will go through withdrawals which can be a terrible experience.
After interviewing a pro-marijuana student at Apex High School about their opinions on marijuana and after the many positives they listed, they had this to say about the downsides, “[Marijuana] gives people a short term memory, costs a ton of money, and if you use frequently, doin’ stuff starts to becoming really boring when you’re not blazed8.”
The student also informed me of something that someone who is completely intent on smoking weed (even though in NC it is highly illegal) should know about. Synthetic marijuana. This “marijuana” should be avoided at all costs and is a massive problem in the U.K. as well as some parts of the U.S. because the predominant synthetic pot company creates a product called “Spice” and unlike marijuana, you can overdose on it. Cheap, quick, and a powerful high, the appeal is evident but will turn your life into a living hell. For more information on synthetic pot check out this documentary from Vice (Warning, graphic): http://tiny.cc/9er0sy
However, marijuana is not all bad, and in fact, it can have a very positive relationship with cancer as it can treat mild pain, reduce nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and in very specific cases, slow cancer cells. It can also help users deal with the horrible disease of PTSD, can relieve pains, and can decrease epileptic seizures. In fact, famous voice actor Morgan Freeman is an avid user of marijuana and says “I have fibromyalgia pain in [a] arm, and the only thing that offers any relief is marijuana.”
Opioids, central nervous system depressants, and stimulants are all pills being abused by all different kinds of people, and for multiple reasons. Painkiller abuse has quadrupled in the U.S. since 1999 due to the highly addictive nature of painkillers as well as the frequency at which they are passed out by doctors. The opioid crisis in America is evident and everyday scientists are trying to solve the problem9, and just in 2016, 42,249 people died from opioid overdoses. There are no upsides to opioid abuse, and it is easy to get addicted to within just the first use, something 2.1 million people in 2016 were afflicted by. Not only is it incredibly easy to overdose on most opioids, they are also considered an extreme gateway drug, and reportedly, 80% of heroin users were once addicted to painkillers. Opioid addiction can ruin the lives of not only the user, but their family, and loved ones10. However, there has been a recent development in America and Canada with addictions to a synthetic opioid one hundred times as strong as heroin. Fentanyl.
This painkiller is used to eliminate severe pain and sometimes used to sedate people undergoing operations. Fentanyl has been linked to Chinese importation and is surprisingly easy to gain access too. Because this drug is so much stronger than heroin, it is incredibly easy to overdose on and in 2017, of the 64,000 drug overdoses11, fentanyl was responsible for 20,000 overdoses.
Now we move on to central nervous system depressants (CNS). CNS have absolutely exploded in popularity especially in the modern rap community with benzodiazepines (benzos) being placed in the spotlight. The most commonly abused benzos are Xanax and codeine (cough syrup) because they act as anti-anxiety medication that makes the user extremely relaxed, drowsy, and “out of it”. Both of these drugs have found their niches in the rap community with rappers like Lil Peep who, sadly died from overdosing on what was reported to be some kind of xanax in November of last year. His song, “Benz Truck” featured the line “Drugs in my nose, good drugs in my cup” referring to cocaine use in his nose as well as “lean12” use in his cup. Lil Peep’s death did however, lead to rap stars like Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Xan to begin to change their ways because they realized just how dangerous these drugs actually are, and hopefully they can set a good example for the youth of today.
Stimulants; cocaine, adderall, and other amphetamines. Cocaine is very bad for you13 there is no way around that. Cocaine may make some people happy for a short amount of time, but the comedown14t, withdrawals, and long term effects begin to turn the user’s life into a misery. Cocaine is a very popular party drug and most people take it thinking they will not become addicted, and while this is true for some people, for most they will become hooked, find more, do more, and then they will be in a world of hurt. Cocaine is a stimulant, it causes an increased body temperature, increased confidence, loss of (some) feelings of pain and fatigue, loss of appetite15, and overall exhilaration. Sounds good right? Perhaps. But when the effects it has are taken into consideration you are guaranteed to change your mind; brain chemical imbalance, constricted blood vessels (which can easily cause organ failure), insomnia, and nasal deformities and loss of smell to name a few. Nasal deformities are caused due to the way cocaine is taken, by snorting. Snorting cocaine causes the drug to be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucous membrane, immediately causing the membrane’s blood vessels to shrink, making them very irritated and inflamed.
However, the withdrawals from quitting cocaine and the comedown have always been considered the worst part of the addiction, and even though withdrawals are somewhat different for everyone, there are some common experiences. Mood change are a big one and most people going through withdrawals will feel depressed, anxious, and very irritable. They will also experience overall aches, and since they have been high for so long, all of these small aches that normally would be no more than a small unpleasantry, are now magnified. Another symptom is fatigue, but the worst part about this fatigue are the sleeping problems. Tossing and turning all night while in pain, feeling depressed and anxious, and very tired all at the same time makes life a living hell. Do not do cocaine, not even once. Not only can cocaine ruin your nose, but also your voice and your organs, and often times longer-term cocaine users will experience something as brutal as organ failure, and even something like tearing a vocal cord, like lead singer of heavy metal (ex metalcore) group Asking alexandria, Danny Worsnop. Luckily, Worsnop received surgery for his cords, gotten rid of his addiction, and is now touring with his band again.
Vaping is not as unhealthy as smoking cigarettes but that does not mean that it is healthy. In fact, many students at Apex vape or juul16 under the impression it will not have any adverse effects on them, but they are wrong. Recent studies have shown that a condition known as “smoker’s cough” which is categorized by a persistent, strong cough. Another side effect being examined are only present in flavors of e-liquid that utilize diacetyl, a buttery-flavored chemical that has, in the past, given employees at microwavable butter factories a lung condition called “popcorn lung”. Many teen vapers have reported the symptoms of popcorn lung; wheezing, dry cough, difficult with deep breathing, shortness of breath, and even skin and mouth irritation. The biggest concern with teen vaping (disregarding the cost) is that, vaping has not been around long enough for there to be definite answers for what will happen late into adulthood, and in fact, when mice were exposed to 10mg/ml e-ciggarette solution for three hours a day, five days a week, spanning four months, the results (although specific to mice) showed damages to the rat’s DNA, specifically the bladder, heart, and lung cells.
Drug use is not to be taken lightly, and if you know someone who is struggling, who is fighting, you need to be the one to help them. Many of your peers at Apex could be struggling with mental problems and as a result, may or already have turn to drug use to cope. Whatever the reason, it is important that these people get help and support from their family, friends, and even fellow students. If you are struggling with an addiction, talk about it and get help. For more ways to get help, go to www.samhsa.gov for treatment programs, hotlines, and much more.
1. Although, “jazz cabbage” is not very common use.and the only place I have seen its use was in a meme. But that still counts!
2. Strangely enough, this is true, and you can check out the rest of the ‘schedules’ and the drugs that fall under them here: https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml
3. This does not mean that they were all smoking pot directly before driving as THC can remain in the body for up to 30 days for frequent users.
4. Good luck to whoever gets this in a spelling bee.
5. I will be ignoring the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug because the arguments are very evenly split.
6. Although, one would not depend on marijuana like one would crack.
7. Or whatever you identify as.
9. Check out this article on painkiller nasal spray that could possibly end opioid addictions: http://tiny.cc/ltu0sy
10. Read the story of a mother who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose: http://tiny.cc/pav0sy
11. This is a different statistic than the previous 42,000 because this one is total drug overdoses whereas the previous was opioid overdoses.
12. Lean is the slang term for cough syrup mixed with Sprite often put into Styrofoam cups. The same combination that almost killed Lil Wayne a few years back
13. To put it lightly.
14. The deterioration in mood that happens as a psychoactive drug, typically a stimulant, is either decreasing or is cleared from the blood and thus the cerebral circulation: (http://tiny.cc/4fx0sy)
15. This loss of appetite is why some heavy cocaine users lose lots of weight.
16. Juuling is a recent phenomenon. Juuls are vaporizers that utilize “pods” of juice, and are shaped similarly to flash drives, allowing them to be carried around in school undetected.