Youth drug usage
High school drug usage has affected the youth throughout history. Through analyzing what type of drug usage high schoolers today are using, and the lasting effects it has on their bodies, astonishing statistics support the popularity of alcohol, marijuana and nicotine usage in today’s youth. Through awareness via mental health focused classes, educating our youth beginning at a young age and continue throughout their academic career and organizations such as D.A.R.E., drug usage can be combatted and decreased.
Awareness to social problems beyond course work
Drug usage in high school students is common today. However, through experience, communication with peers about their high school experiences and observations, drug use appears highly overlooked because it seems like it is not seen as a “major” problem. Many people view it as “kids being kids” and that it will not have lasting effects. However, through this project, it was discovered that this is the total opposite of what can happen. When a person experiments with drugs repeatedly, his/her body starts to become accustom to them. Thus, over time and with usage, it requires their body to intake more than it initially did. This ultimately can lead to addiction, physical developmental problems and mental health issues (DrugRehab.com). According to a study done by DrugRehab.com, nearly 60% of high school students have tried alcohol, and approximately 50% have tried some form of “hard” drug.
Unfortunately, those individuals that partake in experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol do not realize the lasting effects of them. First, the abuse of these substances can impact their school performance. Also, they may lose interest in physical and positive, healthy social extra-curricular activities. It is possible that continued drug/alcohol usage can lead to larger issues such as truancy and even leaving school altogether. Also, there is a direct correlation between minors consuming under age and increases in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and increased suicide attempts. In addition, those who drink prior to being 21 years old are 43% more likely to become alcoholics. Along with the mental health aspects, physical developmental problems can arise from abused drug usage. For instance, alcohol abuse in minors can decrease the expected height up to 4.6 inches. Although there are medical purposes for it, marijuana usage specifically can have lasting negative physical effects. Despite the many risks of using it, this is a very popular drug amongst high schoolers. In a survey conducted by DrugRehab.com, 70% of high schoolers do not see this drug as harmful. However, marijuana can affect parts of the brain that are still developing. Also, it can increase aging of the brain, ultimately leading to diseases such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. Nicotine, the third most popular drug amongst kids aged 9th-12th grade, has numerous health risks. More specifically, vaping is the popular form of consuming this drug. Initially, vaping was developed to help smokers quit. However, today that is not the case. High schoolers are starting out with vaping, and then moving onto cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 30.7% of those who vape will smoke cigarettes within the next six months. Nicotine’s health risks include harming adolescent brains, influencing other drugs and can ultimately cause cancer. Youth drug usage cannot be overlooked. If the trend continues, drugs can lead to an increase of deaths, addiction, and many mental and physical health issues.
Education is the key to bring awareness to this social problem. One way to do this is through informational pamphlets made available to educators, parents and teens at schools and doctors’ offices. These brochures would discuss the effects of drugs, how parents and educators can talk to children about them, the importance of children being involved in activities outside of school and classes/workshops that are offered in the area that are mental health focused. Schools need to provide mental health and drug awareness focused presentations throughout children’s’ academic careers sharing the facts and statistics included in the brochures, Also, school workers, parents and other important adults should encourage youth to be involved in extra-curricular activities and hobbies, and the DARE program should be implemented in schools and after school organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc, YMCA, etc. Through these initiatives, youth will be more informed of the ill effects of drugs and alcohol, better equipped to make wiser choices and know they have a support system of adults.
How does it further an understanding of issues of inequality?
The project furthers an understanding of issues of inequality by pointing out the facts regarding drug usage among high schoolers. Drug use inequality can be seen, and may even begin, in secondary schools when it is being overlooked and not addressed until those who partake develop serious addictions and problems. Kids want to fit in and seek popularity in school. Also, they may feel peer pressure to take drugs. However, drug standards differ between adults and youth. Many time youth seek peer attention and do not realize the ill effects until it is too late. For instance, alcohol standards differ from adolescents to adults. Adolescents usually partake in more binge drinking than adults. However, it is in the adolescent years when they develop these binge drinking habits. If these issues are addressed with younger generations, then the inequality and standards gap will be smaller. Regarding marijuana, the inequality exists because of what youth do under the influence compared to adults. Adolescents tend to engage in riskier behavior such as driving and unprotected sex. According to the CDC, 1/8 of high schoolers nationally drive while high. If an individual drives while being under the influence of marijuana, then he/she is 65% more likely to crash the vehicle. Thus, addressing and discussing how risky behavior can lead to life altering actions with the younger generations, the inequality can be shrunk.
Lastly, the inequality in nicotine exists with older generations influencing younger ones. Educating older generations who consume nicotine about the ill effects of this drug and encourage them to be more proactive in teaching children and youth about it can help younger generations not to be under such pressure to partake. Regarding drug usage, the inequality dwells within the standards that are set between age groups. No community is immune to drugs or drug abuse however, being educated with the facts, the ill effects and ways to combat its usage can curtail its use and issues of inequality. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and Health, drug problems among college graduates are nearly one-third lower than those for high school dropouts and those who do not have an education to find a job increase their odds of becoming an addict. Thus, by older generations educating youth throughout their school career, students getting addicted and dropping out of school can be reduced and thus, the inequality gap will be smaller.
How does it relate to core course concepts, theories, methods, and to sociological approaches to studying social problems?
High school drug usage relates directly to the core concept of alcohol and drug abuse being discussed in class. Younger generations partake in risky behavior which can ultimately lead to alcohol and drug abuse. Although there are many different approaches to studying this problem, the functionalist theory is the best. The functionalist theory suggests “every piece of society is interdependent and contributes to the functioning of society as a whole unit.” This lens allows us to realize that there is a discrepancy in how our society is functioning. The discrepancy exists because these younger generations are partaking in drug usage and not necessarily being educated or provided alternatives that direct them into a more positive, healthy path. By them doing this, society is not working to its maximum potential. For instance, by looking at the example of job productivity, perhaps those who are in the work force need to increase their productivity because younger generations are becoming addicted to drugs, making them incapable of performing to their full potential. According to the functionalist theory, gradual social reform is what is needed to address the social issue of youth drug usage. This is done through the communities working together, educating our youth and guiding them into a more productive, healthy lifestyle.
How is the project a form of social action to address the social problem?
This project served as a social action by raising awareness of drug use and possible ways the community can combat usage. By identifying the top three common drugs used by high schoolers, parents and peers will become more aware of them. Also, not only does the project bring awareness to these drugs, but also it states facts, statistics and possible lasting effects these drugs can have on an individual. According to Teendrugrehab, if parents and children converse about drugs, they are 42% less likely to engage with drugs. However, only 25% of parents have these conversations with their kids. By making informative brochures containing facts and statistics about drug use and effects as well as possible ways to combat this issue such as education and mental health focused classes, community members and youth will be better informed. The brochures are a wonderful resource to encourage parents and children to have open conversations about drug use. The goal of these brochures is to have them readily available at schools, after school organizations, doctors’ offices, etc and used to combat this epidemic.
How does this project connect to local organizations focusing on the same problem?
A local organization the brochures directly correlate with is D.A.R.E. This stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. The D.A.R.E. organization has been around since 1980 and focuses on addressing different drug resistance techniques. It is taught by local police officers and targets students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. It is executed in more than 75% of school districts nationally and exists in 52 countries globally. According to their website, they provide the most comprehensive drug prevention curricula in the world. The program provides universal prevention rather than just focusing on at-risk students. Their main goal of their curriculum-driven school-based drug prevention program is to encourage students to make decisions to never use drugs (dare.com). The program, like the project brochure, provides facts and statistics regarding drug use. Also, the program opens the door for parent-child conversations about this topic much like the brochures do. It is an easy program for schools and after school organizations to implement. The program consists of ten 45-60 minute lessons taught by a trained D.A.R.E. police officer. The cost is $1.29 per student which is for the student’s workbook. Upon completion of the course, the school/organization can have a celebration “graduation” from the program when students sign to be drug free (dare.com).
In conclusion, through this project, much knowledge was gained about the social problem of drug and alcohol usage among today’s youth. By creating a readily available brochure that educates and provides school workers, parents, guardians and child care employees with facts and statistics regarding drug use and its effects, quality informative conversations with youth can take place. The goal of this project is to not only promote open, positive dialogue about drugs between adults and youth but also bring awareness to the drug abuse issue among youth and promote the availability of mental health focused classes and living a healthy, positive life style.