Young people at this time in the history of the US are facing difficult choices. Like every other generation, kids in middle school want to spread their wings, experience more freedom, and make their own decisions. Your moms and dads felt the same way when they were your age, but the world you will be navigating is much different than the one through which your parents traveled. You need to know about some of the difficult issues you will probably face.
Today, tweens and teens are faced with knowing a person who is using or knows first-hand about drug usage. It is not unusual for young people in middle school to have friends who use marijuana, cigarettes, pain pills, stimulants, performance enhancing drugs, alcohol, and other substances every day. Some young ones even find a way or find a person to get their or someone else’s parents’ or grandparents’ prescription drugs.
It’s not unusual for someone to approach a friend or you with a pill or an assortment of capsules, tablets, or powders. But, here’s the thing: as much as you may want to join in on what looks like fun and as much as you trust your friends, trouble could be looking you right in the eye.
Some kids who take their parents’ prescription drugs do not know what the medicines are and how they affect their bodies. Sometimes, the drugs have been given to your friends, or your friends have purchased drugs that are not what your friends were told they were. In other words, as harsh as this may sound, you could be taking something that could harm you in an extremely serious manner even though you got it from your friend.
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, health education classes focused on the negative impact of drug use began to be offered to children in the third-grade, beginning in the 2004-2005 school year.
- NIDA adds that after marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most misused substances for American 14-year-olds and older.
- The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that many people do not think prescription drugs are dangerous.
- In 2009, drug overdose deaths far outnumbered deaths due to motor vehicle crashes.
- The recreational use of many drugs, including prescription drugs, may lead to transitions to more dangerous drug use.
- Opioids, alone or along with other drugs or alcohol, were involved in almost 60% of drug overdoses in 2010.
Physical, mental, and legal consequences
A young person’s health can be affected by taking illegal drugs and prescription drugs. Where prescription medicines are concerned, a doctor takes a person’s weight, the length that person will need the medication, and other conditions into account before they prescribe a specific drug to a patient. Even then, the person to whom the prescription has been given may still have harmful side effects. Doctors also keep track of other medicines the patient is taking to avoid any interactions between drugs.
Your brain has neurotransmitters that send messages by attaching to receptors on cells nearby. If you take a prescription opioid it gives these receptors the same response as they have to heroin.
Stimulants, like Adderall, make your receptors receive a message similar to the one sent by cocaine. Prescription depressants make the body and brain have the same reaction as that transmitted by club drugs such as GHB and Rohypnol, a strong sedative (a calming and sleep-inducing drug).
Legally, the consequences of using drugs are scary. The National Crime Prevention Council explains that the more dangerous the drug, the more the likelihood of a felony charge. A felony is usually punishable by imprisonment for more than a year. The amount of the drug possessed determines the consequences, as well. If distribution (selling) is involved, this results in a felony charge based on the quantity of the substance or drug paraphernalia (items used to ingest [use] the drug, such as a pipe for marijuana).
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Reasons to avoid drugs
There are many reasons why you should avoid using drugs altogether. The most important reasons include:
- Getting involved with drugs means that your normal ability to make judgment calls is distorted. When your decision-making skills are altered, you can be persuaded to do things you would not normally do.
- If you accept drugs from someone else, there is no way to know if what you are using is really what your friend says it is. Your friend may not even know if something might have been added to the drugs you are considering.
- Some drugs are called “gateway” drugs, meaning their use may cause you to experiment with stronger drugs.
- If you are pushed to try an inhalant (products that are breathed in like nail polish remover, paint, or white out), you might experience nausea, brain damage, or death.
- Drug users can develop a sensitivity to the drugs he or she uses, which results in using more of the drug to feel the same effects. Increased use of a drug that you cannot stop is called addiction.
- Nicotine in cigarettes is addicting. Smoking can result in emphysema, which is a lung disease that keeps your lungs from absorbing enough oxygen.
- Drinking a large amount of alcohol at one time can lead to alcohol poisoning.
- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that alcohol use during the teenage years can interfere with normal brain development.
- Using drugs or alcohol when driving can result in car crashes. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Approximately one-quarter of teen crashes involve a driver who is underage and drinking.
- Believing the advertisements for alcohol and tobacco is being uninformed. These companies do not show the negative effects of these products.
Your future is based on decisions you make right now. Using drugs, prescription drugs, and other mood-altering substances can result in situations and events that could change your life forever. Make your own decisions; stand on your own two feet. Never take a chance that could ruin your well-being. Never take a substance of any kind that you can’t totally identify.