Clearing the Air

Clearing the Air


By: Dominic Gavan
LEESBURG, VA- “Cigarettes? That’s not the problem at all. Weed is a much more common and [a] bigger deal than that,” explained senior Heather Stoudt when asked how big of a threat cigarettes posed to high school students in Loudoun County. According to the Monitor the Future National Survey (MtF), cigarette use is the lowest it has been since 1979. 19% of high school seniors have admitted to smoking a cigarette in the last month. This is a historic low and a good sign for the future. Many other drugs have seen declines in use, so the future is truly looking bright for our generation. On the flipside of this, 23% of seniors admit to smoking marijuana in the last month, up by 1% from last year’s average. What do all these statistics really mean?
Guess what? Those Above the Influence advertisements must be getting through to someone, because the statistics are significantly improving for cigarettes. Out of the big three drugs, (marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco) tobacco is the worst. Cigarettes alone, excluding all other tobacco products, are the number one cause of death in the United States. Seeing our generations’ reduced abuse of this drug is a great sign of what is to come. “Publications of the effects seem to be making a better impact,” says THS Assistant Principal Ms. Coons.  Sadly, though, 19% means almost 1 in 5 kids, which is still not great.
 
So, now it comes down to what is driving kids towards this deadly puff. “It’s hard to admit, but its peer pressure,” explains sophomore Robert Busey. This is the root of it. “I think that people will start just to fit in with a [new] group of friends. It’s not worth it,” acknowledges junior Torie Harshman. Cigarettes are not the most common drug abused by teenagers according to the MtF survey. Alcohol still tops the list with 63.5% of seniors admitting using it in the past year.
 
On a better note, the aforementioned percentage of alcohol use is down from 74.8 % in 1997, meaning the correlation suggests improvement over time. Alcohol and cigarettes aren’t the only drugs that are down in 2011. Cocaine, cough medicine, and prescription pill abuse are also down. This is great news for our generation. If this correlation continues, then next year it will be down even further! However, a new dangerous drug is replacing cigarettes and is giving marijuana a run for its money.
 
Synthetic marijuana is making a splash, with 11% of 47,000 seniors, sophomores, and eighth graders saying they have tried it. Synthetic marijuana is made in labs using chemicals you wouldn’t normally ingest, yet is legal and available in gas stations and convenience stores nationwide. It is attributed to seizures, strokes, and extreme paranoia, yet it’s rising in popularity. “K2 (synthetic marijuana) gets smoked because people want to get high and not show up on tests,” remarked freshmen Henry Manadjian. This is where marijuana can become very bad, as its psychologically addictive properties make people search for a “legal high.” These people then face harsher side effects just for a buzz.
 
With most drug abuse in high school students on a downward slope, it seems only natural that one or two must be on the rise. Cigarette use being the lowest since 1979 is a relief, being as bad as they are, but as a country we must be vigilant of newcomers such as “legal highs.” Marijuana use is up with daily use at 7% of the 47,000 students interviewed in the national survey. This is chilling for high school students to be that heavy into any drug. The future is bright with these statistics, but that doesn’t mean students, parents, and schools can ignore the ones that continue to rise. A joint effort must be made by the government and the youth to instill good habits in the younger generations. Good days are ahead for us if we can keep these drug abuse rates so low, and based on the facts, this shouldn’t change.