What Has Youth Become? | Teen Ink

What Has Youth Become?

June 22, 2023
By efang SILVER, Pennington, New Jersey
efang SILVER, Pennington, New Jersey
6 articles 4 photos 0 comments

Stepping into the bathrooms, the sickly sweet smell of artificial fruits or bubblegum no longer phases me. The discreet exchange of Ziploc bags filled with some kind of substance in them has become a regular occurrence. The locker room conversations about weekend parties and hangovers have become expected each afternoon before P.E. 

Drugs, vapes, alcohol, and cigarettes have become awfully accessible to young people, students especially. Maybe it's the fact that we're not supposed to have anything to do with these substances that makes it so alluring. Maybe it's the social status that one can suddenly somehow achieve by blowing wisps of smoke into their friends' faces. Or maybe it's just the feeling of forgetting life's troubles. Whatever the attraction, it has nothing on the long-term consequences that arise with substance abuse.

Many students are not completely aware of the harm that they are bringing upon themselves with underage substance abuse and since the decision-making part of a youthful brain is not yet fully developed, these harms are most definitely more difficult to recognize. From addiction and dependency to financial burdens, these substances have the potential to ruin a person's life as well as harm those around them as well. But as a high-schooler, these effects are hard to realize. 

Addiction is a perpetual yearning for another drink, another cigarette, or another high to the extent that there's nothing else one can think about. Imagine holding your breath. At a certain point, all you can think about is gasping for another breath, for oxygen to fill your lungs again. That is what addiction is. And even with just one "first" of a substance, this imagination can become a reality, a reality that has the potential to last for an entire lifetime.

There is also a wide array of health effects that can come with substance abuse from cardiovascular issues to organ damage. Lengthened use of different substances can result in irreversible harm to one's physical health. Furthermore, mental health is also a concern when it comes to substance abuse because there exists the risk of exacerbation of certain mental disorders such as anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric illnesses. 

There are many other effects that may be more subtle, and yes, many of these consequences may have been taught in health classes at school. However, I hope to emphasize the importance of thinking twice before smoking, vaping, drinking, or consuming drugs for the first time. It may be wise to avoid social situations in which certain substances are encouraged and to resist peer pressure. Life is a truly precious gift, and while substances may not seem like a huge obstacle, it really does have the potential to become an enormous negative part of your life in the future.

The idea that substances are "cool and trendy" needs to be eliminated. Harming your body and mind should no longer be considered a social standard. Instead, everyone should focus on themselves before attempting to seem acceptable to everyone else. Many adults who drink and smoke regret their decision to start when they were younger, and right now, you have the ability to avoid this future. Find something you love. Maybe it's singing or playing a sport, or writing. Whatever it is, fill your time up with it and it will likely be rewarding. Everyone has choices and everyone deserves a life of opportunity and freedom. 

The author's comments:

I hope to highlight the importance of choices pertaining to substances and how significant your decisions are now for your future.

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