Students learn to overcome drug addictions

The tin foil crinkled as the white smoke slowly rolled up it, getting closer and closer, increasing the nervousness more and more with each passing second.

Allison Dawn* found it hard to describe exactly how one’s stomach drops the first time someone tries a drug as serious as meth.

“I grew up around it. From the time I was little basically everyone in my life did it,” Dawn said. “I guess in a way I was kind of screwed from the very beginning.”

Dawn first began experimenting with serious drugs when she was merely 13. She’d already been experimenting with other drugs such as lortabs and other pills and didn’t see any harm in trying anything else “just once.”

According to National Institutes of Health (NIH), children of alcoholics and/or drug addicts are 45 to 79 percent more likely to struggle with addictions as they get older.

According to Joan Shutts, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, only about 8 percent of people trying a drug for the first time experience signs of a developing addiction. However, once someone realizes the first time didn’t have any negative consequences they’re more likely to do it again and not take the dangers seriously, causing them to struggle in the long run with addiction. This is what happened to Dawn, and “just once” turned into just twice, then just three times. Before she quite realized what was happening, Dawn had developed an addiction.

Dawn is not the only teenager who has lived with addiction at such a young age. In fact, according to dosomething.org, 50 percent of high school seniors on average do not think trying cocaine or heroin once or twice is dangerous, and in 2012 on average 2.6 percent of high school seniors were monthly users of cocaine.

There are many factors that play a role in teenage drug abuse. The more often teens are around drugs the more likely they are to try them. They begin to see it as normal or consider it a regular part of the teenage experience.

“For adolescents it’s mostly about fitting in,” Shutts said.  

Self medication is one of the main reasons people in general turn to alcohol and drugs according to American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Teens who can’t handle being alone or have issues keeping themselves occupied and oftentimes crave new exciting activities are prime candidates for substance abuse.

Also, teenagers who are searching for anything to make them happy, even temporarily, and even if it could have life-changing consequences, are primary candidates. Many teenagers turn to drugs for self medication, according to drugfree.org. It can help them become oblivious to the problems in their lives.

“If teens use drugs or alcohol they don’t have to deal with how they feel about certain unpleasant situations,” Shutts said.

She recommends teens struggling with substance abuse try to explore their feelings and see a counselor if they need to. She says developing better coping skills is an essential part of recovery.

Some of the things that indicate drug abuse are behavioral problems, poor grades, emotional isolation, fatigue or isolation. Other signs include irritability, hostility and disinterest in personal appearance. A few of the physical signs are bloodshot eyes, rapid weight loss, runny nose and frequent sore throats.

Unfortunately, drug addictions affect more people than just the addict. It destroys relationships with both family and friends and can leave damage that takes years to repair.

According to Shutts most people who abuse substances tend to associate with other people abusing the same things, causing isolation from friends and family they were once very close to.

“Drugs caused a lot of problems between me and my dad,” Jackson Arrington* said. “To this day I swear he still doesn’t look at me the same.”

Although he’s begun to repair much of the damage left behind from his addiction, Arrington doesn’t believe he will ever fully have the trust and respect he’s lost. He does, however, intend to spend as much time as it takes to earn back everything he’s lost and show his family he is not the same person as when he was under the influence.

“It [drugs] kind of just takes your soul in a way. You don’t care what you have to do to get more, you’ll just do it,” Robert Anderson* said. “With me I’d just do enough to get high, then keep doing it occasionally to keep my high.”

His relationships didn’t suffer too much, as no one knew he had become addicted unless Anderson wanted them to know.

“No one knew until I started looking like a ‘tweaker,’” Anderson said. “I looked like a dead person, and I acted like one, too.”

Drug abuse can be a real problem. Many people think they can stay in control; they think they can try it just once and that will be it but oftentimes that’s not how it happens.

Dawn is currently a junior in high school. Although she drinks she has been sober of any drugs for a couple months now. Her sobriety is fragile, but she believes she has made it through the hardest part and will continue her journey into recovery. Arrington still struggles with his sobriety and has not yet begun his journey into recovery. Anderson, however, is sober of most drugs and has recently graduated. He is doing well and looking forward to a promising future.

*All above sources have asked to remain anonymous