Under the Influence

Curiosity leads to experimentation

by Ivy Ho

A normal part of teen development is having the desire to engage in the unknown. What often begins as a casual experiment with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or e-cigarettes for some adolescents can quickly become an unhealthy habit or escalate to an addiction.

At any stage of life, risk factors, including peer pressure, lack of parental supervision, and substance availability, can arise. When one is constantly being exposed to risks, they can become more susceptible to addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

What once was just a curious thought for student Edward* developed into a habit that stuck after he turned to smoking as a coping mechanism for abandonment.

“I grew up in an environment where substances were pretty much all around me, so I was curious to try it out for myself,” Edward* said. “I always saw it as a bad thing but as my parents neglected me and I had to grow up on my own, I decided that the stress was too much for me to handle by myself so I thought, ‘Maybe this would do something for me.’”

Because he was surrounded by people who drank, vaped, and did drugs for fun at parties, he wanted to try these things for himself. He then developed an addiction to drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol.

Edward* later eased off of them and got into vaping as a way to combat his addiction, temporarily disregarding the potential health risks that also come with vaping. Enticed by fruity and candy-like flavors, he began vaping more regularly after hearing it is not as bad as drinking, smoking, or doing drugs.

“I do have a plan on stopping,” Edward* said. “I’m currently working on stopping because I know it’s going to be harder to quit later on.”

After getting hooked from experimentation and fighting a long battle with addiction, Edward* is now starting to take the risks into more consideration. He still vapes to relieve stress sometimes; however, he is no longer addicted to any substance and wants to eventually quit vaping as well.

Most of the time, student Dan* does drugs for fun. He regularly uses substances with friends for enjoyment.

“It’s just that everyone has a fun time and it’s a phenomenal feeling,” Dan* said. “I do know other people who do that and they say it’s fun too.”

He said that “as long as no one gets addicted, everything should be cool.” For Dan*, peer pressure is not a concern because “no one forces anyone to do it.”

“When it comes to my friends and I, we determine who’s addicted by seeing who wants to use substances every single time we hang out,” Dan* said. “Then it becomes pretty obvious who is and we’ll tell them to stop. At this age, we should know well enough how to determine if we’re addicted. We should know our own limits.”

He is aware of the negative consequences, both short and long term.

“I’ve done my research,” Dan* said. “But in the end it’s still my decision to make, and I still choose to do these things.”

Despite the known risks, teenagers still indulge in drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes for their own reasons, but once they fully understand the signs and symptoms of addiction, they can learn to resist them.

*Name changed to protect privacy

Help for addiction

by Wendy Chau

There are a variety of resources to rely on when it comes to seeking assistance for drug addiction. According to the American Psychiatric Association, drug addiction is defined as a brain disease manifested by uncontrollable substance use despite health risks. One method to address the problem is drug rehabilitation, where facilities provide support for those dependent on drugs.

Drug rehab facilities offer group therapies and individual counseling sessions. In addition, patients in drug rehab facilities are taught how to combat triggers, act in situations that may prompt drug abuse, and change their habits associated to drug abuse. Partial hospitalization is another plan where patients receive medical monitoring for 7 to 8 hours at a treatment center and then return home.

Gateway To Success, a district program, offers clinical services for students struggling with drug addiction. The program provides therapists or other health and wellness resources to help students work through factors interfering with their academic or personal life. To receive counseling, a Gateway referral must be filled out. More information can be found at www.ausdgateway.com.

Another drug treatment program–outpatient treatment–typically works around patients’ schedules. Its main focus is to prevent relapse. Furthermore, for those who fear relapse, there are sober-living communities for patients to recover in a supportive environment. The website, HelpGuide, recommends looking for drug treatment programs that offer detoxification, behavioral counseling, medication, and long-term follow-up. It is also suggested to seek help from recovery support groups, family, friends, or a sober social network.

Dangers of over the counter (OTC) drugs

by Kimberly Quiocho

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medicine sold at regular drug stores without prescriptions from a healthcare professional. They are usually safe if taken at the recommended doses, but unprescribed medication, like any other drug, can be abused when used for personal pleasure as opposed to its intended use. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, some commonly abused medications include: cough medicines (Dextromethorphan), anti-diarrheal medicines (Loperamide), cold medicines (Pseudoephedrine), and motion sickness medicines. Although less potent than prescribed medicine, OTC drugs still pose a risk of developing an addiction for users that over-consume them. Abusing them through over-consumption can lead to health issues including memory loss, kidney failure, heart problems, and even death. Contrary to their intended use, OTC drugs are often used to self-medicate for mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. While aiming to experience euphoria through these drugs, users can become addicted and face several consequences, risking the chance of overdosing and even death.

Possible health risks of electronic cigarettes

by Waldemar Lan

Electronic cigarettes, commonly known as vaping devices, are sold to California citizens age 21 and over. Within one year, the number of American high school seniors who have reported to vaping has increased from 27.8 percent to 37.3 percent. In 2015, the Public Health England stated that while electronic cigarettes are 95 percent less dangerous than tobacco, they still pose health risks. The Spanish Council of Scientific Research is measuring the volatile organic compounds (VOC) found in electronic cigarettes. VOCs cause eye, nose and throat irritation, frequent headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

Many users of electronic cigarettes are smokers attempting to quit tobacco, as the ingredients in electronic cigarettes are safer than a normal cigarette. Normal cigarettes contain nicotine and VOCs such as benzene and toluene. In the transition to electronic cigarettes, smokers have added nicotine in their devices to emulate the addictive effects of tobacco. Although nicotine is an addictive stimulant, the Cancer Research UK shows that the concentrations and quantities in e-liquid are safer and offer a substantial health risk reduction compared to cigarettes.

However, for a non-smoker, electronic cigarettes, with or without nicotine, would expose them to carbon monoxide, nitrosamines, tars, and fine particles of smoked tobacco, which would put their health at risk despite there being a small amount of those substances.

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