Students reflect on impact of substance abuse



Jason Harward staff writer
Jamie Kim news editor
Drugs and alcohol are a part of many students’ high school experience, whether one wants to admit it or not. As the Teen Rehab Center (TRC) puts it, a teenager “might enter high school as a child, but they will graduate a young adult.”
One of these coming-of-age experiences seems to be the use of illicit substances. According to a study by the TRC, 68 percent of 12th graders tried alcohol, while 35.1 percent of 12th graders used marijuana within the last year.
Yet some students seem to go past the point of “just trying it.” Just over 17 percent of Beverly students said they have used an illicit substance at least every two weeks, according to a Highlights poll surveying 117 students, as of Oct. 13. And, although trying a substance once has little effect on one’s health, repeated and frequent use can have negative long-term effects.
“I stay away from all that stuff. It is harmful to your body and just unnecessary. I can have fun in many other ways besides getting high or drunk,” senior Joseph* said.
However, some students are disregard the negative consequences of consuming alcohol and drugs.
“My [alcohol] tolerance is up to almost a full bottle a night, but I’m still going to college,” Mary, a senior, said.
Furthermore, some even view illicit substances in a positive, beneficial light, particularly as methods to relieve themselves from external pressures and stresses.
“If I didn’t smoke weed, I would probably get an aneurysm from stressing about school,” junior Harry said.
Junior Fred also referred to the “benefits” of such drugs.
“Yea, I partake [in drugs]. I’m more of a kush [marijuana]  kind of guy. It’s fun, makes you relax and de-stresses you out. I’m not a pothead by any means, but yes, I smoke,” Fred said.
However, a multitude of studies, summarized by Northwestern University, highlighted the major drawbacks of alcohol on academic performance. For example, frequent binge drinkers are more likely to miss class, spend less time studying and have lower grade point averages. One student ceded that drinking may have had a negative effect on her grades.
“Drugs and alcohol lead to a much more social social life where school and your future comes second. By getting drunk or high on Saturday night, you are killing a large portion of your day on Sunday to work which leads to worse grades,” sophomore Julia said.
Marijuana can have an even more negative effect on academic performance than alcohol.  According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, “research has shown that marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off, depending on the user’s history with the drug.”
However, some people disregard harmful effects of marijuana on their wellbeing.
“The year I smoked [marijuana] almost every day was the year I got the best grades,” senior Matt said.
An anonymous student differed from this opinion, saying that “it’s hard to participate in extracurriculars when you are busy drinking or smoking.”
The student body seems to enjoy alcohol more than marijuana. According to the Highlights poll, of the 17.9 percent of students who use illicit substances at least once every two weeks, 41.7 percent preferred alcohol as their choice substance and 33.3 percent preferred marijuana.
“I do not smoke. However, I will drink on occasion, because I enjoy it. Smoking is just not for me because it is pretty bad for your lungs, but I don’t see the harm in drinking unless you decide to drive after, which can obviously be very dangerous,” senior Joe said.
Despite the research showing the downsides to repeated abuse of illicit substances, the majority of all U.S. students and educated officials will just continue to agree to disagree.
*All names have been substituted with pseudonyms.