MATTHEW ZANK | STAFF WRITER
As teenagers, we are in one of the most stressful and confusing times of our lives, as a result many students turn to ways to relieve this pressure. A problem has been growing under the haze, one of the most common, but least talked about issues facing La Cueva today, the issue of drugs.
In recent years, more and more students have started using drugs as a way to cut loose from the stressful environment of high school. Another problem is that the adults in our schools and communities often cannot connect with students on the issue of drugs and are generally “out of touch” on the drug culture that our youth live in today.
“I was on the bathroom floor, thought I was dying, I didn’t have any help,” said one La Cueva junior. “Then I got caught, so don’t do drugs.” Many students will first experience the use of drugs in high school, students who just want to experiment and have fun, but don’t know what can happen.
In a survey of 380 La Cueva students, we found that 73 percent of those surveyed believed that drug use had increased at La Cueva in the past year. The survey also found that 71 percent of students thought 26-75 percent of the student body has used drugs. We also found that 40 percent of the students surveyed thought that marijuana was the most popular drug used, followed by 33 percent for vape and e-cigs, with 16 percent saying alcohol, and 12 percent saying other drugs such as cocaine, pills, and heroin.
The most surprising data was that 35 percent of students’ survey reported using drugs, which is a significant difference from the 10 percent that the school reported at a drug assembly back in October. The final information found was that juniors reported having the biggest problem with drugs, with 50 percent of those surveyed stated our junior class as having the biggest problem.
In recent years, marijuana has become much more acceptable along with the rise of vape and E-cigs. Many students are using these newer and more acceptable drugs to get high. The growing problem of prescription drugs has also taken off in recent years and is common in high school, as many people get addicted after they take them for an injury. Another new trend that has taken off at La Cueva recently is the use of “skittles” or Xanax as it is actually referred to. This wave of over-the-counter drug use has come to the forefront of the drug trend.
In October, La Cueva had a drug use assembly in which they shared the dangers of drug use and provided resources for students currently struggling. A memorable part of the assembly was spontaneous laughter from the students. This event effectively shattered the statistic that 90 percent of the student body does not use drugs. Our survey of just 380 students found that the amount of students who are drug free at La Cueva is closer to 65-60 percent.
This is not just a problem in our community, but in high schools across the nation and throughout Albuquerque. The National Teen Rehab Center reported that in the last month 37 percent of high school seniors, nationally, drank alcohol and 21 percent have smoked weed.
Another important issue is how out of touch adults in our school are with what is really going on with students. In talking with our nurse, crossroads counselor, and administration, it became evident there is a gap between the groups, as it seemed as though we were seeing two different versions of the same thing. Students see drugs as part of a social reality, but adults live in the world of legal issues and confidentiality.
La Cueva counselors and staff actively try to get students the help they need as well as trying to reduce drug use as a whole. The Teens in Prevention club is also on the forefront of the issue at La Cueva. The reality of the matter is that students get the unique experience to actually see the lives of those around us, but adults cannot see the same picture. This makes it much harder to reduce drug use without a major culture change.
The main problem that adults are missing is why students are choosing to use drugs. At La Cueva, we are constantly in a culture of competition that expects us to be excellent in academics, athletics, and in our communities, without being provided with the resources and support that we desperately need.
This support can range from reducing stress put on teachers, parents, and peers with problem solving and time management to help students stay on task and stay ahead in school. Schools can provide students with healthy ways to reduce stress, like extracurricular activities that are specifically aimed at reducing student stress levels.
Instead of healthy ways to reduce stress and cope with high expectations, many students turn to drugs to get away from the harsh reality of our young lives. Our school motto “excellence is a habit” only reinforces the stressful situation we live in.
During finals week some students began taking Adderall so that they could focus more on their finals and achieve good grades. These are the new extremes that some students feel they need to go to so that they can achieve success at school.
Appearing successful socially is another reason teens try drugs. Numerous students have said, “Peer pressure could be the problem.” Not only a problem, but a major factor in drug use is that many students are tempted by their friends and fellow peers and then slowly become addicted. It’s the story of many students across the country.
The reality that we face is that drugs will always be a problem in schools and here at La Cueva is no different. The difference is that we need to address the problems instead of sweeping them under the rug, as many students and people at La Cueva have felt that we do as a school.
The only way to solve or at least aid this problem is by providing students with the resources and help that we need. We also need to keep talking about this problem and our other problems as this starts with awareness.
For all students struggling or who want to know more about drugs, some helpful resources are our school counselors, our school nurse, the Teens in Prevention club, as well as many other ways to get help online.
La Cueva is also hosting a parent forum about drug use called “Recognizing the Signs of Drug Abuse in Teens” on February 13th at 6:00. This forum will help inform the community on what drug use looks like today.
“I think that we do have a problem and the best thing that we can do is to talk about it,” said a La Cueva sophomore, “Instead of ignoring it, we have to admit that we have a problem and we need to figure out how to solve that problem.”
Drug Hotline – Sober College
Relationship Hotline – Relationship Foundation
Stress Hotline – Stress Crisis Text Line
Text “go” to 741741