In the past few years, innumerable instances of substance abuse have come to light in the Grosse Pointe community. Because of this, it is imperative we start conversation about both the conscious decision to abuse substances and the mental health issues that often lead to it in order to spread awareness and reduce the problem.
“The Tower” has covered everything from underage drinking to deaths of graduates who have passed away from overdose. While it is easy to minimize the latter as isolated incidents of people who didn’t know their limits, there are many people just like them struggling with substance abuse and often the mental health issues that causes it.
It is important to note that this is not just a problem with our school or Grosse Pointe. It’s a cultural problem that has made the decision to abuse drugs and alcohol increasingly casual, and it needs to change.
The decision to abuse substances has become so casual because it is made to seem like the positive outcomes heavily outweigh the negative outcomes. This is a direct result of misinformation. It has been pounded into our heads since fourth grade health class that drugs and alcohol can have detrimental effects on both mental and physical health, but that is almost entirely insignificant when everyone’s doing it and hardly anyone is getting hurt.
The presence of drugs and alcohol on students’ social media platforms glorify its use and even make it seem cool. It’s nearly impossible to scroll through Instagram on a Saturday night without seeing at least five pictures with conveniently placed red solo cups and their accompanying captions about amazing nights.
In addition, many students use Snapchat as a place to be less discreet about their “amazing nights.” Videos and pictures of blowing smoke or taking shots of alcohol may seem harmless in the 24-hour confine of a Snapchat story, but for anyone slightly hesitant to try drugs or alcohol, seeing their friends having a great time while under the influence can be enough to drive them towards it. It’s just for fun, right?
When it becomes fun and exciting, it becomes normal. When it’s only about the good things that happen as a result of taking a drug or drinking alcohol, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the dangerous effects that loom overhead. That’s the true issue with the casual culture surrounding drugs—it leads to an invincibility complex. For those suffering with mental health issues, over 50 percent struggle with substance abuse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This kind of dependency is a form of self-medication for people with undiagnosed issues.
Students are aware of the effects excessive use of drugs and alcohol can have on their quality of life from a young age. We’re told story after story of people drinking and driving or ingesting laced marijuana or getting unexpectedly addicted to a hard drug. We know these things, yet we still think it can never happen to us.
It has been shown time and time again that these stories are virtually ineffective when it comes to deterring students from trying drugs and alcohol, though. All of these people are exactly like us, and all of these people thought it would never happen to them and their stories are horrifying and tragic. But, their message still doesn’t fix the problem. So how do we fix it?
The only way for the casual culture to truly change is to start conversation. By talking, sharing stories and understanding the effects substance abuse has on so many people is the only way around the invincibility complex. In order to get people to understand the gravity of the decision to abuse drugs or alcohol, they need to be shown that they aren’t invincible and that the issue of substance abuse is something they should feel comfortable talking to adult about. Striking an open dialogue about this issue will help destigmatize mental health problems and thus make it easier for people to get proper treatment and avoid self-medication.
By starting an open conversation, the culture will slowly begin to change, and then it won’t take the injury or death of a loved one to show people that this is a serious, urgent problem that will not go away anytime soon.
In light of recent events, “The Tower” has comprised this issue full of stories, facts and advice from students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members to spark the conversation about the negative effects of substance abuse and begin on the path to changing the casual culture surrounding illegal abuse of drugs and alcohol in students.
Image Credit: Jen Toenjes