When we were in elementary school, a police officer or two stood in the front of our classroom and told us drugs were bad. They did this on a weekly basis as part of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E. program. We wrote our D.A.R.E. essays to complete the program and proudly received our D.A.R.E. graduation certificates, confident we would never do drugs and our friends would never do drugs.
Drugs were bad.
We never thought we or someone we knew would be addicted to drugs. This once naive thought now seems ridiculous given that an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States struggle with a drug addiction. Often this is because these substances are easy to obtain by way of a friend or a prescription.
America as a country is grappling with the heroin epidemic, and more than 3,500 people in Pennsylvania have died from an opioid overdose in the past year. Two of those deaths were the parents of a 7-year-old girl in Pittsburgh, who spent a day trying to “wake up” her parents after they overdosed.
This is just one of the real-world consequences of drugs, but it is extreme. It also seems somewhat irrelevant to us as college students because we aren’t in the “real world” just yet.
When we were in elementary school taking D.A.R.E. classes, drugs were bad. Maybe we still think they are bad. But chances are we know someone who does cocaine at every date party. We’ve seen the empty Adderall pills that litter the cubicles of Farchild-Martindale library during exams.
The national heroin epidemic receives attention because of the large-scale of the issue, the smaller-scale drug issues sometimes go unnoticed or ignored. While it may not be an epidemic, we seem to ignore the everyday drug use in our own school. This may be because we compartmentalize our lives in such a way that we’ve convinced ourselves what we do in college won’t hurt us later on in life.
We rationalize that it’s fine to take some Addy to study for an exam now, but we won’t take one when we have a real job. We only smoke when we’re drunk. We only do coke to have a good time on some weekends.
Heroin use on our campus is not nearly as prevalent as cocaine use or Adderall use, and it may not even be used at all. While heroin is still widely considered to be dangerous, Adderall and coke are less stigmatized than when we took D.A.R.E. in fifth grade. Coke is now a party drug and Adderall is a study drug — both have a particular purpose that play into the work hard, play hard mentality on campus.
Sure, not all of these items are addictive. Not everyone who uses them will become an addict. But these foreign substances are harmful when we become slaves to their effects.
There is a problem if you are putting something into your body and you cannot stop.
Drug addiction is terrifying. Everything else aside, our bodies are not made to be completely dependent on any one foreign substance. The health habits developed in our 20s will set the course for the rest of our lives. It’s not possible to completely overhaul our lifestyles the second we put on a brown cap and gown to graduate.
Anything can be addictive if you let it rule your life. When you can’t relax or have fun or focus without a drug, it becomes an addiction.
The desire to compartmentalize our lives is natural. Grade school was one time of our lives, high school was another and college is a third. While this breakdown of our lives may be important for remembering experiences, it is hazardous to think our actions in college will not affect our health in the future.
Addiction is bad.