A couple weeks ago drug overdose took the life of yet another person that I went to high school with. But the number of those who are still using life-threatening drugs are skyrocketing. Why would someone continue using after it killed one of their best friends? And the question that I really don’t know the answer to is why are people STARTING to use this drug after it killed one of their friends?
It’s a mystery as to how prescription drugs and heroine become so popular. I am from a small wealthy suburban town and none of these kids have parents that are drug addicts. It has become one of the biggest concerns of the school system: to teach students about the negative effects of using drugs such as heroin and cocaine. We learned about drugs in health class every single year since elementary school, Chris Herren (a famous ex-NBA player and drug addict) came to speak to us, and the Canton Alliance Substance Abuse was created. Clearly none of this has worked.
Heroin addiction has indeed gone mainstream.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that 42% of 12 to 17 year olds know one or more people who uses illegal drugs, such as acid, ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroine.
Everyone is constantly wondering why these programs aren’t working and what else can be done. After thinking about this for a long time, I attribute the growing population of teenagers doing hard drugs in part to social media.
In high school (and still today) my Instagram newsfeed and Snapchat were filled with pictures of my classmates partying. Most of them are from parties where kids are only drinking but there are a select few that feature people doing hard drugs. Sometimes the drugs were explicitly shown in pictures and other times they were not but it was no secret what they were doing. And it always looked like they were having so much fun. These students didn’t look the typical “drug addict” that we saw pictures of in health class.
Their posts on social media glamorized the effects of hard drugs and altered other people’s perceptions to the point that they thought the benefits of these drugs outweighed the consequences. They had so many friends, had plans every weekend, and were still on track to graduate high school and probably even go to college.
(The caption of this picture is sarcastic. Two out of three of the students pictured overdosed on heroin. This night I also saw Snapchats of one of them passed out on the couch with the caption “Doped” and several pictures with needles in the background.)
I remember hearing people in the hallways at school looking at these pictures and saying things like “ahh that party looked sick, I can’t believe I missed it!” or “hey do you think you could get me invited to the next party, I wanna go SO bad.”
Taking drugs became easy for high school students. They knew exactly who to get it from and where they could do it. And the consequences didn’t seem THAT bad.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that “three-quarters of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 years old admitted that seeing photos of fellow teens using drugs on social media encouraged them to do the same.”
This is what caused the heroin epidemic in Canton, Massachusetts. I understand that it is a very cynical view and it cannot be completely attributed to social media. But the reason heroin addiction has spread so fast is the result of peer pressure and the idealization of drugs through social media platforms.
Social media is a very powerful tool. It overpowers everything that we have learned in school over the years. The image that one can create over Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook leads to misinformation and therefore some life-threatening mistakes.
On a more positive note, the administration of the school has recognized this and has created several Facebook pages that advocate against drugs. The creators of these pages are hoping that anti-drug messages will flood students’ timelines instead of pro-drug messages.