In a friend’s back yard, at the age of 14, Anna Henley had her first encounter with drugs and became part of the 60 percent of young Americans who use drugs in their lifetime, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
“It becomes all you think about and you just want to have more,” Henley, a freshman majoring in education at Tyler Junior College said. “It was more of a peer pressure thing; you know, everyone was doing it so I thought ‘okay well let me do it too’.”
Marijuana, popular among college students and better known as weed, Meth (Crystal methamphetamine), LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide), alcohol, heroin and cocaine are just some of the preferred and most abused drugs in the nation. Drugs offer its consumer a temporary fix or escape from the social realities of everyday living. Which, according to Dr. Otis Webster, psychology professor at TJC, is behind today’s drug infested society, forming a new behavior.
“We are busy creating a drug infested society, and it’s gotten to the place where it’s normal everyday behavior,” Dr. Webster said. “Anything that can help them escape social realities, and drugs do that.”
These new norms are shaping the law, altering the nations’ customs. The ripple effect of accepting drug usage has reached states like Washington and Colorado. Although drugs like marijuana are now legal for recreational use, colleges and universities in those states do not allow the legalized drug marijuana to be used on campus because of fear of being cut off from federal funding.
“You live in a society where the closes people to you are all using drugs. Some are selling it, some are using it, and they abuse it. You wouldn’t see any wrong in it. By the time you realize it, you are dead,” said Yaya Fatty, freshmen majoring in Criminal Justice at TJC.
One hundred people die from drug overdoses every day in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As Henley’s closes friends sunk deeper into the addictive cycle of stronger drugs, she found courage in God to quit before it was too late. Unfortunately, other classmates from her school were not as fortunate, and died of drug overdose.
“It’s heart breaking that people joke about it and say ‘oh you know it’s not addicting or anything’ cause it does alternate your lifestyle,” said Henley.
Another popular drug among college students is Adderall, which is used in order to enhance academic performance. Adderall and other similar prescribed medicines are given to those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But with easy availability, it has fallen into the hands of students who are looking for a boost of energy and focus, after a night of binge drinking or in some cases a 12-hour work shift in order to stay “sharp” for the next class.
“We want a pill to put us to sleep and a pill to wake us up,” Dr. Webster said. “We are busy creating a drug-infested society, and it’s gotten to the place where it’s normal everyday behavior.”
This wave of prescription drug usage is the new “Red Bull” sensation among college students, according to an article from the Huffington Post. Some may call it cheating at life’s balance but with its convincing promise of helping the brain perform better many users give little thought to the consequences. The powerful drug, Adderall, can seem harmless but it can lead addicts to cocaine or morphine.
“The more you stay involved in drugs or alcohol… The deeper you become involved in it. You lose all that inner vision,” said Erik Broughton, counselor for Live and Kicking Winners Circle of Tyler and graduate from TJC. “Remember the promise drugs and alcohol give, is death and it will fulfill those promises.”
Although alcohol continues to be a favorite substance for college students, drug usage like marijuana is increasing. In the most recent statistics dated 2011 from the ages of 18 to 20, 38.7 percent use drugs, from ages 21 to 25 32.9 percent and from the age of 26 to 34, 2 percent. The use of marijuana rose to 2 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Broughton became an addict in his late 20s or early 30s and admits crossing the line from causal user on the weekends to the fast lane of the night life that pushed him into dependence on cocaine. Like others, his addiction removed his family, friends and stole his live hood.
“I wanted to be what we call hip, cool, it was the thing to do,” Broughton said. “I started drinking in high school, so one thing lead to another. The drugs I really got involved with were Marijuana; I tried a lot of things. Cocaine was my true down fall.”
Unlike the tragic ending of most addicts, Broughton was given a second chance that he says he owes his higher power, God, all to. He took this opportunity to live the way he had always dreamed of, even as a child. The opportunity didn’t only keep him in the right direction but he was able to help others out of abusive drugs and living towards the path of a drug free lifestyle.
Now he reaches out to those who are in a struggle with addiction, using his own testimony to reveal the dark side of abusing drugs.
“The only thing you want to do is what your drug tells you. Your drug says jump, you say how high. Because it has control over you, you don’t have control over it anymore. (That’s) when you cross that line over to addiction,” said Broughton.
For those who feel trapped in the vicious cycle of drug use, the first step is to reach out to a support group. There are local groups like, Live and Kicking Winners Circle whose mission is changing and saving lives. Also TJCs’ counseling services on the third floor of Rogers Student Center or professors like Dr. Webster whose office hours are open for all students. The key is in taking the initiative to make a change.
“There’s hope,” Henley said. “There are people there that have been through it. That understands even if you think there is no one. You’re not alone.”
Story by: Belen Casillas