How the Use of Drugs and Alcohol Affect High School Achievement

A student at Lakeside High School, called Ann for purposes of privacy, had a grade point average of 3.6 through her sophomore year. During her junior year, she dropped out of extra-curricular activities and became withdrawn from other social activities. As she was introduced to the world of hard drugs, Ann’s grades dropped to C’s and D’s. At her graduation party, she was rushed to the hospital for a heroin overdose. Ann’s grades plunged as a result of heavy drug use, a likely combination of emotional and physical degrading upon herself. Society as a whole degrades itself in this manner, whether the individuals themselves realize it or not. Achievement in high schools today is lacking greatly because of the societal problem of teen drug abuse. (Callahan 1)

The achievement of high school students is affected by the usage of drugs and alcohol. Many factors can lead to the usage of drugs. There is an apparent correlation between family income and drug use. The pressures exerted by society and peers also increase the chance of high school students to use drugs or alcohol. Students who are under the influence of mind-altering chemicals cannot learn as well, lack motivation, and risk permanent loss of memory and ability to learn. Many programs have been put into effect in the last five years to help combat this social disease, such as D.A.R.E. This is a serious problem in today’s society because not only is the usage illegal, it causes society as a whole to degrade its social climate for growth. (Schydlower 1)

Some of the most common factors that seem to have a direct correlation with drug use are peer pressure, high unemployment rate, low paying jobs, continued poverty, health problems, and lack of health insurance. There are many reasons why a high school student may use alcohol or drugs, but there are five main reasons as thought by Cepulkauskaite. They may feel the need to use drugs in order to feel grown up, to fit in and belong, to relax and feel good, to take risks and rebel, or to satisfy curiosity. Students yearn for social acceptance more than academic achievement, which is a problem that society continues to fight. These causes are among the many that may or may not lead to drug usage. (Hayslett 1; Cepulkauskaite 2)

The effects of drug abuse are many and range from coma to euphoria to malnutrition. Drug abusers lack concentration and ability to think chronologically. High schools suffer from this drug use because teachers have to work around interruptions and less attentive students. Many schools are now equipped with health services that they did not provide ten years ago. Approximately 66% of the school systems in the United States provide mental health services facilitated through a school psychologist. 78.4% of states currently require an alcohol or drug prevention program. Society has changed through the use of drugs and alcohol by adapting programs to fit society’s needs. (National Center 2)

There are problems with alcohol and drug abuse in every high school system. Each school deals and records the problem differently, which is why there is not a similar percentage of use from one school to another. Some schools require students to take health classes, which cover the curriculum of drug effects. Other schools simply try to plead the cases that drugs are not an issue that pertains to academics. Society expresses the impression that alcohol helps to improve and enhance your social life, when in fact it usually has the opposite effect. The link between drug use and not liking school is strong, which is why you would rationalize it as a common factor to academic deficiency. There are currently multiple methods of trying to prevent and to educate drug and alcohol abuse in high school. (National Center 2, 4)

Drug use can cause many devastating effects later on in life. Mental problems can develop from drug use, most specifically phobias, depression, and anxiety disorders. Early drug use can lead to continued drug use later on in life due to the fact that teens have linked their self worth to drug use. A higher tolerance of illegal behavior is also common among drug users, which results in higher criminal activity among drug users as compared to the non-drug using teens. Drug use increases the likelihood of accidental or intentional death caused by overdoses.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can also result in death as well as the death of others. These are some of the shared effects of drug use, which may be exemplified or lessened in accordance with each specific drug. There is a direct and profound effect on the families and friends of a drug user as they deal with the emotional issues surrounding the decisions of the drug user. Many drug users are not aware of these possible consequences surrounding the world of drugs. (Futris 2; Callahan 1)

A drug causes a variety of physical effects on the user and never causes just one effect. Many hazards are related with each specific drug. Some of the most common hazards of illicit drugs are coma, low blood pressure, malnutrition, heart problems, and permanent destruction of tissue in the body. While under the influence of drugs, a user becomes violent, paranoid, and euphoric. This array of effects is what causes the user’s life to slip out of their hands, meaning that the user’s life has become a mix of reality and fantasy that they are not able to decipher any longer. The drugs themselves do not cause these effects until after the high of the drug wears off. (Jacobus 1-4)

Many now place the responsibility on schools to educate and handle alcohol and drug problems that previously were handled within the family. Many schools have psychologists to help deal with the emotional and social problems of today’s teens. Schools are now expected to take care of these students’ emotional problems, which in effect makes the job to have students achieve harder to focus on. The Executive Summary of the 2000 Primary Prevention Awareness, Attitude, and Use Survey, or PPAAUS, showed that “youth who don’t use drugs, including alcohol, have greater academic involvement. These studies show nonusers are less likely to skip school, cheat, steal, vandalize, and receive suspensions.” The facts displayed in these studies make the newly acquired jobs of the school much more difficult. Students are generally more dedicated to school if they are uninvolved with drugs and alcohol. (Educational Council 1)

The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is an active program that is combating drug use by American teens. They provide commercials on television that acknowledge statistics on the effects of drugs, as well as facts that as a society we tend not to know. This campaign also provides a comprehensive website with useful and helpful information for parents and teens to easily access. Strategies that parents can use to talk to their teens are discussed on the website, as well as signs of drug use and how drugs can affect their children. Information on the site pertains to anything from signs of marijuana use to how to avoid your child doing drugs to what signs to look for in your child’s friends. This organization has been successful in deterring drug use according to the 2001-2002 Pride Survey, because drug use is at its lowest point since 1993. The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has proven to be an active tool against the war on drugs. (Anti-Drug 1)

One of the government run programs fighting substance abuse came into existence by an initiative launched by Secretary Donna Shalala of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration. The program, called Your Time-Their Future, “highlights the importance of structured positive activities.” (Your Time-Their Future 1) The program helps young adults to do things with their lives that are productive and will result in a more successful future. The main goal of the program is to decrease drug and alcohol use as well as to prevent possible users from ever starting. The participants in this program are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 53% less likely to skip school, and 27% less likely to begin using alcohol. The participants are involved in positive activities, but most importantly, each child receives mentoring. The program is still in effect today, which proves some degree of efficiency. (Your Time-Their Future 1-3)

Drug Abuse Resistance Education, more commonly known as D.A.R.E., is another program widely used throughout the United States to prevent illicit drug use. In fifth or sixth grade, children go through the D.A.R.E. program for a period of 17 weeks. Once a week, a local police officer comes into school and teaches them “how to recognize and resist the direct and subtle pressures that influence them to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drugs.” (DARE 1) Students learn to view alcohol and other drugs as deterrents to their futures and dreams at influential ages. Schools may integrate this program as part of their normal curriculum to gain the full effect of this program. This program provides children with the knowledge and skills needed to prepare them for the upcoming choices in their lives. (DARE 1)

“In the United States, use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs is associatedwith lower educational achievement, and with school dropout.” (Tobacco 1) About 7% of 12 to 17 year olds receive D’s or less in school, yet this group is comprised of 36% of all cigarette users, 29% of alcohol users, and 24% of other illicit drug users, who may or may not fall into multiple categories. Over 90% of high school students express disapproval for such use, but over one third of the surveyed population experiments with some type of drug or alcohol while in high school. This only further clarifies the existence of a social problem. Drug and alcohol use directly correlates with grades of high school students based on this data. (Tobacco 1, 2)

“Children are perceptive they receive news from movies, TV, video cassettes, CD’s, magazines, websites and chat rooms. The fashions and tendencies of our contemporary culture propagate sometimes shocking values.”(Cepulkauskaite 1) They receive the message from society that drug and alcohol use is normal and accepted. This is why anti-drug campaigns do not work as well as hoped in schools and society; society itself offers an impression that such use is normal, especially alcohol. There are feelings of acceptance and normalcy among drug users, some of who let their grades slip in order to achieve these feelings. The majority of teens follow the media and popular culture although some examples they provide are bad in ways. Teens and their peers also puts a focus on happiness that seems to be more important to teens than to be able to support themselves once they are older. Today’s youth is perceptive to what society sets as an example. In this way, adolescents are more likely to believe that drug and alcohol use is acceptable in society. (Cepulkauskaite 1, 2)

Popular music influences teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol. “the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) revealed that 75 percent of all rap music contained references to alcohol and/or other drug use.” (Davis 1) The study also said that approximately twice as much time is spent within a school year listening to music in comparison to the time students are at school. Many believe that rap is a very powerful genre of music, even if the talent could be channeled into more productive messages. Popular music tends not to give mention of the negative consequences that are an effect of alcohol and drug use. Popular rap artists share this value to increase the appeal of alcohol and drug use to teens, even if they do not do it intentionally. (Davis 1, 2)

Peers are a very influential group among adolescents. Some teenagers yearn for social belonging so strongly that, “teens act against what they privately want just to stay part of the group.” (Cook 1)

Teenagers are afraid of losing their social status and being lonely. Young adults also seem to seek affection especially approval from their peers. Teens who are not receiving enough affection from their parents or guardians are likelier to get involved with drugs and alcohol. Teens as a group drink for many reasons, such as to escape family and personal problems or to gain peer acceptance. Adolescents are unable to see the bigger problem they are creating for themselves by drinking. Peer pressures can convey the impression that alcohol and drug use is acceptable. (Cook 1-5)
Welfare law expert Ian Morrison stated, “The higher level of education you have, the better your opportunities for employment'”(Schuster 1) during a case involving welfare.

This helps to support the statement that growing up in poverty can cause a teen to be at higher risk for getting bad grades. Students who do not achieve less by the end of high school are much less likelier to go on to further education. A child being raised in poverty makes that person at a higher risk of continuing to live in poverty because they tend to follow the example set by their parents, or role models they had in the forming years of their lives. The conclusion that unsuccessful high school students are at higher risk for ending up in the welfare program could be made from these facts. The welfare program is an example of how drug and alcohol use in high school affects society as a whole, especially from a lack of education. (Schuster 1, 2)

Drug and alcohol use deters academic achievement and is a significant societal problem. These mind-altering substances affect the user physically and mentally. High schools and the U.S. Government have implemented multiple programs to help combat this illegal use. The programs goals are to help to stabilize the goals of an adolescent’s life, educate them about drug usage, and to help them understand the devastation that goes along with drug and alcohol use. There is also a large sum of money being put into these programs that could otherwise be spent directly on education or in other ways. The fact that students who do not use drugs or alcohol are more likely to succeed in high school is proven. Peer pressure is one of the common factors that leads to alcohol and drug use. The lack of achievement in high school because of alcohol and drugs is a serious problem that needs to be fixed.

Alcohol and drug usage among teens is a societal problem because of the apparent effect it has on the user later on in life. The user may emotionally disturb the stability of society through the user being put in jail or getting in trouble with the law by the effect that this would have on families and friends. Schools are expected to deal with this emotional instability of teens, as well as alcohol and drug prevention, which is not a small task. There are resources available for parents themselves to help combat drug abuse, but they may not be aware of these resources and therefore unable to help. Society also advertises the image of individual and social happiness for alcohol and drug users; this misconception results in the societal decrease of achievement, especially of high school age students. Mainly peer pressure, the media, their family, and their school guide teens. Society needs to fix the problem of drug and alcohol use in high school. Academic achievement directly correlates with the future that a teen is likely to lead and they should not be deterred by drugs and alcohol.

Works Cited

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Cepulkauskaite, Ieva. Drug Addiction of Teenagers: Myth or Reality? 1998. March 23, 2003.

Cook, Dennis and Jon Dayley. Peer Pressure During Adolescence. Fall 1999. April 10, 2003.

D.A.R.E. Curriculum. 2002. April 6, 2003.

Davis, Kelly J. Project to Battle Negative Messages in Popular Music. April 13, 2001. April 10, 2003.

Educational Council. Executive Summary of the 2000 Primary Prevention Awareness, Attitude, & Use Survey (PPAAUS). 2000. March 23, 2003.

Futris, Ted G. and Urvia McDowell. Adolescents at Risk: Illicit Drug Use. 2002. April 6, 2003.

Hayslett, Chandra. Alcohol, Drugs Affect Dropout Rate-Study. February 13, 1996. March 9, 2003.

Jacobus, Karen. Effects of Drug Use. 1999. April 6, 2003.

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Prevention. School Health Policies and Programs Study. September 30, 2002. April 6, 2003.

Parents. The Anti-Drug. Winter 2002. April 7, 2003.

Pride Says Teen Drug Use at 10-Year Low. July 19, 2002. April 6, 2003.

Schuster, Eli. Education, Poverty Linked. November 26, 2002. April 9, 2003.

Schydlower, Manuel and Committee on Substance Abuse. The Role of Schools in Combating Substance Abuse. May 1995. March 9, 2003.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. September 3, 2002. March 9, 2003.

Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drug Use Among High School Students – United States, 1991. August 5, 1998. March 9, 2002.

Your Time-Their Future. Overview. 1999. April 9, 2003.