The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

[STAFF EDITORIAL] Experimenting? Reconsider.

71% of staff agree
Annika Kim
THINK TWICE. Although it might sound smart to experiment with drugs and alcohol, the data suggest otherwise.

Perhaps you’ve been at a party or another environment with substances. Someone decides to partake, claiming that they “want to know what they’re doing” before they reach legal age. Or you’ve heard someone apply the same rationale to you, suggesting that “It’s better that you know your limits now.” Their reasoning may seem strategic and smart, but these choices are not as beneficial as they seem. In situations involving substances, particularly for those who are underage, it is essential to make safe decisions.

It’s undeniable that substance use exists among teenagers, though it has been on the decline since the pandemic. In 2022, 11% of eighth graders, 21.5% of tenth graders, and 36.2% of twelfth graders used at least one kind of illicit drug, according to a survey by Monitor the Future. The most common substances used by teenagers are alcohol, cannabis and nicotine vapes.

Endorsing the decision to experiment with substances condones unsafe behavior.

The wiring of adolescents’ brains can explain the draw of substances. According to an article published by PubMed Central, between childhood and adolescence, risk-taking increases due to changes in the brain’s socio-emotional system, which drives increased reward-seeking. This means that in the time before brain maturity, or around age 25, adolescents and young adults are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors like smoking or binge drinking.

Substances are often available in social settings, making it simpler to act on these impulses. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 72% of teenagers who drink alcohol do not pay for it.
Adolescents who experiment with substances might claim that gaining familiarity before they are of legal age is beneficial, but there is no research to prove this. In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking alcohol can make it more difficult to control the brain and make healthy choices. It also hinders the ability to sense danger by disrupting the function of a brain region called the amygdala, all while releasing feelings of the euphoria to trick the brain into thinking that drinking was a healthy choice.

It might already be obvious that substance use is risky, so why is it important to reiterate the point? After all, not every teenager who experiments with substances will inevitably develop an addiction. However, it is vital to avoid spreading or accepting the misconception that early use translates to smarter use later in life. According to an article from The American Journal of Psychiatry, an early introduction to alcohol between ages 11-14 increases the risk of later alcohol disorder, making intervention at a younger age crucial to avoiding issues later in life.

Endorsing the decision to experiment with substances condones unsafe behavior that can potentially lead to a substance abuse disorder. A substance abuse disorder, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is “a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medicine.” It can also lead to neglected responsibilities and financial strain.

Next time you’re in a social situation where drugs or alcohol are available, remember there is never a need or push to experiment. Any form of substance use, for any reason, can have a negative impact on the developing brain. However, it’s simultaneously important to recognize that ostracizing and blaming people who suffer from addiction does not solve the problem. That said, being the peer who sets the example to stay clean and sober can make a big difference.

Substance use as teenagers is sometimes a reality, but it’s crucial to identify misinformation, make smart choices, intervene where necessary, and encourage seeking help.

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About the Contributor
Annika Kim, Illustrator
My name is Annika Kim (she/her). I work as the Illustrator for the Rubicon, and this is my second year officially on staff. At school, I work on Iris Art & Lit magazine and act in the theatre productions. I love animation and want to combine computer science with art to tell a story. I can be reached at [email protected].

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