Smoke and mirrors: Schreiber’s drug culture

Eli Lefcowitz, Adi Levin, Caroline Katz, and Gillian Rush

Welcome to Port Washington, or as it has come to be known to our surrounding towns, ‘Pot’ Washington. That’s right, like marijuana.

Our town—our school especially— has built up quite the reputation for marijuana use over the years. Perhaps it’s because while 43% of seniors nationwide have used marijuana, an online Schreiber Times poll confirmed that 45% of seniors from Schreiber have.

It may be more appropriate to acknowledge Schreiber’s alcohol use, instead, as it is more prevalent; our West-Egg neighbors in Great Neck published a report confirming that 70% of their seniors used alcohol; states that 71% of 12th graders have tried alcohol nationwide; Schreiber seniors exceed these statistics, with 72% of twelfth grade seniors confirming that they have used alcohol.

Underaged drinkers consume 11% of alcohol in the United States.

There is a party culture at Schreiber that seems to be immortal. It’s rare to walk in the hallways or sit in the cafeteria without hearing a short yet enthusiastic anecdote about a classmate’s crazy, drunken weekend adventure.

Peer pressure, however, does not seem to be as prevalent as anticipated by adults and teachers. Although 77.7% of poll takers admitted to using drugs of some kind, there was still a sizable 22.3% who have not.

“There’s definitely a culture of partying here but it’s not that hard to avoid. If you really don’t want to, then you don’t have to, and I don’t really feel anyone’s forcing you,” said junior Matt Gawley. “I think with all the peer pressure stuff we’ve learned in health, peer pressure exists to a lesser extent than it once did. I don’t really feel the need to drink; people think I’m weird enough without it.”

Global youth-motivating non-profit Do Something published a report exposing that more teens in the United States die from prescription drug abuse than heroin and cocaine combined. Heroin is an epidemic that has increased in popularity on Long Island for some time now.

Between 2012 and 2014, Massapequa alone was the victim of 20 heroin overdoses. More than 300 people died in Suffolk County from heroin overdoses in a 60 month period from 2009 to 2013.

Though you may not hear of it, the poll confirms that 5% of Schreiber students have used heroin.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan passed a law that established 21 as the legal drinking age in the United States. Since then, the number of drunk-driving car accidents has decreased by 50%.

The countries in which drinking ages are lower or nonexistent are also the countries in which drinking is the biggest epidemic. Slovakia and Belarus both have drinking ages of 18, and they are among the countries in which alcohol is the most consumed. Estonia has the highest alcohol-related death rate of 22.03 and the drinking age there is 18.

Additionally, although the US is home of just 5% of the world’s population, it is also home to 75% of the world’s abused prescription drugs. revealed that 71% of America’s twelfth graders have used alcohol and 43% have used marijuana. 24% of high school students have been driven by a driver, and 64% have used prescription painkillers from a friend or family member. They also revealed that Among twelfth graders in the U.S., one out of eight drove after smoking marijuana at some point in the last two weeks.

Schreiber has been dealing with drug and alcohol abuse for decades. In October 1971, the school created a policy protecting students who turned in illegal substances to an administrator or nurse. If a student told a teacher that they were involved with drugs, the staff member would have to keep that information confidential. Drugs turned in voluntarily by a student would be given to the principal, who, in turn, would give them to the police department. During this process, the student’s name would not be disclosed.

The only exception to this rule would be if the drug use put a student’s life or physical welfare in danger. In that case, the student in question would have to be evaluated by the school nurse, and the student’s parents would be contacted.

However, if the student did not voluntarily hand in the drugs, and they were caught in possession of illegal substances on campus, the student would be taken to the principal’s office, and their parents and the police would be notified immediately. In spite of these actions, the student would still have the right to remain silent, and the principal would not have the authority to question them before the police arrived.

Students were enraged when a January 1986 article published by The Pennysaver, a newspaper that covered Port Washington, Roslyn, Great Neck, and Manhasset news, provided an inaccurate report of drug and alcohol use among high school students.

According to the article, “Port Washington students agree” that “most of the time, a stranger can be approached and asked to buy liquor.” The article, entitled “C’mon, Everybody Does It,” went on to make more unfounded claims about drug and alcohol use in Nassau County, especially in Port.

Although the article made the front page, it did not contain a single numerical statistic, and only five students were interviewed. Their last names were not disclosed. A Schreiber Times article published in response to The Pennysaver the following month referenced a drug survey conducted the previous year, which all students were required to fill out in class.

The 1985 survey showed that 40% of students had tried marijuana once or more than once, and only 6% of students used the drug more than once a week, disproving The Pennysaver’s claim that “everyone” does drugs.

In 1995, the police made two drug busts at Schreiber within two weeks of one another, on March 16 and March 30, respectively. Although these incidents were reportedly unconnected, both the students involved were arrested for illegal possession of marijuana.

On March 16, 1995, an officer on patrol discovered three students smoking marijuana from a water pipe behind the school. The police found that the perpetrator of the second drug bust, a junior, had been carrying eleven glassine envelopes full of marijuana in his pockets.

One of the most dangerous qualities that all drugs have in common is that they are addictive. The problem is that a user does not know if they will be addicted until they try the substance.

This dependence changes the user’s priorities, therefore affecting every aspect of their life, from their personal relationships to their work ethic. Of course, every drug results in different consequences, and the effects will vary from person to person.

The most commonly consumed drug among high school students is alcohol. According to Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), nearly one quarter of all students have drunk alcohol before graduating high school, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 90% of alcohol consumed by minors is in the form of binge drinking.

Alcohol is a depressant that slows the user’s reaction time and impairs their judgement. Over time, alcohol can damage the heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system, and it increases the chances of developing cancers of the mouth, esophagus, liver, breast, and throat.

In addition, the combination of poor judgement and a lack of coordination results in many accidents, including drunk driving, which results in approximately 28 deaths per day.

Next to alcohol, marijuana is the second most used drug among high schoolers. Marijuana can affect memory, learning ability, and motivation, all of which are incredibly important for students’ success. It also increases the occurrence of anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and psychotic episodes, as well as causing damage to the heart and lungs.

Marijuana is especially harmful to adolescents, whose brains are still developing, as they hinder the development of white matter, which is essential to communication between brain cells and therefore a person’s ability to reason.

Of course, the dangers of smoking cigarettes are discussed extensively in health class: lung cancer, emphysema, COPD, chronic bronchitis, and cardiovascular disease. Smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths per year, which is about one in five.

Smoking is not the only dangerous form of tobacco consumption, however. While many think that smokeless tobacco is safe compared to smoking cigarettes, it is linked to mouth, throat, gum, and cheek cancer.

Aside from these three substances, other commonly used drugs include cocaine, heroin, and prescription drugs such as Adderall and Xanax, all of which can result in overdoses and other harmful effects.

So why is drug use so prevalent at Schreiber and across American high schools? For the answer, we can look to the most popular forms of media that high school students consume. In any movie or TV show portraying high school students, it is almost a given that drug and alcohol use will be mentioned. Quite often, it is even glamorized, and the actors are shown enjoying their substance abuse.

The Iowa-Illinois safety council claims that a quarter of movies include drug use, and the majority of those movies do not show the negative impacts of addiction.

A University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study revealed the prevalence of drug and alcohol references in music that high schoolers consume on a daily basis.

The study explains that “about 14 percent of songs spoke of marijuana use, 24 percent depicted alcohol use, and another 12 percent included reference to other substances.”

Many teenagers are easily impressionable, and when they watch their celebrity idols using illegal substances—even if these depictions are fictional—they are often more inclined to use drugs themselves.

Many also attribute the use of illegal substances to the stress and expectations that come with being a high schooler. These people argue that students resort to drinking and using drugs to escape the constant tests, homework, and other responsibilities they must pay attention to.

“Students use drugs and alcohol to escape the pressures of heightened responsibilities and self-awareness,” said senior Dylan Langone.

Students have been thoroughly informed about the dangers of peer pressure. Many teachers typically explain this phenomenon as students directly encouraging others to drink or or use drugs. However, the advent of social media may have changed the reasons why students drink.

When a student sees their friends or a popular peer using drugs, they may be inclined to participate as well. When students can keep their photos private, they are able to share their illegal activities without fears of being discovered.

To seek help or learn more about drug and alcohol abuse, visit the Al-Anon/ Alateen website or go to Addictioncareoptions. com for information from the National Alcohol and Substance Abuse Information Center. The Information Center, as well as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, has a phone hotline that is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If you think a friend is struggling with drugs or alcohol, you may wish to speak to a trusted adult.

Substance abuse has been a universal problem for high schoolers for years, but we can take different approaches to addressing students who suffer from addiction.