There have been many trends over the years at CHS, but one that is taking the school by storm is the growing abuse of prescription medication. Student reporting of overall use of drugs at Carmel has skyrocketed, even since years as recent as 2009.
In a 2009 California Healthy Kids Survey, the percentage of students who had partaken in drug use was 53 percent; this figure had risen to over 70 percent by 2013. Drug use among Carmel High students has been on the rise and is by no means exclusive to just marijuana and alcohol.
One CHS sophomore, a consistent user of Xanax, describes how the pills make him feel at school: “They make me relax and make everything at school a bit more enjoyable.” He then goes on to mention how easily accessible the pill is on campus.
But Matt Borek, the Sports Medicine teacher at CHS, teaches that the large possibility of addiction is the most dangerous aspect of these prescription drugs.
Regarding Xanax use, Borek says that “anything can be dangerous if you take too much of it, but [as] it becomes addictive and becomes part of your life…you become unproductive.”
According to the 2014 National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription pills are the third most abused drug by high school students, right behind marijuana and alcohol; the number of annual high school overdoses has more than doubled since 2001, with 765 students jumping all the way to 1,950 students.
Based off the previous calculations, it appears that this trend will continue to grow, and CHS students have their own reasons for using prescription drugs.
“Whether it helps me or doesn’t help me doesn’t affect why I use it,” says one CHS junior athlete, referring to his use of Adderall and Norco. “I use it because it’s fun and it helps me get through the day.” He goes on to speculate that there is a noticeably large demographic at school that uses pills like these.
A CHS freshman who does not partake in school sports or activities openly says that he swallowed three Xanax pills at lunch just for the sake of taking them and because they were so easy to purchase.
Pills on campus is an issue that is not taken lightly, though.
As stated in the CHS Code of Conduct, a student with one drug offense will be immediately suspended for up to five days, as well as notified to the sheriff, with drug counseling offered as an intervention. A second offense results in a five-day suspension, with the recommendation of expulsion for up to a year.
A junior who is a frequent user of various medications says that taking Adderall and Xanax completely uplift his spirits at school and even help him focus in class, but what many students do not know when taking these medications is that they can have a lasting effect on their bodies and minds.
Kate Miller, the support counselor here on campus, and nurse Susan Pierszalowski say that addiction can take control of a student’s thought process and life outside of school.
“[Addiction] is when it affects your everyday life, when you get up in the morning and think, ‘I wonder what time my parents are leaving,’ or, ‘I wonder how I can get away with it at lunch,’” Miller declares.
According to Pierszalowski, there are definitive signs that a student is acutely using, or completely addicted to, a prescription drug: “Pupil dilation and sweating are two of the dead giveaways for acute use, but long-term use, or addiction, usually displays overall changes in behavior, such as falling grades or differences in attitude.”
No matter what the consequences to the abuse may be, there are still students who ignorantly continue to use the drugs.
“The feel-good medicine in the brain is dopamine, and the drugs create a higher flow of dopamine,” says Borek regarding this nonchalant usage of pills. “With excessive use of the drug, you don’t have any naturally pleasurable feelings, so when you’re not on the drug, you can’t get happy
Borek, Pierszalowski and Miller know only what they hear from the mouths of the students: Pills are readily available throughout the halls of Carmel High, and anyone can get them with a little searching.
It is no secret that CHS has its issues with prescription medication.