BY ALICIA KRUEGER
Students in Carmel Unified School District are taught the effects of drugs and alcohol from a young age, beginning in elementary school by introducing the concept and eventually revealing the disturbing effects and realities by the time students graduate.
At the state level, six percent of high school students reported that they “needed but did not receive treatment at a specialty facility for illicit drug [or alcohol] use,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2015-16, and Carmel High School is not isolated from these statistics.
“I started with vaping and smoking marijuana every once in a while in middle school,” a CHS junior says. “During freshman and sophomore year I got into some more intense stuff like LSD, shrooms [a hallucinogen], molly [a form of ecstasy], and I drank a lot of alcohol. I knew it was a problem.”
If caught with drugs or alcohol, a minor will not only face consequences at school, but is liable for a misdemeanor charge on top of legal consequences as it is illegal to buy, sell or consume alcohol, marijuana or products containing nicotine/as a minor, and additional laws which apply to the general public in regards to harder drugs. Due to this, it is unlikely that a student will reach out to a trusted adult for help or support. If a student recognizes they have a problem and knows that they need to fix it, they are also going to recognize the consequences that can come from asking for help without anonymity.
“If a student is coming to see me, and they are requesting addiction resources, I can help bridge the gap between kids and adults,” CHS social and emotional counselor Lauren Capano says. “But it is very difficult because within the community there is not a lot for adolescents.”
Like all CHS staff, Capano is an obligated reporter, meaning she is required to report any students that are or are suspected of self-harm or harm unto others, and as a result, most students find it difficult to confess or tell someone they have committed a crime even if they need the help.
Carmel High puts on a limited number of drug prevention events throughout the school year, coming down to one or two anti-drug guest speakers a year and a week in spring put on by ASB which tries to educate the school as a whole. That’s excluding statewide drugs on campus laws, voluntary random drug testing and the required semester of health.
Drug rehab and education facilities on the peninsula are limited. Drug and Alcohol Intervention Services for Youth provides free education and intervention services for ages 13-18 after being contacted directly or referred to by parents, schools, social services or by court order. DAISY is one of the few free drug education and help centers on the peninsula. Others include Valley Health Associates Youth Outpatient Treatment which is designed for youth and transitional youth (until 24 years old) and the California Youth Opioid Response Monterey branch created in response to the increase of opioid use among teens on the peninsula.
The closest long-term inpatient treatment center is The Camp Recovery Center in Scotts Valley and its short-term treatment center in Santa Lucia as a branch of Door to Hope.
“Hearing the term ‘rehab facility’ sounds intense and punishing,” senior Zachary Brady says. “There needs to be a program that kids are not nervous to approach so that they can get the help that they need without being afraid of the consequences. Sometimes it seems like the school just wants to get you in trouble when they should really just want to help kids.”
The aforementioned junior is one example of a struggling student afraid to ask for help.
“I started to realize that it was an issue when I was constantly asking for it, when my bank account was completely drained, and when I started thinking about my future, like college and stuff,” the junior explains. “I always knew it wasn’t a super great thing for me to be doing, but I guess something just switched.”
This student has been trying to “slow down” his substance use for almost six months.
“I don’t know what more [the school] could’ve done,” a sophomore girl says when discussing her use of Adderall and other prescription drugs. “But I wish there was something that truly resonated with me enough to stop me before I started or before I couldn’t control it anymore. Kids don’t know how real it is until it happens to them or to their closest friend.”
Despite the efforts set forth by the district, some teens continue to find themselves in a position where they have to face real consequences as a result of addiction due to substance abuse.