Teen Addiction: an ongoing crisis


Juliette Ramirez-Torres

Senior Yajaira Aparicio working in Spanish class with the help of an energy drink.

Juliette Ramirez-Torres, Editor-in-Chief

   Returning to in-person school after having online classes for over a year has been a struggle for students and they have been finding ways to cope with it, for better or worse. This year there have been issues of students using illegal substances as they are minors like nicotine and marijuana in school. 

   The school has made some changes in an attempt to fix these issues like closing the bathrooms, having smoke detectors, and assigning detentions or suspensions. However, the source of the problem should not be overlooked. The obvious fact this year is teens are struggling to go throughout their school day without having to use their devices such as juuls or weed pens. This causes conflicts since students are not allowed to be in possession of or under the influence of unlawful drugs/alcohol on school property according to the Gresham-Barlow School District School Policy. These devices are feeding their addictions as they are accessible and discreet to have in school.

   “I think it’s a lot easier [to smoke or vape] than it has been previously. It’s definitely more convenient for students to do it during school hours, or around school property,” campus monitor Gabriel Shields said.

 Smoking or vaping devices have become more accessible and affordable for students to obtain. How society and students view these devices can influence the attraction a student has towards them. Some students may see them as “cool” if their friends are using them or if those friends saw them as “gross” then it can discourage a student from trying or continuing to use them. If students aren’t careful around these, “one time just for fun” can turn into a growing addiction.

   “I just think people don’t see it [addictions] as that bad anymore because people don’t really tend to care unless you’re close to that person,” sophomore Jody Tyrese Goldsby said.

   As addictive behavior rises in students, so does the idea of excessively using these addictive products as “normal” and not concerning. With the increased acts of abusing unlawful substances in school, the COVID temporary break from school has been looked at as a factor of these acts and potential addiction for students.

   “When you’ve been isolated the way most of us had been, you lack the structure that we were used to from in-person school, as a result, there’s going to be a lot more opportunities to engage in behaviors that you may not have done before,” Shields said.

   The change of mindset from distance learning to on-campus learning can be seen in our school today. Students are taking advantage of the bathroom space causing problems for those trying to use the facilities, especially when they’re part of the reason bathrooms were closed earlier this year. Although students smoking and vaping in the bathrooms has been a problem in the past, this year it has become so severe, where the school saw that as the only solution. This is a clear example of students having to readjust to on-campus learning again.

   Another observation from this year so far is the number of students with energy drinks, consuming one or more in a day. The popularity of energy drinks has risen, as there are more brands making them and of course adding new flavors as well. Caffeine may be addictive but not illegal for students leaving them to gravitate towards energy drinks or coffee as they are highly accessible since they are sold in most stores and gas stations. 

   “I think students got more lazy and tired, causing them to not focus as much online, so when they did have to go back to school, they struggled,” freshman Kyla Martin said. “They then saw the energy drinks or something else as ‘Oh, this will help me stay focused and awake’ so I should have them and then they kept getting more and more.”

   Although there are many addictive products out there some specifically target teens based on their common struggles like depression, lack of sleep, or boredom. It’s easy for students to want to try something that advertises itself as relaxing, energy fulfilling, different kinds of tasty flavors or enhancement for playing games, and much more. These are all things teens are seen wanting and or needing. Some reasons are more serious than others, but they can lead down the same path to addiction. 

   “You might just give it a try and then you get addicted to it,” Goldsby said.

  That simple sentence sums up the process of getting an addiction. It all begins with trying it once, then another, and so on.

   “The first step would be just to recognize that you got an issue and just ask for help, fully wanting it,” Shields said. 

   Addictions aren’t healthy for anyone and need to be taken seriously. Students should be looking for help so they can become the best they can be and ready to learn. As students learned or will be learning in Health 2 class, some signs of addiction are lack of control, inability to stay away from a substance or product, decreased socialization, and ignoring risk factors. 

   “We also know that using drugs and alcohol can increase someone’s likelihood for depression and anxiety because their inhibitions go down. As a result, people will make riskier decisions and things like that,” counselor Andrea Parra said.

   Knowing the consequences of having an addiction, school counselors have the knowledge to help direct students in the right direction and it would be a good option for help.

   “There are so many different kinds of addiction counseling out there. We would work with you to figure out what kind of counseling you would need and then help you navigate that system,” Parra said.

   Also listed on this page are some addiction helplines. Of course, the school’s counselors are here to help with problems or just to be someone to talk to as well. If uncertain of which counselor to see, the school’s website has the list of counselors under ‘departments’ and then ‘counseling’.  The counseling office on campus is located near the main office on the first floor. 


SAMHSA National Helpline:

Confidential free help, from public health agencies, to find substance use treatment and information. 


American Addiction Centers:

Free and confidential guidance to those suffering from addiction. 

(866) 826-2659