Students Against AddictionCocaine: The Avoidable Addiction.

Drug abuse is defined by Google as “the habitual taking of addictive or illegal drugs” (Google, 2014).  By definition, in order to engage in drug abuse you must take it on a regular basis, and the drug must have some kind of illegal or addictive property.  What is it that causes people to take that first step in initially using a drug that could potentially cause the slow, but progressive, destruction of their lives?  Many studies show a relation between a teenage drug abuser, and their home life, social surroundings, and mental stability.  By looking at each factor individually one could determine the primary causes that lead to drug abuse, and in turn use that information to help prevent more teenagers from engaging in the consumption of illegal drugs.

Cocaine is a highly addictive narcotic currently being used by many young adults around America today.  Cocaine is normally a powdered substance that can be inhaled through the nasal passage.  It also comes in the form of crack, or crack cocaine, which has a physical structure similar to that of a rock or crystal. When a person takes cocaine or crack cocaine they experience a burst of “short-term euphoria, energy, and talkativeness”.  They also undergo the physical side effects of having an elevated “heart rate and blood pressure” (Effects on Cocaine, 2014).  This effect is due to cocaine’s ability to block dopamine transmitters, causing dopamine to instead latch on and off to the dopamine receptors in the brain, which causes overstimulation of the brain cells. Since cocaine is known as a stimulant, this overstimulation of the brain causes cocaine users to be fidgety and unable to focus.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, teenagers are likely to begin using cocaine during their 8th year of school.  In 2013 a study done by the National Institute of Drug Abuse showed that, 0.5% of 8th grade students have said they used cocaine in the past month, 1% of 8th grade students say they have used it within the last year, and 1.7% of 8th grade students say they have used at least once in their lifetime. By 12th grade 0.8% of students admit to having used cocaine in the past month, 1.9% of 12th grade students agree to having used it in the past year, and 4.5% of 12th grade students admit to having used it in a lifetime (National Institute, 2013). As shown in the survey there is a correlation between the increased amounts of cocaine use and the ages of teenagers from 12 to 18.

 A few of the more common reasons younger people have been shown to take drugs, such as cocaine, has to do with their feelings to: “fit in, escape or relax, relieve boredom, seem grown up, rebel, or experiment” (Why Do People, 2014).  All of which are feelings that most teens undergo.  However, not every teen immediately goes from wanting to “fit in” (Why Do People, 2014) to using crack cocaine. Social relationships play a large part in what teenagers will and will not do.  As a teenager it is natural to surround yourself with a clique of friends. Having a small group of reliable friends can provide a sense of stability and comfort in a time in your life where a lot of things can seem very confusing and disorientated. There was a study done  by Jacquelynne S. Eccles on children as they progressed from childhood to adolescence and it showed how “early adolescents want a certain amount of distance from their parents” and tend to “fill this space with close relationships with other, nonfamilial adults” (Eccles, p.38, 1999).            As time progresses the amount of interaction between teenagers and their peer groups increases, so it is only natural to develop certain similar habits and likes.  These similarities and likes between teenagers can be the core that holds their friendships together.  Because of the state of “short-term euphoria, energy, and talktiveness” taking cocaine can have on the body it is a popular drug to take at a party (Drug Facts, 2013). Cocaine can serve as a party starter.  If the group of people you hang out with on a regular basis start to experiment around with the usage of cocaine, it would not be uncommon for this action to spread to all the members of the group, simply because of that unconscious need to relate to and share in the experiences of your peers. This psychological need to fit in is most commonly referred to as conformity.  In the study it showed that “children’s conformity to their peers peaks during early adolescence”            (Eccles, p.39, 1999).  This happens to be the time that teenagers “seek more independence and autonomy” leading to conflicts about following the traditional set of rules instilled on them from their childhood versus following the same pattern and actions as their peer groups.

 In today’s society amongst youth, conformity can be seen as quick fix to an awkward social circumstance.  However, this psychological need to conform is what is causing so many of today’s youth to become susceptible to doing harmful things that they would otherwise acknowledge as wrong.  While it is good to branch out and experience new things, it is important to have a strong sense of right and wrong.  This solid foundation will allow today’s youth to be able to choose for themselves what is acceptable and what is not, which is a quality they will need as they grow older.  Avoiding certain social situations can also be beneficial.  If you know that one action will more often than not lead to you being in a position where you are pressured to participate in something harmful, like cocaine for instance, then thinking ahead and avoiding that social situations can lead to it being more likely that you avoid the peer pressure altogether.  Cultural and social surroundings do play a large part in how teenagers behave and what path they choose to follow, but as people they have the choice to choose who and what they allow into their lives. This free will to choose if chosen correctly can be a deciding factor as to whether or not today’s youth participates in the usage of illegal drugs, such as cocaine.

Social factors are not the only contributing causes that lead to whether teenagers choose to actively engage in the usage of drugs.  The influence of home life can greatly impact a young adult’s decisions regarding the choice to be a part of something. Under normal circumstances a person spends more time with their family, immediate or distant, than they do with any other living being.  If people are influenced by whom and what is around them, then their home life plays a major role in whom they become as they advance through life.  There was a study done by Nancy A. Gonzales about “the ways in which families influence adolescent risk behavior and effective interventions” (Gonzales, 2011).  It was showed that implemental and effective parenting styles “can prevent negative behaviors and also promote prosocial behaviors and values” (Gonzales, 2011). The study also showed how a “lack of strong positive relationships with parents increases involvement with deviant peers, which increases adolescents’ risk for a variety of problems” (Gonzales, 2011).  In today’s society there is a wide range of family backgrounds a person can have. Many people come from single parent homes, or are orphaned. Some people have both their parents, but face strong parental pressure to be perfect leading to feelings of stress.  Sometimes youth’s feel isolated in their homes often developing feelings of being unwanted or undesired.  Other times they can come from an abusive family which can lead to having a mindset of worthlessness.  There are so many different circumstances teenagers are placed into, that it becomes unfathomable to imagine just what an individual has been through.  It is a widely accepted notion that family does in fact directly affect a youth’s life, so how can one make the right choices about whether or not it is acceptable to take drugs when one’s home life could be so unstable?  Oftentimes young adults will find themselves trying drugs like cocaine specifically to get away from the reality that they live every day.  This is especially harmful, because a teenager can develop a dependence on cocaine to provide what they believe to be stability to their lives, all the while actually increasing their chances of having a less stable life. While it is not always possible to leave your family it is possible to reach out to someone who can help. There are people such as a counselors or trusted friends who would be more than willing to lend a helping hand or a listening ear. Teenagers can also surround themselves by things that provide structure.  Joining a school club or sport is good way to surround oneself with a positive environment.  Even taking up an instrument can be constructive.  There are numerous amounts of alternative actions that can be taken by someone to avoid being involved with illegal substances, like cocaine.  Although not always easily seen, there are ways to avoid or get out of eventual disastrous circumstances.

Oftentimes one of the final contributing factors that lead to whether or not a teenager will partake in drug abuse has to do with their mental stability. A person’s mindset effects every action that they will make. There is an infinite amount of circumstances that lead to whether or not a person can be considered mentally stable or not.  Sometimes a person’s thought process is affected by the current situation they are in at that moment, sometimes it is affected by a trauma that has occurred in a person’s lifetime, and sometimes a person’s mental processing is effected by a genetic disorder such as being bipolar. With so many possible mind states, it is hard to narrow down a key contributing factor to why someone would participate in the drug abuse of cocaine. However, it can be limited to two main reasons: a trauma or event that occurred in their past, and being mentally disabled due to a mental disorder received genetically or during their lifetime.

Cocaine is not the kind of drug that you just wake up one day and decide to do. More often than not there is a trigger or stimulant in your life that causes you to consider and eventually try using cocaine.  When it comes to someone suffering from a psychological trauma, it can leave someone in a vulnerable or defenseless state.  People who undergo mental trauma can be left feeling “numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people” (Helpguide Emotional, 2014). When you feel this way, it is easy to develop a poor self image of yourself.  Having a poor self image can lead to being more susceptible to taking drugs or putting yourself in harm’s way.  Perhaps the most efficient way of dealing with someone who is afflicted with the symptoms of trauma is to let them “face and resolve the unbearable feelings and memories” that caused the trauma in the first place with the hope of overcoming it in a constructive way (Helpguide Emotional, 2014).   Dr. Jeanne Segal a doctor who specializes in emotional intelligence wrote an article with two other specialists, Lawrence Robinson and Melinda Smith, on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of people who suffer from trauma.  In the article Segal says that some of the best ways to help someone undergoing trauma therapy is to “offer practical support, be patient and understanding, and be available when they want to talk” (Helpguide Emotional, 2014).  Simply put when someone is on the verge of deciding whether to use cocaine or not their decision can be swayed in the positive direction of refusal if there was someone there offering emotional support.

The second mental aspect mainly involved with drug abuse has to do with not having full control over one’s mental processing, or more commonly known as having a mental disorder.  Of course not every person with a mental disorder is subject to take up drugs.  However, it is more likely that if put in the right situation they may partake in drug abuse.  For example, bipolar disorder is a disorder that “causes serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior” (Helpguide Bipolar, 2014).  A person with a bipolar disorder would undergo mood swings however, “unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function” (Helpguide Bipolar, 2014).  A person with a bipolar disorder is more likely to do something a person with a normal functioning mind would not.  They are more likely to engage in drug abuse depending on the circumstances.  Because there is still so much unknown about the bipolar disorder, it is not something that can be treated over night or with a pill. It is a lifetime struggle. The best thing to do with someone afflicted with a mental disorder is to help them keep their stress and moods in check, and be educated about what they can do to help improve their life.

Cocaine is a dangerous drug, that when it used can take over a person’s life completely because of that dependence on cocaine a drug user will develop.  People who take cocaine often see their lives deteriorating in front of them, but by the time they acknowledge that they would have been better off not taking the drug they have already developed a grave addiction to the drug.  Despite the known risks of doing cocaine it still poses a serious threat to many teenagers in both the United States and around the world. Because of this known threat the best thing we as people can do is to be educated about the causes that lead into drug abuse and also to help educate others.  If people become more aware of the causes that lead to having a cocaine addiction, then it will become more possible to stop possible addicts from ever reaching that dangerous stage of addiction.  Although it is difficult to predict and stop every possible cause, being knowledgeable about certain triggers can be helpful in the war against drug abuse. Whether it has to do with home life, mental, or social factors, drug abuse is completely preventable.  However, it is going to take the actions of many people to make a difference  in the percentage of people who say yes to drugs and those who choose to say no.


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HelpGuide. (2014, March). Mental.  Emotional and Psychological Trauma

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National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs for 8th Graders, 10th Graders, and 12th Graders; 2013 (in percent)* & National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs for Ages 12 or Older, Ages 12 to 17, Ages 18 to 25, and Ages 26 or Older; 2012 (in percent). Retrieved from

Why Do People Take Drugs? (2014) Retrieved from

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