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It doesn’t ease your anxiety, it eases your craving: Drug use at Solon High School

The bathroom is a common place for students to vape.
The bathroom is a common place for students to vape.

Many students are familiar with the anti vaping Public Service Announcement by The Real Cost.

In the PSA a man speaking to the audience announces, “vaping can deliver toxic metals like nickel and lead into your lungs, that’s metal in your lungs.”

According to the CDC, during the last decade, the US has seen an exponential increase in the number of teens who reported use of a nicotine vape from 4.7% in 2011 to 7.7% or 2.14 million kids last year.

I asked about 20 students in senior commons if they thought vaping was widespread at Solon, and they all knew at least three people who vape in and outside of school. The real number will remain a mystery because I was unable to put out a school-wide survey on drug use due to privacy concerns. Whatever the actual statistic, many Solon High School students cannot make it through their day without getting high in the bathroom.

But what has caused this increase? Some may blame mental health, social media or even a cultural shift. Assistant Principal Dr. Carla Rodenbacher said mental health plays a huge role.

“There’s also the mental side of anxiety or stress,” Rodenbucher said. “We see a lot of kids say that it takes the edge off or helps them get through their day.”

While 50% of vapers believe that vaping nicotine gets rid of their stress, anxiety or depression, in reality, it has the reverse effect. When someone starts using drugs, there is a shift in brain chemistry that causes the body to become dependent and crave the drug. When the drug is not instantly delivered, this can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress and depression.

A student at Solon High School who has chosen to remain anonymous also sees the ties between drug use and stress.

“I’d smoke [marijuana] two to three times a week in school, every time we had a test for sure,” they said. “It helps with the stress and all the other stuff.”

After this student got caught smoking in school they faced a 10-day suspension, which got cut in half, and realized the risks involved.

“I stopped smoking in school because I didn’t want that on my permanent record,” they said. “That will impact my future.”

Because of students’ addictions, they end up vaping in bathrooms in between or during classes. Should a student be caught vaping in the bathroom, and it’s their first offense, they will be suspended from school for 10 days. However, if they follow five steps their suspension will be reduced from 10 days down to five.

Joshua Frazier believes that the punishments have a positive impact on students.

“Our whole school policy is based on getting students the help that they need,” Frazier said.

Going to Solon, there is a certain standard that students have to maintain. Getting straight A’s while participating in various sports and activities, often students are under a lot of pressure that they don’t know how to handle.

“We look for healthier ways for them to combat the stress or anxiety or problems they might be facing at home or here at school,” Rodenbucher said. “There are healthier ways to deal with stressors in life.”

Fraizer also notices a cultural shift that contributes to more students vaping.

“Vaping is just different than what smoking used to be,” Frazier said “I think for some kids it looks cool and trendy.”

Many vapes have bright colorful packaging and fun, pleasant-sounding flavors. Vape brand Breeze, for example, has flavors such as Pineapple Passion, Grape Soda and Strawberry Banana.

“It’s fruity– it doesn’t give you that nasty smell or taste that cigarettes used to, ” Frazier said. “It has become more approachable for some people.”

While some believe vaping is a safer alternative to smoking or other tobacco products, that does not mean that there aren’t any negative side effects. Vaping cartridges contain the same chemicals as antifreeze, paint solvent and herbicides.

“I don’t know if you gave kids who vape a pack of cigarettes they would wanna smoke it,” Frazier said.

Many teenagers at SHS have heard about the dangers of smoking cigarettes their whole lives and understand the danger. But when it comes to vapes, the dangers aren’t so clear to many students.

Johns Hopkins Medicine finds that there are links between vaping and chronic lung disease, and vaping can lead to increased chances of a heart attack and heart disease.

Many students also believe that vaping nicotine isn’t as addictive as smoking cigarettes or that using a dab pen is less addictive than rolling a blunt, which is why more and more teens are picking up the dangerous habit.

In both cases this belief is false– a study done comparing traditional smokers to vape users showed vape users have a higher dependency on nicotine. Using a dab pen has been proven to be more addictive because it is more concentrated than smoking weed.

“I’m probably addicted, but I feel like I have a good amount of control on it,” the same anonymous student said.

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