Photo by Milan Loaicono
Most long-awaited conversations with my hometown friends typically follow a structure of life updates — school, family, work and relationships. We sit over steaming cups of coffee to laugh, vent and reconnect. This past break, I found myself in our usual coffee shop discussing a new topic — a topic that was a bit uncomfortable, yet gripping. It left us sitting there talking for hours. We were completely captivated by the matter of drugs.
Drugs. When I was in fifth grade, elementary schools in my district would bring in a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) representative to go into detail about how drugs will destroy a person’s life. Then, we all signed a pledge to never use them. Did it work? Nope. Studies such as “Why ‘Just Say No’ Doesn’t Work” in the Scientific American have shown that this resist-drugs program was completely ineffective.
Let’s talk about why. Starting a conversation with children and young adults is a step in the right direction, but failing to continue and advance that dialogue eliminates the progress made. To give the D.A.R.E. program credit, leaders acknowledged this disconnect in 2009 and formed their new program motto “keepin’ it REAL” in 2013, according to the Scientific American.
Programs like the original version of D.A.R.E. only touched on the extremes of drug usage — overdoses, addiction, death. In reality, drugs can be (and in some cases, are) used safely. But in efforts not to promote drugs, we leave out these stories and have conversations that are only a small part of the truth.
This dialogue needs to be more than telling the youth to “just say no.” Educate preteens and young adults on the questions they are curious about: Why do people start to use? Can drugs be used safely? What are the common misconceptions about drugs?
It can be awkward to initiate this discussion, as I know it was for me as an adolescent. A majority of parents and teachers do not like to acknowledge that teens may use drugs, and pre-teens and teens are hesitant to ask for more information for fear of being reprimanded or judged.
The purpose of this special edition is not to normalize/promote drug use or addiction. It was created out of my own curiosity and hope to start a conversation. Too often individuals shy away from complicated topics, afraid that personal beliefs will conflict with those of friends or family. Approaching difficult conversations with empathy, patience and courage can bring a community closer together; we can start that genuine discussion today.
This publication covers drug use from Adderall to marijuana to heroin. Individuals from across the nation contributed in sharing their professional and personal experience with drugs. It is important to note that every personal journey with drugs and recovery is different; one’s own journey may take a different route, and that’s all right. Some pieces and images may be uncomfortable to read or look at, but they tell authentic stories that deserve to be discussed.
To every writer, thank you for tackling these ambitious stories and writing such powerful pieces. To the designers, photographers and artists, thank you for breaking the rules (ironically, as drugs do) with our creative elements to create amazing artwork. Thank you to our copy chief for reading and rereading every word. Thank you to my advisers Elizabeth Smith and Courtenay Stallings for being two of the most supportive and insightful mentors. A major shout out and thank you to Miss Callie Jones for inspiring this magazine topic and initiating this conversation within my own life.
So take a seat, grab your own cup of caffeine and welcome into the wild, honest world of drugs.