December 18, 2013

Drugs & Conformity: A Generation at Risk. ~ Aaron Walker

How depressing, drug use as a means to conformity.

Even as a shy and awkward elementary schooler, I desperately wanted to fit in. I vividly remember buying one of those Michael Jackson “Thriller”-era sparkly gloves and wearing it to school to be like the coolest boy in my fifth-grade class, Jeremy. He took note of my super-awesome glove and invited me to play on his kickball team at recess.

Unfortunately, I tripped trying to catch the ball, ripping my glove in the process and cost our team the game. Needless to say, Jeremy never asked me back to his team, but that was hardly my last attempt at conformity. Throughout middle and high school, I kept trying to fit in, and every time it resulted in a metaphorical ripped glove.

It wasn’t until I started to practice meditation and yoga in my early 20s that I found my inner peace and no longer felt the need to conform. Yet it’s a struggle that consumes so many young people, from every generation. I was dismayed to hear that it has begun manifesting itself in a new manner.

According to recent research, detailed in this recent infographic by 12 Keys Rehab, many young people use drugs just because they’re trying to fit in. By adopting the same behavior as the “cool kids,” they hope they, too, will be considered cool just for doping.

A stunning 65 percent of teens say that “feeling cool” is one motivation for drug use.

If someone at the top of the social circle is using drugs, the logic goes, then it must be a cool thing to do and I should be mimicking that behavior.

Drug use is very clearly tied to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem that come from the inherent pressure of school. Almost three quarters of teens cite stress at school as the impetus for drug usage, and we all know that social stressors are the biggest ones of all. Another 65 percent say drugs may be used to feel better about one’s self, undoubtedly tied to those social stresses.

This truly breaks my heart. So many teens feel alone and adrift, and are looking for something to make them feel like part of a group.

As adults, we can recognize that getting high with someone else does not make you bosom buddies, but that feeling of camaraderie can be so strong that teens are sucked into believing that it does.

Young people do so many things in an attempt to fit in. Smoking pot or shooting up are just a few steps beyond buying a sparkly glove in an attempt to make people like you.

The problem is that as long as young people are trying to conform to the people they see as “cool” around them, they are also developing co-dependency. If no one in the group has the desire or need to sober up, then they’ll all continue to get high, like little stoned lemmings.

How do we solve this problem? For me, kicking my overwhelming need for conformity was about finding myself in my practice. That certainly won’t be the solution for every coked-up kid, but I’d imagine that getting in touch with their inner selves through yoga would help push them in the right direction.

Finding a sober friend they want to emulate could help, too, though that can be another iteration of conformity. Change comes from within, a wise man once said. When it comes to drug use, purging the desire to fit in can lead to big changes that will pay great dividends down the road.

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Assistant Editor: Melissa Horton/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Valentin Ottone via Flickr, Creative Commons

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