I feel like I am in one of those fun houses, with mirrors all around. I keep running into my own reflection. I try to follow the ones that have made it out by their voices, but there’s no clear exit. It’s scary. I feel lost. I am trapped.
This is just a glimpse of Megan’s blog.
A drug-addict of four years, she cannot get the feelings of isolation out of her head. As a freshman in high school, Megan wanted to feel something different. She was weak from pressure and drugs were the quickest fix. But now, as high school graduation nears, she knows she can’t fully live life neglecting reality.
Megan is just one of the teenagers searching for an escape from life’s trials.
The nation is facing a crisis as the war against adolescent drug use continues to deepen.
Licensed professional counselor, Keshia Keith, who works as the program facilitator at the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission Center in Killeen, said it is due to a variety of reasons, including parent’s are too busy.
“We all work, and the economy isn’t great, but children are looking for role models which should be found within the confines of their own homes,” Keith said. “Children should feel comfortable going to their parents to discuss their stresses.”
Teenagers are getting high in different ways, other than drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. Methods range from huffing computer air spray to taking other students’ prescription drugs.
Keith said many teen users do not understand the severity behind the actions, which is why she believes knowledge, along with healthy family relationships, is important.
“A lot of times they don’t know what they’re doing to their body or how it truly affects them,” she said. “Education is important. I make them aware of the situation so they know better, and then it is up to them to do or don’t do better. The choice is theirs.”
She has found there are many methods for fighting the issue and that most teenagers are listening.
“They take it in and tend to be pretty receptive,” Keith said.
Because of this, she believes more education in schools will decrease drug-use levels and
Deputy Superintendent for Belton Independent School District, Susan Kincannon, said the schools are providing awareness through different programs, along with administrating random drug tests.
“We’re constantly working to help our students say no to drugs and educating them on how,” she said. “We have a drug and violence prevention curriculum for grades 3-8 called Lifeskills … and at the high school level, we teach a curriculum called Towards No Drugs in health classes.”
Director of UMHB’s Com-munity Life Center, Dr. Ty Leonard, also said adequate instruction is key.
“Teaching is more effective than we give it credit,” Leonard said. “We need more education in the schools, more drug awareness programs and training for teachers to recognize the signs of drug use. These will all help fight the issue.”
However, schools cannot help every teenage user alone. The community must take responsibility.
“There are a lot of social problems in our society,” UMHB’s Director of Coun-seling, Testing and Health Services, Nate Williams, said. “We’re more aware of them, and they’re getting a lot greater in volume.”
As a licensed professional counselor, Williams has seen many adolescents with mental health issues and substance-use problems.
“With young students coming out of high school and into college, the prevalence of drug usage and experimentation is much higher than it was before,” he said. “As far as trends that I see, there’s a lot of substance abuse. They are medicating problems in their life. If they are depressed, they will use a stimulant to make them feel better. If their relationship ends, they might go out and get drunk. If a student is feeling anxiety, they sometimes medicate with marijuana to take the edge off.”
Williams said trends are diverse.
“One thing we see in college that starts in junior high and high school are eating disorders,” he said. “It’s not unusual to see certain types of drugs used in that as well, like appetite suppressants and stimulants. They sometimes overuse laxatives to lose weight.”
Williams said such behaviors are counterproductive, but counseling is available in the community as well as in the schools.
“It can hurt at first for awhile because (teenagers) have to face what’s real,” Williams said. “Often there are things brought up from one’s past (that) can be incredibly painful. But the liberation is worth it.”
He said the results are largely up to the patient, his or her willingness to change and available resources.
“When they want to get help, counseling is often very successful,” Williams said.
Whether the nation as a whole can effectively fight the drug war, Williams believes is up to every individual.
“It depends on where they turn,” he said. “In some cases, their problems will increase. For others, they will experience freedom. That’s why (counselors) are here, to offer help.”
Among some of the suggested resources available for teenagers, as well as adults, in the Bell County area are the Community Life Center (part of the university’s graduate counseling program), Cele-brate Recovery (through Tem-ple Bible Church), Christian Farms Treehouse in Temple, Metroplex Pavillion in Killeen, the Scott & White treatment facility in Temple and the UMHB Counseling, Testing & Health Services Center for students.
Megan didn’t care whom she talked to. She just needed someone to listen to her, someone to care she was hurting and show it.
The key to solving the underlying adolescent substance abuse issue is unknown, but many professionals, teachers and parents believe admitting there is an issue is the first step.
Williams said, “If we don’t address social issues in our society, it’s going to get worse.”