By Suha Malik, age 15

It’s no secret that an abundance of kids in high school use drugs, alcohol, and other substances. There are a plethora of laws in place to prevent teenagers from getting their hands on these certain items: can’t drink until you’re 21, most drugs aren’t allowed to be in your possession at all, and in Wisconsin, you can’t purchase any nicotine products until you reach the age of 18 – in other states, in some cases, the age limit is lowered or raised from this particular number. However, these laws don’t really stop teenagers from getting their hands on these products: surprisingly, a lot of high schoolers somehow obtain them.

Many kids in my school use drugs and nicotine products, and they’re not shy about it: they post videos and pictures of the smoke they produce while vaping, or using their juul or cigarettes on social media platforms, especially on Snapchat and/or Instagram. If that isn’t bad enough, a lot of kids break into their parents’ alcohol storage, taking whatever they please, and drink constantly. While a lot of this may not surprise some parents and fellow teenagers, it certainly is appalling to me.

Not only is use of drugs, like cocaine, weed, or meth, illegal, but it creates lasting, awful side effects that may last for life. For example, young adults vaping or using e-cigarettes -or cigarettes themselves- gets them addicted to nicotine as such a young age, and it is fairly apparent what side effects of using it gets them: bad breath, yellow teeth, wrinkles, grayish skin, etc. And these effects aren’t even the worst of them.

According to The Real Cost, smoking as a teenager can lead to constant wheezing (and even asthma), weaker lungs, a weaker immune system, and on average, for every cigarette smoked, eleven minutes of your life comes off. Weed has negative effects on the lungs, heart, and brain. Meth negatively affects the central nervous system. Cocaine use can lead to strokes or heart attacks. Drinking alcohol at a young age can lead teens to become hooked on it, becoming an alcoholic in the process, before they’re even legally allowed to consume it. Not only that, but drinking excessive amounts of alcohol leads to dehydration, disrupts the production of hormones, and negatively affects metabolism.

But, many parents are probably aware of the potential negative health effects of using drugs and alcohol, especially at such a young age. The fact of the matter is, the kids who use these substances don’t limit their use outside of school; many kids bring these substances to and on school grounds.

Vaping is especially popular with high schoolers these days. Some claim that vaping isn’t as bad as smoking, but health experts say otherwise. To do this, many kids turn to the company JUUL, who claim to be a vaping alternative that is not addictive. Teens mostly use this company’s particular products because of its small, portable size: in fact, some use their JUUL out in the open, hiding the tiny, compact, USB-looking device in their hands. However, this company is being sued and investigated because underage kids have been caught using their products, and in Massachusetts, hooked kids on vaping when they claimed that they weren’t addictive.

However, it is a mystery how these kids can get their hands on these products in the first place. I’m not completely familiar with the aspects of this business, but I do have a couple ideas of how these age-restricting products end up in minors’ possession.

Firstly, a lot of high school kids are friends with people who are legally adults – that is, eighteen years old and over. Because of these connections, some kids are able to get illegal products that have been purchased legally by an adult.

Secondly, navigating the Internet comes in handy when buying products that you aren’t meant to come in contact with. Tons of kids use the app Tor or purchase Bitcoins in order to safely buy drugs and other illegal substances for their age; this is backed up by the website Thrillist. This part of the Internet is thus dubbed, “The Dark Web”, Thrillist explains. Going hand in hand with its name, the Dark Web seems to be sketchy, and definitely dangerous.

So, at the end of the day, it is critical and absolutely essential to know that many teenagers use and carry around drugs, especially at school. In my own school, the fire alarm went off a couple of months ago because someone was using an e-cigarette in the bathroom. Stopping the obtaining of these products is the best bet in order to ensure that these kids don’t fall into this dark world, or develop any health deficits.