High Schoolers, Drugs, and Community Realities

Ostensibly, my town is composed of two key demographics: cautious and conservative government personnel and their families. Because of its geographical proximity to two separate military posts, plus neighborhood amenities such as middle and high schools and the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-Day Saints, the community presents a reserved attitude that shields it from any public interest. Nevertheless, the activities of our suburban youth tell a different story. Despite the hordes of military and police personnel living among us, my town runs one of the most intricate drug-trafficking networks in the state, and it is made operational almost entirely by teenagers.

magic-mushrooms“I suppose,” says seventeen-year-old Allie, a high school senior with a 4.0 GPA and a heavy drug user, “that I was sixteen the first time I tried a psychedelic.” Most teenagers around here will freely confess to some level of experience using drugs. Whether it be via psychedelics like LSD, magic mushrooms and the nBOME family, or serotonin agonists like MDMA, or prescription pills, teenagers exploit vast resources to achieve a broad range of different highs. Even many of the Mormon teenagers, who represent a fair percentage of our student body, have at least smoked marijuana.

The level of deception on which my town operates is staggering. Whole economic operations, carried out primarily by high schoolers, go unrecorded and unobserved. One of my town’s aspiring magic mushroom dealers, when asked about her current grow operation, said excitedly, “I’m nineteen years old. I have a job. I pay rent. Who’s going to suspect me of growing shrooms in my pantry? And it’s not because I don’t look like a drug dealer either. It’s because no one ever jumps to the conclusion that the person standing behind them in the checkout line is actually their friendly neighborhood drug consult.”

One of the most efficient inlets for substances into my town is called the “Silk Road,” an online resource that connects buyers to their drugs of choice from home distributors all over the world, effectively making it the Etsy of the drug market. Anyone with access to the Internet and a banking account has the ability to bridge the gap between the entire mood-bending market and local consumers, making potential entrepreneurs out of most young adults. Sheets of 25i-nBOME, for example, a designer research chemical that synthesizes the effects of acid, reaches my town when a distributor purchases it in bulk over the Silk Road and makes it available for resale at a 400% markup.

If, however, the risk of purchasing from the Silk Road does not suit an investor (he would incur felony charges if caught), he also possesses the means to manufacture synthetic and / or natural chemicals on his own. Psilocybin mushrooms, for example, also called “magic mushrooms,” are especially lucrative when grown by their distributors, as opposed to being purchased from the Silk Road. Magic mushrooms also have the added benefit of existing within a legal grey area due to the spores classifying as technically legal for purchase, possession and sale. Only when a grower sets out to yield a bounty from his spores do his actions qualify as felonious.

The sketchiest drugs in circulation enter the scene almost exclusively through pharmacological companies in the unsuspecting form of prescription pain medications. Medications like Oxycontin, Vicodin, Morphine, etc., all derive from the same Middle Eastern plant as does heroin—the opium poppy. (This, incidentally, is why most states have outlawed the growth of poppy seeds.) While more and more research into the negative impacts of prescription pills continues to grow, a resilient trust in the good judgment of doctors and the FDA perseveres, enabling rapid and debilitating dependence because of both medical and recreational abuse. Since prescription drugs can be so easily stolen from parents, siblings and, as I have witnessed, even friends, these agents become accessible to teenagers around my town on a less predictable basis. The great demand for these designer drugs, in conjunction with their sporadic availability and harsh penalties for illegal resale, leads to higher market value, driving many kids to seek them out at the risk of harm to themselves and others.

crystalMDMAMany of my town’s teenage drug users claim that, far from ruining their lives, drugs have had a therapeutic impact. One of these, MDMA, generates good feelings by stimulating three of the brain’s neurotransmitters, which control serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. When asked to talk about her experience with MDMA (one of the compounds found in ecstasy) sixteen-year-old Mackayla said, “MGMT [the band] has this song called ‘Congratulations,’ and the lyrics talk about spreading your arms to ‘soak up congratulations.’ That’s what it feels like. You’re just soaking up everyone’s good vibes. Everyone always has to be so ironic and insincere when they’re conveying positive emotion, but there’s this powerful unity in being unconditionally happy around other people who are doing the same thing.” Another teenager interviewed for this piece, nineteen-year-old Roberto, said of his experience with psychedelics, “I used to get bogged down by all of my insecurities, but when I took acid for the first time, I became aware of the things I associate with negativity and how simple it is for me not to be bothered with them. Yeah, you’re probably mostly doing it because you want to watch the walls melt, but you’re also gaining a different perspective on life.”

The debate over drugs continues to evolve and find shape in our ever-changing culture, and I believe that as we continue to reevaluate our beliefs as a society, we must also take into account the lesser-heard voices that contribute to the overall conversation. The teenagers in my town are a part of that conversation.