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Op-Ed: Students have gone numb to drugs and gun violence

The passing of students this year, through drugs and shootings, are met with anger and sorrow, but one thing is becoming evident, no one is shocked by the violence anymore. 

The thought of 12-year-olds getting addicted to nicotine and potentially damaging their lungs should be both foreign and repulsive; yet it’s happening to middle and high schoolers all over the U.S. Kids shouldn’t have to worry about getting shot on their way to school; yet it’s happening in our very own backyard. 

Violence problem has become so prevalent that stories of school shootings and students overdosing on drugs have long lost their aspect of shock. Instead, teens are now responding with “wait another one?”

More than 1 in 4 students in 2022 used e-cigarretes daily, and teen suicide rates have increased by 16% in the last decade. Something in our society has gone wrong, something that’s affecting the mental health and well-being of millions of teens. Maybe it’s the influence of social media, ever mounting pressures of school, or perhaps it’s the rise of bullying. Whatever it is, it’s having a detrimental effect.

Anti-drug efforts, including the well-known “It’s metal, in your lungs” ad, have been promoted so much that most teens have not only seen the ad but have it memorized by heart. While raw and personal stories hit the hardest, with Debi Austin’s ‘Voicebox’ being a prime example of an effective anti-drug message, modern anti-vaping videos today are filled with dramatic orchestral music and CGI dinosaurs. 

In response to the ad, a netizen commented: “The first time I saw this ad I laughed. It makes toxic metals in my lungs sound rad as hell!”

Many young students vape to fit in, to finish work, or to deal with problems like anxiety or depression. No teen probably says to themselves, “I want to get addicted to nicotine.” Children are often faced with adult level problems, and if given the choice to solve the problem with nicotine, kids would choose to take it.

“Some students use it as a coping skill for anxiety because they haven’t learned a better skill, […] It releases dopamine and makes you happier,” a Kamiak High School student told the Lynnwood Times. “Nicotine is definitely addictive, and I think it’s a problem how easily students as young as 12 can access it.”

When walking into a middle or high school bathroom, no student questions the smell of vape, just as no student questions any loud “pop” synonymous with a “gunshot.” Have schools no longer become the safe learning spaces they were meant to be? 

With mandatory school shooting drills, to bathrooms filled with vape smoke, to youth violence, to more than 20% of students considering suicide, the outlook of the progeny of our forefathers is looking nihilistically bleak. It’s obvious to anyone with a sound mind that students in this generation are struggling.

From statistics, to body counts, to the perpetually dark under-eye circles of our youth, it takes no genius to realize something is amiss. Despite all of this, students are still expected to adhere to a mundane daily regiment with laughable attempts at anti-drug programs, to S.O.S. (Signs of Suicide) presentations that feels like a mockery of what teens go through. 

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) warned of the “advent of nihilism,” in his book, “The Will to Power.” We as a society must not fall victim to “physiological decadence” but reach from within to find our human power that motivates to create a world faithful to truly investing in its next generation. 

If you, or someone you know is struggling with well-being, call the Washington Recovery Helpline at 1-866-789-1511 or call/text 9-8-8.

DISCLAIMER: The views and comments expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Lynnwood Times nor any of its affiliates.

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