Young People Ask . . .
Why Say No to Drugs?
“I AM an emotional child,” says Mike, a young man 24 years old. “At times I’m afraid and even intimidated by others my own age. I suffer from depression, insecurity, and at times I’ve even considered suicide.”
Ann is 36 years old. She, too, describes herself as “emotionally very young,” having “low self-esteem.” She adds: “I find it very difficult to live a normal life.”
Why are these two otherwise healthy people having such emotional difficulty? Mike and Ann are reaping the consequences of a decision they made when they were quite young—to experiment with drugs.—Galatians 6:7.
There is no denying that many youths today are using drugs—everything from hallucinogens to marijuana. So chances are that sooner or later you will be offered drugs. The desire to be accepted by your peers can be quite strong, and this need to belong can exert strong pressure. What will you do? Will you have the confidence and strength to say no to drugs? Why should you? Before we can answer that, it is helpful first to consider some facts about you and the growing-up process that leads to emotional maturity.
How You “Grow Up” Emotionally
As a young person, you are at a time of accelerated growth that includes sexual development. But you are experiencing more than physical growth. You are also growing emotionally. What does this mean?
Well, you’re continually being exposed to new experiences and challenges that can prove to be stressful as well as rewarding. But all these experiences are essential to your growing up emotionally. How so? It has to do with your developing coping skill, that is, the ability to face life’s challenges, learning how to handle success and how to deal with failure. This is what growing up emotionally is all about. Youths who try to escape from problems by turning to drugs can actually hinder such emotional development. More about that later.
But why call the ability to cope a skill? Because it is something that must be learned or practiced to be attained. To illustrate: Have you ever been amazed when watching a skilled soccer player? Perhaps you were fascinated with the way he met all the challenges of the game. You watched him use his head and feet in ways that were nothing short of awe inspiring! Yet, how did this player develop such skill? By years of practice. He learned to kick the ball, run with it, dribble, feint, and so on, until he became proficient at the game.
Developing coping skill is very similar. It takes practice! And how can you get such practice? The Bible provides a clue at Romans 5:3: “Let us exult while in tribulations, since we know that tribulation produces endurance.” Endurance is the quality of remaining firm under pressure or hardship without giving up. And notice that it is by facing and dealing with “tribulation,” or distressful circumstances, that you can develop the quality of endurance. The endurance you develop during your present “tribulation” will leave you better equipped to deal with future hardships. Thus, “tribulation” can be a positive experience that produces fine results.—Compare James 1:2-4.
How can you put this principle to work in your life? By facing and dealing with the problems or hardships you experience now as a young person. For example, do you lack confidence? Are you shy or lonely? Or maybe you’re concerned with your physical appearance? Is your family life difficult or are you having problems in school? Problems will vary from one young person to another, ranging in severity from the minor “everyday” problems to the much more disturbing ones that sometimes trigger thoughts of suicide. But no matter what your particular problems may be, to grow emotionally you need to face and deal with them now!
‘But what does all of this have to do with saying no to drugs?’ you ask. Consider.
Drugs Hinder Growth
Ann, who used drugs as an escape, says: “For 14 years I haven’t dealt with my problems.” She admits: “Emotionally I am very young.” Mike expressed a similar thought, saying: “I had used drugs since I was 11 years old. When I stopped at the age of 22, I felt like a child. I latched onto others, trying to find security. I came to realize that my emotional development stopped when I started using drugs.”
Mike, Ann, and countless others like them, shortly after they began experimenting with drugs felt that these substances could be used to cope with the discomforts of life. But the more they relied on drugs the less they actually faced problems. The result? They failed to develop the coping skills necessary for mature adult life. Basically their emotional development stopped or slowed down when they started using drugs.
As Dr. Sidney Cohen, former director of the Division of Narcotic Addiction and Drug Abuse, explains: “The problem with the juvenile [drug] user whose waking hours may be taken over by the ‘stoned’ state is that even if something is learned, practice time is not available. His day consists of ‘blowing pot’ after breakfast, at the 10 o’clock recess, during the lunch hour, and so on. This leaves little time for any sort of practice or review of what was learned.”
To understand this better, recall our illustration of the soccer player. What would happen if he stopped practicing soccer at one stage of his development, say after he learned to kick the ball? Why, he wouldn’t progress beyond that point of ability. Similarly, what happens when a 13-year-old by using drugs stops practicing coping skills? “I wasted all those years of development,” answers Frank, who had abused drugs since he was 13 years old. “When I stopped, I came to the painful realization that I was totally unprepared to deal with life. I was a 13-year-old all over again with the same emotional turmoil that faces any other adolescent.”
We Learn By Experience
When you experience adolescent life with its ups and downs, you are actually preparing yourself for life and all its challenges. “We learn much by experience,” a rehabilitation counselor explained to Awake! “As we experience life our minds make a permanent record, one that it will refer to when faced with a problem. It is very similar to a computer. We program information into a computer. Then when faced with a problem, it searches its memory banks, analyzes, and comes up with the answer. But what would happen if we programmed even one bit of wrong information into it? When called upon to solve certain problems, it would give wrong answers.”
As a young person, your learning process is similar. The above-mentioned counselor continues: “If the young person experiences life while abusing drugs, his mind will record wrong or distorted information. Then when he is faced with problems, his mind will base its analysis on wrong information, thus making it difficult for him to deal with certain of life’s problems.”
So as a young person, you need to fully experience life with all its ups and downs, its successes and failures. True, growing up is not easy. But if you try to avoid the “growing pains” by using drugs, you can seriously hinder your chances of being a responsible mature adult.
In this connection take a lesson from Jesus Christ himself. When he was on the execution stake, some offered him “wine drugged with myrrh” as an escape. What did he do? “He would not take it,” the Bible answers. (Mark 15:23) So what should you do when others urge you to try drugs? “Don’t!” urges Mike. “Don’t experiment with drugs. You’ll suffer the rest of your life!”
But how can you say no to drugs? This will be discussed in a future issue of Awake!
[Blurb on page 18]
“Don’t experiment with drugs,” urges Mike. “You’ll suffer the rest of your life!”
[Picture on page 17]
What would you say?