FCD Prompts Discussion about High School Substance Use


Credit: Katie O’Meara/The Fourcast

Recovering addicts from Freedom from Chemical Dependency come to Hockaday the week of October 5 to discuss teen drug use.

Standing before 120 unfamiliar high school students, recovering addict, Stephanie Haines, shared stories about one of the worst periods in her life: tenth grade. By 15, Haines was already involved with alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes. Her substance abuse problem affected all aspects of her life including relationships, school work and her personality. Everyday Haines felt she was just barely hanging on.

During the week of Oct. 5, several representatives from Freedom from Chemical Dependency visited the Hockaday School to share their stories of teenage substance abuse and to inform students of the negative effects of early alcohol and drug use.

According to a 2014 survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 23.5 percent of 10th graders reported use of alcohol in the past month in comparison to 37.4 percent of 12th graders. While these statistics have been in decline since 1999, the number of high school students engaged in illegal substance use still remains dangerously high.

While Haines acknowledged that many students she works with may not be involved in such activities, her goal is to “keep healthy kids healthy.”

One of the main focuses of the FCD program this year was the effect of peer pressure on substance use in high school. Juniors at Hockaday reenacted social interactions that involved peers or friends attempting to persuade others to participate in drug and alcohol use.

“[Peer pressure] is very prominent. It is not always clear that it is peer pressure and it is not always from the people you expect as well,” junior Cameron Giles said. “It might just be a friend telling you to have fun.”

Giles is not alone in her experiences. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University surveyed 12 to 17-year-olds and found that 75 percent said that viewing people with alcohol and marijuana on social networking sites encouraged them to party similarly.

These discussions with recovering addicts from the FCD staff prompted Hockaday students to examine the role of alcohol and other drugs in their own life.  Sophomore Bailey Hollingsworth reflected on the value of programs like this and its impact in deterring future substance use. “From the session, I thought about how lucky I am to have all the privileges that I do. I definitely was convinced that life is better without substances,” Hollingsworth said.

In addition, the FCD staff encouraged discussions about the positive role of peer intervention in recovery from substance abuse. Haines and other FCD representatives acknowledged the lack of aid their peers provided and how that prevented them from an early recovery.

“I really remember how she [her group leader] mentioned she didn’t have any friends to stop her and help her realize what she was doing was wrong,” freshman Meghna Jain said. “She is in a very different environment than we are here at Hockaday, and it really helped me feel how lucky I am to have such a great community around me.”