Commentary

Legal But Lethal

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the most-wanted drug lords in the world, was once again captured last Friday. This summer, El Chapo gained international attention for escaping from a maximum security prison in Jalisco, Mexico. Before his initial arrest, he led the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, which accounts for 25 percent of drugs entering the United States via Mexico, according to “Forbes.” As far as we are from the Southern border, his arrest — as well as recent events involving student-use of illicit substances — allows us to think more carefully about drug use on campus and how it jeopardizes student safety.

While the Andover community recognizes that illegal substance use is dangerous and forbids the use of such drugs on campus, we are not as acutely aware of the impact that some legal drugs have on students. For example, every morning, I am astonished by the number of students who crowd around the tables in Paresky Commons with their fingers tightly wrapped around their coffee. Even after classes end and during the evening, I constantly see students getting their coffee. Caffeine, though not illegal, can result in restlessness, fatigue and insomnia if taken in excess and, like other stimulant drugs, is physically addictive. Oftentimes, however, students drink coffee without even thinking of the possible health concerns that could result from their actions.

While prohibiting the use of illegal drugs on campus protects students from addiction and health issues to a large extent, allowing the use of legal drugs without any sort of regulation can be detrimental to student wellness. Drinking a little bit of coffee each day may not bring any harm to students, but if a student decides to drink five cups of coffee every day, their decision can certainly lead to substance dependence and more dire consequences that can impact student health.

The truth is that Andover never really teaches its students how to use legal drugs safely — even common ones like caffeine. In fact, most of us are cognizant of the fact that caffeine is a drug when we consume it. While Andover struggles to educate its students about so many other topics, it has superficially skimmed over the surface of the topic of legal substance abuse and failed to really delve deeply into what substance abuse truly means.

So far, we have primarily focused on preventing illegal substance abuse; however, now is the time to expand our discussion to include legal substance abuse. We can integrate courses about the dangers of abusing legal drugs into Personal and Community Education, lessons and Physical Education classes to make sure students know about the concept of legal drug abuse at an early stage in their Andover career. Even by creating an awareness week dedicated to educating students about legal substance abuse can help students become more discreet about the choices they make on a daily basis.

Caffeine and some other legal drugs may be commonly used by several people, but that does not make them any less dangerous than illegal drugs. I ask that Andover students be more cautious when dealing with substances of any kind — even if they think that the drug does not seem to be particularly harmful at first glance.

Jan 15, 2016