Aaron Lassmann, senior at Clear Springs High School, knows that some of his peers are drinking and doing drugs every weekend. He just doesn’t know when or where.
There was one time though, at a get-together with parents keeping an eye on things, someone told him there were shots in the bedroom.
“We left,” he said, of himself, his sister and a few friends. “And then we went to Sonic.”
While his sister, Anna, doesn’t want to be a part of the party scene herself, she said she wouldn’t get anyone in trouble for drinking or doing drugs.
“I don’t care that much,” she said. “People can do what they want to do, but I’m not going to do it with them.”
In 2015, the Region 6 Prevention Resource Center — which includes Galveston and 12 surrounding counties — compiled a survey of how teens had used various drugs, and 46.4 percent of teens who responded said it was easy to get alcohol in Region 6.
A panel comprised of four students from Galveston County — two from Clear Springs High School and two from Texas City High School — rated getting alcohol as minors at a level of 4.75 on average on a 1- to 10-point scale, with 10 being hardest.
The 2015 survey also revealed that teenagers perceive their peers abuse substances — particularly tobacco and marijuana — at higher rates than the self-reported data actually showed.
“Such assumptions create an inaccurate sense of what is normal or expected behavior among adolescent populations,” the study said.
The survey showed that in grades 6 through 12 teenage girls — 56.4 percent — drank more alcohol than boys — 43.9 percent. Boys are more likely to use tobacco, marijuana or synthetic marijuana, the study said.
The students on the panel could not agree on whether or not drug and alcohol abuse was a problem among American teens today. One student said that while it is easier to get ahold of illegal substances, teenagers are more aware of the damage those substances can do. Another panelist said alcohol abuse among teens is not really a problem because underage drinking has gone on for a long time.
However, in middle school, the students’ perception of drugs and alcohol was different.
“I just thought it was awful,” said Brooke Beanland, senior at Texas City High School. “I thought if you did that you weren’t going to have a future.
“I had a pretty bad perception of it. It’s not as big of a deal as it was when I was in middle school.”
Texas City High School junior Michael Martinez said his perception changed because drugs and alcohol are more common in high school.
“We’re exposed to it more,” he said.
Richard Rupp, chief of the division of Adolescent and Behavioral Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said substance abuse among teenagers is a problem in multiple ways. Sometimes bad things happen, like car accidents, while under the influence. Illegal substances also can interfere with the development of appropriate coping skills, Rupp said. Another way substance abuse can be a problem for teenagers is that it can affect stress levels.
“Although such substances relieve stress, they end up making things worse,” Rupp said. “For example, if a student is feeling stressed by an upcoming exam he can either study or he can smoke a joint. If he smokes a joint, instead of studying, he’s likely to do poorly.
“Later on he may find that he has the added problems of trying to pass the class or even getting into college because of his poor grades. It can become a cycle, as he may decide to address the stress associated with the poor grade by turning to the substance again. Substances don’t solve problems.”