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Being Straight Edge in Drug-laced College Culture

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Growing up in the ‘90s, I had my fair amount of exposure to drugs. Sure, unlike my parents, I didn’t witness the drug-heavy hippie-era, but at 13 years-old, I did sing along with Dr. Dre as he promised to “smoke weed everyday.”

Although the opportunities were there, I never did smoke weed. A few years ago, I committed to live an alcohol and drug free lifestyle and claimed Straight Edge. Straight Edge emerged in the punk hardcore scene in the early 1980s as a reaction to the self-destruction that characterized punks. It is a philosophy that promotes self-control and a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle. My decision to be drug-free was based on my acknowledgment of the negative impact of substance abuse on our society. I claimed edge because I related to its adherents and believed in the philosophy.

On June 4, The Miami Herald printed an article regarding marijuana use in the United States. According to the article, in 2005, 16.6 percent of people 18 to 25 reported having used marijuana. Although this age group's marijuana use has increased slightly over the past ten years, the number of people smoking pot in the U.S. has remained relatively consistent.

As a student at Brandeis University, I'm well aware of the frequent use of marijuana by college students. It doesn’t bother me when my friends smoke responsibly on occasion, but I won't be in the same room with them when they do.

The number of college students in Florida who smoke weed monthly is five percent above the national average, according to The Herald article.

“Everyone at Florida State smokes,” said Sloane, a student at the university, who did not want to give her last name. “I even smoked with a teacher once.”

Marijuana use has become more accepted because it’s not viewed as harmful, and because it’s relatively common.

“I think a lot of people smoke because they don't want to be the only kid who doesn't smoke,” said Gwen, a student at North Shore who smokes daily. “Having something in common with the rest of your classmates is always nice, and I can't tell you how many friendships and hang out sessions can be sparked with ‘you smoke?’”

Many young people excuse breaking the law, whether it's smoking weed or downloading music, by presenting an ad populum argument: if many find it acceptable, it is acceptable. There’s safety in numbers.

Illicit substance use tends to be accepted by the American youth because it’s so commonplace and there is a social pressure to break the law. Young people often believe they are invincible, that dangerous behaviors won’t hurt them, and that they won’t ever get caught. Moreover, the use of marijuana and alcohol has not only become acceptable, but is expected of college students. It’s no longer rebellious to engage in such activities; it’s strange not to. Despite the popularity of drug and alcohol use, I stand by my decision to be drug-free and remember: what's right isn't always popular, what's popular isn't always right. -- Lauren Papiernik

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