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'In Every Class, Someone Always Was High'

August 31, 1996

An annual survey recently released by the Department of Health and Human Services found an increase during the past four years in the use of illicit drugs among youths ages 12 and 17. This news comes as no surprise to many youngsters, who have witnessed an increase in drug use among peers.

MARY REESE BOYKIN talked to DON GAGO about teen drug use. Gago, 18, is a graduate of Inglewood High School.

I am not surprised by the rise in illicit drug use, particularly marijuana, among teenagers. When I was 13, there weren't so many kids among my peers using drugs. By the time I was 18, it seemed that the number of kids that I know who use drugs had increased every year, and their ages were getting younger and younger.

One reason that kids use drugs is a lack of recreational activities. Many turn to music for recreation and certain music gives drugs a good reputation in the minds of youngsters: no denigrating of drugs, no reason to look at drugs negatively. Dog Pound sings, "High till I die; don't ask why."

During my high school years, every day in every class, there was always someone high. Guaranteed. Some would be quiet, keep to themselves, become strictly focused on their work. Others acted loud and ignorant. Sometimes, they would disrupt the class by talking out of turn, getting out of their seats at inappropriate times or giving irrelevant answers to questions. Students would sometimes clue the teacher in by saying, "He's f-a-d-e-d!"

Parents must figure out early on what's happening with their kids. They should look for signs like red eyes, enhanced appetites, sleeping more than usual, sluggishness.

What parents can do at this point depends on how much control they have. If parents are in control, they can put the kids on lock-down [know where they go, who they are with]. If there is no parental control, then the parents are going to lose the kid to the peer group.

One sad thing that I saw during my high school years is schoolmates who I never thought would use drugs using marijuana. They were the good students, well taken care of and supported by their parents. Their reason? They wanted to be part of the in crowd.

Now as far as politicians using this increased use of drugs as a campaign issue, it's all politics. I feel that politicians act like kids, making false accusations, misplacing blame. More kids aren't using drugs because President Clinton is in the White House. The decision of some kid in Inglewood, Los Angeles, Torrance or any other city to use drugs is a personal decision. It has nothing to do with Bill Clinton.

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