Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – The Harsh Reality

Name: Mary Catherine Healy

The Harsh Reality

The Harsh Reality

I still remember the day I was in the girl’s bathroom my freshman year of high school. As I was washing away the soap off my hands, I grabbed for the cheap, brown paper towel when the door cracked open– it was my best friend. Instead of going right back to class, I decided to stay a little to talk with her. As we were having our regular conversation about boys, she then proceeded to pull out a vape from her bra. I had no idea what it was at first– it looked like a flash drive. When she held it up to her mouth and a cloud of smoke came out after, I figured it was some kind of electronic cigarette. I was a little surprised because I had never witnessed any of my friends or family use one. She asked me if I wanted a “hit” and I instantly denied her offer, knowing it probably wasn’t a good idea.

It was a strange situation for me to have experienced in the girl’s bathroom, but I blew it off. However, the same thing began to happen a few other times with other classmates when I was in the bathroom. Eventually, by my senior year just about every time I had to go to the bathroom, I saw people vaping. I no longer felt comfortable going to the bathroom, knowing that every time I went in there would be a crowd of girls vaping and constantly trying to get me to try it.

Vaping and using other forms of devices to deliver nicotine has become normalized in our society. As I am writing this essay, I am listening to a hip hop song. I glanced at my phone and saw the music artist blowing out smoke in the music video. When people think that “everyone” is doing it and that it is “cool”, that’s when addiction problems arise. We often tend to self-justify when we see that all of our friends are doing it and use that as an excuse as to why it is OK. When thinking more deeply about why people feel as though they even need to try a new substance in the first place, it comes down to more of a psychological point of view. I would say that the number one reason why people have a hard time stopping with drugs or alcohol is because it helps the individual “cope” with any stress or anxiety they may be facing. Instead of trying other methods to cope with these problems, such as meditation, talking to someone, or exercise, people tend to go to the easier option– taking drugs or drinking alcohol. In the example of a JUUL, the device delivers a quick sensation of nicotine, taking maybe 30 seconds at most. Therefore, it is very convenient for someone to use when they are feeling stressed or anxious, rather than engaging in a healthier habit that may take more time.

I strongly believe that we are struggling with an addiction crisis as a nation partly, because substances are too easily available to the public. One example I would like to point out is with a popular vape company, JUUL. For years, JUUL has become popularized among individuals all around the world, but in particular, with teenagers, delivering a quick sensation of nicotine. As there are many dangers of vaping, the company decided to put a “ban” on popular flavors, such as mango, mint, and fruit medley, in hopes to drive teens away from the appeal of “candy” tasting flavors. Unfortunately, this did not work. Personally, I can speak from experience because I have many friends who use this product. This regulation did not stop them– instead, they just moved on to the flavors that were still on the market, such as tobacco and menthol flavors. As the JUUL company was getting a lot of bad publicity due to teens still promoting their products, they decided to raise the age to purchase these products from 18 to 21. A lot of local stores selling these vapes and associated products still continued to sell and distribute them to those who did not meet the criteria. I am currently 18 years old and if I were to walk into a store trying to buy a JUUL, I can assure you, I would have no problem getting my hands on one. There are two big problems that arise here. The first, is that teens are so addicted to nicotine that they will do just about anything to be able to get another “hit”. The second, is that there are way too many stores that are not enforcing the regulation set in place. This is for one reason– to make more money. Stores acknowledge that a high percentage of their customers are teenagers who are addicted to nicotine and buy pods every week. According to BMJ Journals, A Tobacco Control Study, “A total of 506 patients were consented for the study, and all completed administered questionnaires. Based on product brand names reported by study participants, we estimated that, among 506 surveyed, 7.7% (n=38) reported current daily or some day use of pods” (Boykan, R., Eliscu, A., Goniewicz, M. J., Messina, C., Tolentino, J.). It was also concluded that the brand JUUL was by far, the most popular vape for teens compared to other leading companies. This same idea applies to many other substance abuse and addiction problems out there. They are too readily available and regulations are not as strongly enforced as they really should be. I strongly believe that if more stores and companies actually enforced these rules, buying these types of substances would be a lot harder to do– which is actually a good thing. To companies such as JUUL, this would significantly reduce the sales they would be making, which might even cause their company to fail. However, when thinking about the bigger picture in society, this would actually be the best option. When we think about it, would we really rather have money and be successful in a business, or contribute to a significant decrease in the addiction rates in our nation.

I also believe that we are struggling with an addiction crisis as a nation because as a society, we tend to normalize these types of behaviors– like smoking marajuana and drinking alcohol. One outstanding example of this is the “college experience” and parties. A lot of teenagers are being influenced by others, that when you get to college, it is completely normal to drink, go to parties, and smoke marajuana all the time. We often think to ourselves, “It’s just college, I’m just having fun”. However, being the vulnerable and naive generation that we are, we fail to realize many addiction problems begin in college. After drinking or smoking marajuana every night with your friends, it is extremely hard to just stop after college. I can speak from personal experience because my father was someone who drank very often while in college. Now, to the present day, he is still a very heavy drinker and feels as though he “needs it” in order to calm him down. Everyday. Many consequences arise from having an addiction problem, in my father’s case, it cost him his marriage, a few job opportunities, and relationships with his children. I believe that a huge part of the problem with why so many people are addicted to substances in our society is because we don’t like to own up to our actions or even admit the fact that we have a problem. According to an issue posted by the JAMA Network, “Most binge drinkers do not consider themselves to be problem drinkers and have not sought treatment for an alcohol problem” (Castillo, S., Davenport, A., Dowdall, G., Moeykens, B., & Wechsler, H.). In this article, a national survey was conducted among college students to determine the behaviors of binge drinking. I think it would be very beneficial if we would acknowledge that a lot of people struggle with addiction and emphasize that it can be fixed– as long as the addict truly wants help.


Goniewicz, Maciej Lukasz, et al. “High Exposure to Nicotine among Adolescents Who Use Juul and Other Vape Pod Systems (‘Pods’).” Tobacco Control, BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, 1 Nov. 2019,

Wechsler H, Davenport A, Dowdall G, Moeykens B, Castillo S. Health and Behavioral Consequences of Binge Drinking in College: A National Survey of Students at 140 Campuses. JAMA. 1994;272(21):1672–1677. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520210056032