This school year, I was shocked to learn that more than a handful of kids that I know (by kids I mean teenagers – I don’t know why I still refer to…

This school year, I was shocked to learn that more than a handful of kids that I know (by kids I mean teenagers – I don’t know why I still refer to everyone as a “kid”) had started experimenting with cocaine. I was glad to hear that most of the kids I’m friends with were completely off-put by the cocaine usage and that none of them were interested in trying it, but hearing that was still a sort of paradigm-shifting thing. For better or for worse, alcohol and marijuana have been a well-established part of socializing amongst my peer group since even the end of eighth grade, and it’s never really bothered me, but cocaine seemed extreme to me. When I think about why the former don’t freak me out like the latter, the conclusion I keep coming to is that it has to do with the media I follow. Teen drinking and marijuana smoking have become weirdly entrenched in pop culture and the news, despite being illegal. There’s a stereotype, for instance, of every young person’s first political cause being marijuana legalization, and many teen characters on TV are depicted using alcohol and marijuana. If they were depicted using cocaine the same way, and American media treated cocaine usage as lightly, would I be less freaked out? Likewise, if American media and pop culture stopped so frequently and light-heartedly portraying teens drinking and toking, would I be more shocked by alcohol and marijuana usage?
– Ben

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