York Teen Drug and Alcohol Abuse Facts
By Cate Baily
Big White Lies
At first, cocaine made Miguel feel powerful. But the drug's
promises turned out to be lies.
If you'd met Miguel Flores when he was in junior high school,
you'd have met a young man who listened to his mother and
did well in school. If you'd met him in high school, you'd
have met a different person—a teenager who cut classes
and got left back, a son who screamed obscenities at his mom.
Drugs changed him.
When we talked to Miguel, he was a resident at a drug treatment
program in New York City's East Village. Now 19, he told Scholastic
how he got there.
When Miguel started high school in Brooklyn, New York, he
fell in with a new crowd—the wrong crowd. To make a
long story short, he started smoking marijuana, drinking,
and failing classes. Finally, he got arrested and spent a
night in a crowded cell on Rikers Island, a New York City
Not Ready to Stop
Given a choice by a judge between jail and getting help, Miguel
opted for an outpatient drug treatment program. But he clearly
wasn't ready to commit to the challenge of staying off drugs.
In fact, it was during the time he was legally bound to this
program that he began using cocaine.
Cocaine is a stimulant and a powerfully addictive drug. Derived
from the leaves of the coca plant, it has many names on the
street, including coke, C, snow, flake, and blow. Coke comes
in the form of white powder and is generally inhaled or snorted.
Miguel joined only a small percentage of his peers when he
snorted the potentially deadly powder. According to a 2002
NIDA-funded study, only 3.6 percent of 8th-graders, 6.1 percent
of 10th-graders, and 7.8 percent of 12th-graders have ever
"I wanted to see how it felt," he said. "It
was a different kind of high. Cocaine makes you feel like
you have a lot of power. It makes you feel invincible."
"Feelings of being powerful and invincible are not only
typical, but were some of the earliest reported effects of
cocaine," says Dr. Steven Grant of the National Institute
on Drug Abuse [NIDA]. But such feelings are short-lived.
For Miguel, they only lasted about 20 minutes. The high faded
away, and he began to feel like he was "nobody."
He vowed not to take cocaine again. He'd heard that cocaine
could make him have a stroke. He'd also read articles about
people dying of cocaine overdoses.
In other words, Miguel knew that cocaine was dangerous. But
less than two months after he first snorted coke, his resolve
weakened, and he snorted the white powder again—and
then again and again.
The stimulant took its toll. Miguel's heart pumped hard. He
was nervous and paranoid. He even became violent.
"The more you use cocaine, the less high you will get,
but it becomes more likely that you will experience these
unpleasant effects," says Dr. Grant.
What Miguel experienced, he explains, is because of changes
in the brain that happen in response to repeated exposure
But more painful to Miguel than any side effect is the memory
of seeing his mom cry when she discovered the truth about
his cocaine use.
Drug users often must go through several treatment cycles
before they are successful. When Miguel's mandatory urine
tests repeatedly came up positive, he was again given a choice—this
time between jail and a residential treatment program. He
chose a residential treatment program. Although it's been
difficult, he has stuck to his commitment. When we spoke,
he'd been clean for 10 months.
If you meet Miguel today, you see a young man who feels "strong,"
but not because there's cocaine in his body. He feels strong
because he's resisted drugs. You also see that the respect
for his mother has returned. In fact, he credits her with
his recovery. "I did it for my mom," he says. Someday,
perhaps he'll realize that he really did it for himself.
Courtesy of Scholastic and the Scientists
of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes
of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services