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Student to student

Audrey Harnagel , PCHS Intern

Park City High School Intern Audrey Harnagel

The recent article about the death of a Park City High School alumus of a heroin overdose alarmed many Park City residents. Jacob’s Kirst’s death was a horrible tragedy, and one overdose is one too many. Addictive drugs such as heroin or meth destroy lives and people who get caught in the cycle of addiction to these substances need the support of the community at the earliest possible stage. However, cases involving hard drugs like heroin are rare at Park City High School.

My perception of drug accessibility and use amongst PCHS students has been consistent with the general student body’s assessment. Drugs such as marijuana and alcohol are common at PCHS, but the use of seriously addictive intoxicants like meth and heroin are isolated.

"The only things you hear about are Adderall, lots of weed, and alcohol," said Senior Ian Quill.

Although there are exceptions, the prevailing social culture at PCHS discourages drug abuse and the use of hard drugs.

"The social pressures against hard drugs are so strong, it takes someone outside our social group to influence kids into doing that," said Quill.

Friends are supportive, and look out for one another. In many social groups, party-goers take turns as designated drivers. Hosts are good about allowing students to stay overnight or taking their car keys at the door to discourage driving under the influence.

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Student Body President Isaiah Folau thinks that peers have the greatest impact on teenagers when it comes to drug use.

"Friends have a huge influence. There are different groups, and kids know who those groups are. Some groups will watch a movie, other groups will do drugs. If that’s what they do, then there’s pressure to engage in those activities," said Folau.

This has been the reality with teenage drug use for decades. Comparatively though, students at PCHS are more active in academic and extracurricular activities. Park City is an extremely active community that values a healthy lifestyle among all generations. The vast majority of students understand that drug use is bad for their health, and can jeopardize their future aspirations whether they are athletically or academically driven.

Sadly, according to a PCHS counselor, there is a rising trend of prescription drug use among young athletes, as was the case with Jacob Kirst. More kids are unknowingly getting hooked on prescription painkillers while going through post-injury rehabilitation. Drugs like Oxycontin are addictive and can serve as gateways to other opiates such as heroin, which is much cheaper.

Awareness is the first step to prevention. Many students may not understand the risk of abusing prescription drugs. Also, the idea that one "experimental" hit of a drug like heroin can hook you for life should be a major emphasis of drug awareness campaigns and school-sponsored curriculums.

Folau says that parent involvement is a big key to preventing kids from using drugs.

"Parents can’t be apathetic. They need to be aware and involved," said Folau.

Parents can rest assured that heroin isn’t running rampant at Park City High School. There are cliques in every high school that engage in unsafe activities, but cases of heroin and meth use are still rare. Jacob Kirst’s story represents the fatal danger of these drugs. Although it is hard to say that any good comes out of losing a young person with such great potential, opening up conversation between parents and teens about drugs is a step in the right direction.