Editor’s note: The name of the student in the story has been changed to protect the individual from legal repercussions.
Prom night serves as a rite of passage for many high school seniors, but for Simpson student Jay Peters the peer pressure to smoke marijuana finally overcame him and he started on a journey down a winding path of drug use.
Peters said his first high led to a habit of using drugs at least three times a week for his past two years at Simpson, trying an assortment of drugs and leading to numerous failed relationships among family, friends and significant others.
“After the first time my eyes opened,” said Peters. “There’s an underlying code of silence because you’re not going to narc anyone out and you realize you’ll narc yourself out in the process.”
The code of silence is what Peters said keeps drugs on the outskirts of society. The unacceptability of drugs in society also deteriorates relationships among users and non-users.
“I know it affects my family because I go home, and I’m either on drugs or trying to hide the fact that I do drugs,” said Peters.
Des Moines Area Community College president, David England’s recent drug arrest brought drug use on college campuses back into the public eye.
“This (the David England case) shows that drugs know no boundaries,” said Marvin Van Haaften, the director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy in Des Moines.
After starting to use marijuana Peters’ circle of friends also began to change. Throughout high school Peters resisted the pressure to smoke marijuana until a couple of female friends convinced him to try it at an after-prom party. After that his first experience with drugs he began to make develop friendships with other drug users.
Peters attributes his friendship changes to the idea that activities bond friendships. He said that drugs are now his version of varsity basketball. Peters has seen the harmful effects of cocaine on a close friend.
“I lost a best friend because she’s so hooked on coke,” said Peters. “She supports herself with two jobs and she’s this beautiful girl who’s letting the drug control her.”
According to Peters, people must control the drug and not let the drug control them. But he concedes, “Most people are controlled by their drug.”
After a year of consistent marijuana use Peters began to experiment with other drugs. Not unlike many other users, he has experimented with an array or drugs – ecstasy, mushrooms, heroin, cocaine – and dubs himself a “walking pharmacy.”
“After assisting on autopsies, it’s obvious that marijuana users’ lungs are worse,” said Van Haaften. “The alveoli sacs get mucus filled, which comes from the dead white cells.”
Van Haaften also said that the weight of the organs in drug users is much lighter because they are shriveling.
Peters has consciously noticed some of the negative aspects of drug use. He instantly knew that some of the harsher drugs were not for him.
“The taste of coke is what you would imagine to be the same as orangutan vomit and you feel like a moron sniffling all of the time,” said Peters. “I’m fully aware of the fact that E (ecstasy) is putting holes in my brain so I won’t do it again anytime soon.” Peters said his last use of ecstasy was in November 2002.
Along with those health problems, the combination of illegal and prescription drug use caused Peters to miss two days of school earlier this semester. He also suffers from the beginning signs of ulcers.
Obtaining a balance between college and drugs is not a struggle for Peters, who claims to earn A’s after taking most tests and writing most papers while under the influence of illegal drugs. Unfortunately for Peters, his frequent class absences lower his grades significantly.
According to Dennis Wiggins, the program planner for the Office of Drug Control Policy, the use of drugs limits the potential of each person.
“Don’t let people dispute the facts with exceptions,” said Wiggins.
As for the availability of drugs in Indianola, Peters said students can get anything they want here if they know who to go to, especially since the school is located so close to Des Moines.
“It’s 8 p.m. on Sunday night and I could get a half a pound of marijuana, a highly illegal amount of ‘shrooms and a snow mountain of cocaine here (to Simpson) by 10 p.m.,” said Peters.
In uniform crime reports from the Department of Public Safety, the possession and distribution charges increased in the past five years in overall substance abuse. Wiggins said more treatment is available to drug offenders due to the tobacco settlement Iowa received. Approximately 70 percent of offenders take advantage of treatment, but for most it is not by choice.
“Usually someone says they have to go and many go to shorten their stay in the criminal justice system,” said Wiggins.
Peters tried to quit smoking marijuana last year. He made this choice to raise his grades, but throughout his two-month hiatus Peters found himself to be more withdrawn from his peers and irritable.
“When I’m bored I’m just begging to smoke,” Peters said. “I will not stop smoking (marijuana) until my heart stops beating.”