1st Place Winners







Division I - Jefferson Dhas

from Illinoise 

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Why Alcohol is Dangerous for Teens

     Although alcohol is dangerous for all ages, they are especially dangerous for teens. According to NIH, 5,000 people under the age of 21 die from underage drinking every year. Common causes of death for miners are car crashes, homicide, suicide, drownings, burns, and falls. So, if alcohol is dangerous for all ages, why the emphasis on helping prevent drinking in teens?

     The main reason it is crucial for teens not to drink is that their brains are still growing, and alcohol can affect brain growth. Alcohol causes short-term consequences short-term issues such as not recognizing danger, doing dangerous things without knowing it, and having a greater risk of being injured from falls or crashes (This is because they are not conscious of what is happening).

     The main long-term effect is brain development, as bad brain development can cause a higher risk for an alcohol use disorder later in life. It can harm processing and learning. Brain damage, both long-term and short-term, is a major problem for teens who drink.

     Underage drinking (drinking under the age of 21) is also illegal and can get you into trouble with your school and the law. Teens who drink also get alcohol-related blackouts. Blackouts are times after drinking where the brain does not make any memories.

     Even after knowing this, some teens still choose to drink, but it sometimes is not fully the teen's fault. Some teens feel the urge to drink to get rid of stress or to try something distinct. Sadly, rather than making things better, alcohol makes things worse by causing short and long-term problems. If you know someone that drinks, tell a trusted adult. If you have a drinking problem, please get guidance from others. 
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Division II - Giovanna Burgos

from California 

What are the dangers of Electronic Cigarettes? smells delicious and tastes good. Many think to themselves, "vaping electronic cigarettes is not smoking weed or doing drugs, so what could be so dangerous about it?" Electronic cigarettes are full of a neurotoxin called nicotine. Nicotine, in the words of a health and wellness article is, "according to the National Health Institutes, as addictive as herion and cocaine" (Capritto). 

     Many studies and doctors have proven that e-cigarettes slowly destroy your brain. In a study done by the University of California, it was discovered that the nicotine in e-cigarettes is causing calcium to increase rapidly in the neural stem cells. This can lead to cell death (Best). Cell death is not the only reason vaping affects the brain, however. If kids and teens begin to vape, nicotine can, not only damage their learning ability, impulse control, and brain development, but their mood and attention span can also be affected as well. ("Quick Facts on the Risks...").

     The substances in e-cigarettes damage your lungs and cause lung disease. In the words of the American Lung Association, e-cigarettes produce aldehydes that "can cause lung disease, as well as cardiovascular disease" ("The Impact of E-Cigarettes on the Lung"). When you vape, you are more likely to get diagnosed with lung-hurting diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("Vaping and Your Heart: What We Know So Far"). You may not think about it while you are breathing into the e-cigarettes, but when you vape you hurt the very thing that helps you breathe. 

     Vaping not only affects your physical body, but E-cigarettes also affect your mental health. JAMA Network did a study and found that "e-cigarette users were more than twice as likely as the general population to report having had depression" (Vaping and Depression Go Hand-in-Hand"). Chronic nicotine consumption causes your anxiety or depression to be amplified if you vape. Vapers are also "more likely to report low self-esteem, impulsivity, and to have mental health histories of attention deficit disorder, anxiety and more." (Fogarty).

     In conclusion, if you vape you are endangering your brain, lungs, and mental health. Every day you have the choice to put nicotine and everything it brings with it in your body or not. Every day that decision is made and whatever the outcome may be, those dominoes falling in place will have been your choice. Think before you vape. Your brain, lungs, and mind will be depending on it.









Division III - Jordon Weddle

from Indiana 

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Drug Addiction Doesn't Last Forever

     "Drug addiction doesn't last forever, you either get clean or die." Before drug addiction permanently altered her trajectory in life, Victoria was just an ordinary teenage girl from a small town in Missouri. When a friend offered Victoria some crystal meth, Victoria reluctantly agreed, and so began her addiction. Victoria went on an extreme downward spiral, cutting off her family members, stealing money to make just enough money to buy another dose and giving up on school altogether. In a few short months, Victoria went from a promising high school student, one of the top in her class, to a street rat begging for drug money. Drug addiction has a catastrophically negative impact on society on a legal level, economic level, ad familial level.

     First of all, there is a strong correlation between the abuse of drugs and the rise of criminal activity in the United states, as those who abuse drugs are more likely to engage in illegal activity. In a research study conducted by the National Institute of Justice, a research branch of the United States Department of Justice, it was concluded that drug addicts have a "stronger tendency to commit crimes" (Foundations Recovery Network). Addicts require large sums of money in order to finance their drug endeavors, and when their finances run low, addicts tend to turn towards committing petty crimes to scrape up enough money to get another dose. Adding onto this desperation to acquire drugs is the dilapidation drugs can have on a person's decision making abilities and discernment. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for logical thinking, planning, organization, and reason. The Foundation Recovery Network conducted studies that show certain drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamines, and alcohol impair a person's ability to tap into their frontal lobe and utilize critical thinking skills that could potentially prohibit them from making poor decisions, such as driving while intoxicated or committing theft. Although the high that comes from drugs can increase dopamine levels in the brain, it can also leave a person vulnerable without their natural compass to guide them, and in a state where they are bound to make regrettable decisions. Crime in the United States is on a constant rise, and drug abuse only serves to further perpetuate and hasten that rise. 

     Secondly, drug abuse has a palpable negative effect on the growth and development of the United States economy. Vertava Health conducted an investigation on the toll drugs take on the United States economy, and their findings yielded that the selling and abuse of illegal drugs costs the United States a staggering $600 billion annually. The slippery slope the is the United States debt is getting continuously steeper, and drug addiction only perpetuates this increase as it causes the United States to waste its valuable dollars on rehabilitation centers, foster care systems, and on the job injuries. Furthermore, the drug industry costs the medical industry, specifically, over $180 billion per year for healing drug related injuries, conducting psychiatric evaluations, and rehabilitation centers for addicts. That is $180 billion annually that medical researchers and doctors could be using to find cures for various ailments and degenerative diseases, rather than fixing the problems drug create. The longer society continues to abuse narcotics, the more we pay for it in government money and resources. 

     Lastly, drug abuse has the capability to strain family relationships and decreases a child's chances of becoming a functional member of society. The United Recovery Project examined many cases of drug addiction around the country, and their findings showed that 80% of all drug users had a strained relationship with their families as a result of the drugs they were abusing (United Recovery Project). One specific addict, named Victoria, recalls what her relationship with her mother was like after she began abusing drugs, "It was okay for awhile, it destroyed my relationship with everyone, my mom mostly. We no longer are close anymore." Because Victoria's choice to continue misusing heroin and crystal meth, her relationship with her mother suffered as a result. Children who have parents prone to drug addiction are more likely to have a favorable attitude towards drugs and undertake an addiction to it than those whose parents do not abuse drugs. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology information yielded this conclusion: 
"Compared to participants whose parents did not currently smoke, participants who reported one or both parents currently smoke, had increased odds of ever smoking. In addition, the relationship between attitudes and ever smoking was stronger among participants when at least one parent currently smokes." (Wilkinson)
When a parent decides to smoke, they are not only putting themselves at risk, but also their children. A child's perception of smoking is more likely to be distorted when their parents smoke; children are more likely to inherit a habit of smoking if their parents partake in tobacco abuse. Adding onto this is the fact that a parent that abuses drugs is more likely to neglect the physical and emotional needs a child requires to survive. Drug addiction is a special kind of thief, it takes the hearts of the addict's loved ones, and rips them in two.

     When one considers the negative economic effects, the strain it causes on families, and the strong correlation between drug addiction and criminal activity, it becomes clear that drug addiction has a devastating impact on society. First of all, drug addiction and crime are clearly linked and so long as drug addiction continues to rise, so will crime. Furthermore, drug addiction costs the United States and medical industry millions of dollars that could be used to cure diseases or decrease the national debt. Lastly, drug addiction causes the straining and breaking of family relationships, and can have a profound negative impact on today's youth Like Victoria once wrote, there are only two ways to end drug addiction: sobriety or death. If today's society fails to take a stand against drug abuse, then it will succumb to a terrible fate.