There is something terrible to be said when, I, what most would consider a good student and an honest kid, could give you a longer list of people to purchase drugs from than Presidents of the United States of America. It is truly an awful thought to think of drugs in school as common as objects such as homework and textbooks. But it is unfortunate to say, that this scary thought, is becoming a reality.

Knowing what I know now about drugs in school, I wish I would have paid more attention to the D.A.R.E. program in elementary school. All this talk of blunts and bongs, I can hardly tell the difference. However, I cannot help but get the feeling that even if I had paid attention, I would not be much better off. The one aspect that no school program (be it D.A.R.E., Red Ribbon Week, or simply school health) ever taught was how to deal with peer pressure.

I don't mean peer pressure in the "Try it. Come on have one, everyone is doing it" kind of way, because most people know, that rarely happens. The pressure I am referring to is a much more subtle kind of pressure, a pressure that builds up over time and affects your actual social life, rather than the social situations you encounter. When such a large amount of people do drugs and one is in the minority that does not do drugs, one can start to be socially cut off from their previous group of friends. This social dilemma tests the strength of one's morals, forcing one to ask "should I just give in so that I can stay with my friends? Or do I stick to my convictions and risk my friendships?"

It is the fact that teenagers in today's society are forced to ask this question way too much that makes me absolutely outraged. There is not one person in the world but oneself who should be able to change the way one feels. For some reason, our society has forgotten this. We allow a terrible thing like drugs and alcohol to dictate the way the youth of our nation make their decisions. If more young adults would worry more about their own lives, concentrate more on their beliefs, and forget about what everyone else is doing, this society would not be half bad.

Several months ago in Haddonfield, many adults came to the realization that the youth in their town needed help. The truth is, Haddonfield is not the only town with this problem. It is a sad truth, but is the truth all the same. There are many heated debates on how to fix the drug and alcohol problems facing teens in America these days, and I am nobody to disagree with any of them. However, as a teenager who has witnessed the effects of these problems, I am one to suggest a solution. The solution is so elementary that I'm sure many have seen it and just skipped over it. The answer is to simply stop worrying about others and worry about your own life.

It sounds so simple. Maybe it sounds too simple. However, as a witness to the mania that this has created, it is exactly what is needed. By worrying about one's own self and ignoring the thoughts and tendencies of others, one can start to know what makes themselves happy. Not what others think will make them happy, but what one truly wants for themselves. If drugs and alcohol are still what one wishes for, then there is a problem to address. But at least when the individual is singled out, it makes it easier to solve. If one is able to look inside and realize that alcohol and drugs are not necessary components to making themselves happy, then it is up to them, and them only, to stick to their principles.

Once people have come to the realization that their life is their own, and that they don't need to worry about others, there will not be that social pressure. The vicious circle of events will be broken, and people will search for things that make them happy. And that happiness is much more obtainable if you run your own life.

The Cherry Hill Alliance on Alcohol and Drug Abuse urged students to "Run Your Own Life" during awareness-raising events at district schools in October. Seventh- and eighth graders had a dance; sixth graders roller-skated; elementary students heard new music and books; parents attended an assembly led by Michael Bradley, author of

Yes, Your Teen is Crazy

. More than 200 people turned out at a ceremony to honor winning entries in the annual "Red Ribbon Week" essay and poster contest, some of which are printed here today.