DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Everybody knows what high school is like: people do drugs, drink, and have sex. I’m one of the few who is different. I've gotten looks of disgust when I say that smoking marijuana or drinking is bad — like I'm an evil person! I've lost three or four close friends because I won't participate. They are failing school, disillusioned about the future, and take advantage of the opposite sex. I don’t know what goes through their minds. Is anyone out there like me? – One Concerned Guy in Mission Viejo, Calif.
Editor's Note: "One Concerned Guy" also asks what goes through the minds of young people who drink and use drugs. I don't know how much actually goes through the mind, but there are three primary reasons young people use substance: 1) A desire to feel confident and uninhibited around the attractive sex; 2) a hard-wired desire, unique to the adolescent brain, to fit in and build social connections at all costs, including great risk; 3) an impulse to numb traumatic emotions.
The good news is that a growing positive force called the "straight-edge" movement is bringing popularity and respect to being straight. The principle of straight-edge is self-empowerment and being true to oneself — and being oneself, without a crutch, really is living one's edge. Many teens and adults haven't heard of straight-edge, but the movement is taking hold generically and most have no idea that it stemmed from punk and hardcore music. Saying, "I'm straight-edge," is a quick and non-judgmental way to say, "I don't use drugs or alcohol." The way of adolescence is to follow the popular crowd so as people in the in-crowd embrace straight-edge, others will follow. —Lauren