Piedmont Parties Pressure Police: examining drinking from the bottom(s) up

A Closer Look

Despite the specific partying culture in Piedmont, not all students choose to participate, and those who do, are motivated by a variety of factors.

Crovetti said her main concern lies in the mentality of the students who choose to party.

“[My] main concern is that kids aren’t thinking through, looking at what’s going on from a meta level, and saying, ‘Wow, I’m making a decision to change my psychological state, and this is how I’m choosing to have fun tonight,’ and really thinking through what it means,” Crovetti said.

This lack of concern may come from adolescent’s natural tendency to seek independence, risk and challenge, said marriage and family therapist and former PHS staff member Sarah Campbell.

“I believe that the popularity of partying stems from teens’ desire to experiment with adulthood and push boundaries,” Campbell said. “Partying is a risk that teens enjoy taking.”

According to the 2014-2015 Healthy Kids Survey, 74 percent of Piedmont seniors, 71 percent of juniors, 49 percent of sophomores and 29 percent of freshman have consumed alcohol at least once in their lifetime.

“Students are using drugs and alcohol in social situations because that is the only way they can handle social situations,” Crovetti said.

Ricky said that even though it’s not necessarily the only way to make friends, having alcohol makes connecting with people easier outside the constraints of school.

“That’s where everyone is. You make a lot of connections [at parties],” Ricky said. “You make more connections outside of school when you don’t have to be quiet.”

Lillian agreed with Ricky, adding that partying and getting intoxicated help combat the pressures created by the high academic expectations that Piedmont students are held to.

“I make a lot of connections, I make a lot of friends and I talk to a lot of people I normally wouldn’t,” Lillian said. “Also, I like to just let loose and forget about my responsibilities for just one night. I know I have to come back the next morning and do my homework, but it’s good to forget the pressure of the ACT and my next assignment.”IMG_9732

Junior Wallace said that, while under the influence, students let go of inhibitions and stresses that plague them in their daily life. Partying gives a lot of nervous people the ability to socialize without stress, Wallace said.

“Partying makes me feel alive,” sophomore Christa said.

Additionally, senior Curtis said that partying is used to make mundane weekends more fun. Because of the lack of activities close by, students turn to other forms of entertainment, Curtis said.

“I mostly party for fun,” Curtis said. “I get too bored if I go too long without getting out.”

Even though students said that the motivation to party is in the fun and excitement, junior Tammie said that social and internal pressures also contribute to her decision to drink and party.

The Department of Psychology at Temple University found that the presence of peers increases the perceived reward of risky decisions. The reason of “my friends do it” is the most common excuse for drinking and smoking.

“My friends influenced me a lot when I started partying,” Tammie said. “When the people you hang out with host parties, drink or smoke, it’s easy to just tag along and eventually do it too.”

Comparatively, senior Bryn Lawson said that direct peer pressure is rare in Piedmont; most people are internally influenced. The need to be similar to others by taking risks and partying is stronger than the external pressure to party, Lawson said.

“People usually won’t yell ‘drink, drink, drink,’ but you are motivated to party because it is expected and normal,” Tammie said.

Sophomore Elias said that the want for social elevation is the final motivator for partiers. Whether to display their independence or demonstrate their ‘coolness,’ teens definitely seek positive social feedback as the reward for the risk of partying, Elias said.

“I think people party because they want to feel cool and important,” Christa said. “People also party for the status and the ability to say they went. Of course, there are some who just party for fun only, but a lot of people mainly go out for the reputation.”

The desire for the “partier” reputation comes hand in hand with the binging culture today. At the time of the 2014-2015 Healthy Kids Survey, 24 percent of the entire Piedmont secondary student body reported that they were currently binge drinking.

“Partying can definitely get competitive,” senior Maureen said. “Whether you are in a drinking game or just trying to prove that you can handle your alcohol, people down drinks pretty fast.”

Despite the pull to party, many teens have refrained from partying, for health and academic reasons.

“I’m terrified that I will go too far and the damage will be irreparable,” junior Elyse said. “I don’t want to destroy my brain.”

According to Psychology Today, substance abuse can lead to brain damage, seizures, comas and mental instability. The magazine’s sources also state that 90 percent of alcoholics began drinking in their teenage years.

“I have never drank at a high school party because I don’t think that it is worth it at this point in my life, especially because your college is riding on your high school decisions,” Lawson said. “Getting a hit on your disciplinary record just isn’t worth the fun I might have at a party.”

Despite justifying not drinking, many students who abstain said that they do sometimes feel the negative social response that their choice elicits.

“There is a social pressure that people are going to be seen as up-tight if they don’t party,” Lawson said.