Most large public high schools have what social scientists call "a hierarchy of status," which is a sophisticated way of saying that many students belong to cliques. Dr. Murray Milner, author of Freaks, Geeks and Cool Kids, identifies six subcultures with their own style of dress, language, rituals, and behaviors, which are common at most high schools.
Discussed below are drugs and self-destructive behaviors associated with different cliques. However, keep in mind that the vast majority of teens get through high school and become productive adults without troubled adolescences, and very few will develop these problems.
Preppies/Jocks - These are college-bound students who often take the leadership roles and set the style at the school. They dress preppy and are mannerly toward adults. Jocks or sports heroes often have status even among teachers.
Some preppies become overly stressed from taking on too many academic challenges, too many activities, and too much pressure to get into top-rated colleges. Preppie substance abuse is usually hard drinking on weekends, a behavior that carries over into college. About 10 percent of "jocks" experiment with steroids. Perfectionistic girls are prone to eating disorders and using "uppers" to stay slim. Some preppies abuse drugs prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, such as Ritalin and Adderall, in order to achieve a competitive edge.
Nerds and dorks - These students are obsessed with good grades but are often loners and social outcasts. They can suffer from low self-esteem, depression, and social anxiety, and may need help from parents or counselors to better integrate into the high school scene.
Goths, punks, alternatives - These groups may dress in black and go in for body piercings and strange hair colors. Their motto is "individuality." They may enjoy dark topics like horror; some even file their teeth to affect a vampire look. A minority may suffer from depression, borderline personalities, and bipolar disorder. One study from the University of Michigan found that "Goths" are more likely to be cutters, that is, they harm themselves by cutting scratches or even words into their skin. Drugs of choice are often "zone out" ones like OxyContin and downers, or hallucinogens like Ketamine.
Emo is the artsy crowd, associated with Emo music like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco, and Screamo rock, which combines punk guitar with screaming voices. Some Emos are dangerously thin and have eating disorders. Like Goths, some Emos use drugs to self-medicate depression or hallucinogens to expand consciousness.
Skaters/Rockers - They may dress androgynously, usually in clothing associated with the skateboard or surfing culture. They are usually into punk rock bands and concerts such as the Sex Pistols. Some in this group are depressed, abuse a variety of drugs, and are not motivated to achieve at school.
Gangsters - These students wear baggy pants and big shirts and assume a hard, hostile attitude. They are more feared than liked at school. Their music is the most current hip-hop. Many boys with undiagnosed problems like ADHD and learning disabilities end up in this group as a way to find social acceptance. Some use cigarettes, drugs and alcohol, and take risks with driving, fighting, graffiti, criminal activity, and other dangerous behaviors.
The vast majority of high school students do not fit into categories and do not participate in self-destructive behaviors. Each subculture promotes some positive values, such as individuality, ambition, and risk-taking. The problems come when a teen over-identifies with any subculture and goes to an extreme to live up to its image.