Author: Cassandra Twining

This is Not Our War: The Story of Juan Tellez

Cassandra Twining | @cass_twining

I was born in July of 2001, making me 17 years old. Here is a short list of things I currently cannot legally do in the United States: vote, drink alcohol, drive more than one non-family member in my car, get married, rent a car, get a tattoo or pierce my ears without parental permission, you get the idea. There’s a lot that I can’t do. However, I can enlist in the military to fight in the Middle East. Born in November of 2001, (exactly 4 months younger than me) Juan Tellez is one of the newest enlisted Privates of the Marine Corps

Juan Tellez, just like me, has so many legal restrictions on his actions. He could not enlist without his parent’s permission. His parents, unlike him, were actually alive and witnessed the attacks on 9/11. The attacks that started the war, Juan Tellez, is now fighting. 

We have spent over 1 trillion dollars on the war in Afghanistan. Everyone knows that’s a lot of money, but what does it really look like? For starters written out that’s $1,000,000,000,000. That’s a lot of commas. Now to give you some scale to understand the insane amount of money that is, here is what 1 trillion USD in $100 bills looks like next to a person for scale. 

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Children are fighting in wars that they weren’t even alive at the beginning of. This is not our war. This also is not our fight. I write this as a plea to those who are my age watching this happen. This needs to stop. We need to be the generation that puts a stop to it. We can no longer rely on the older generations to enact change. They have failed us time and time again. I fully expect that trend to continue. Change needs to happen, and we need to be the ones to bring it. Before more of our peers are subject to the danger and pain that a war like this brings as well.

Juan Tellez is a 17-year-old kid who has little to no rights as a citizen. He has no voting rights, therefore no say in foreign policy. Within the military, he also has no voice. In an interview, Scott Horton, author of Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, discusses our fear to criticize the military for fear of offending people. For far too long the generations before us have silently and passively allowed the military to unilaterally make decisions with no backlash.  

Our generation needs to stop being silent on these issues and speak up for what is right. We need to be the generation of critical thinkers. The generation that questions authority and demands something better for us as citizens. We need to step up where those before us have failed. I believe with my whole heart that letting a 17-year-old child risk his life for a war that is not his to fight is not right and I refuse to sit back while this is tolerated and even encouraged… And neither should you.


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Xanax Makes Doctors Rich and People More Anxious

Cassandra Twining | United States

Doctors in the United States write 50 million Xanax prescriptions per year. That’s over one prescription per second. You can buy 30 Xanax pills at your local pharmacy for on average $100. That amounts to five billion dollars being spent on Xanax every single year. But what exactly is Xanax and how does it work?

Xanax, also commonly known by its cheaper off-brand counterpart Alprazolam, is a Benzodiazepine. It is commonly used to treat general anxiety disorder, panic disorders, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are a specific category of drug that works in specific receptors in your brain. The Benzodiazepines, in this instance, Xanax, attaches to the gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA-A) receptors in your brain and diminish sensitivity to stimulation, which in turn produces the calming effect so many people love. Xanax is listed by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a schedule 4 drug. This essentially means that it is the second least likely to lead to addiction and it is very safe to take. At least according to their classification that is… So let’s look a little more into what exactly Xanax does to your brain along with the long term effects.

Treating anxiety disorders can be very difficult for some people because of the vast amount of kinds of ways anxiety can present itself. While Xanax is not the only option for treating anxiety medically, it is certainly the most commonly prescribed and most well-known option. There are 3 fundamental problems with Xanax and its long term effects on the brain.

Treating Symptoms, not Problems

The first problem being that Xanax doesn’t stop one’s anxiety, it merely numbs it. When the medication goes into the receptors in your brain and dims the sensation in the brain it effectively reduces the release of the chemicals in your brain that causes anxiety. However, the issue arises from the fact that a reduction of the release of the chemicals does not mean they go away, it just builds up.

This is why when people try to quit taking Xanax or the dosage they took wears off the anxiety feelings not only come back but comes back more forcefully. It’s essentially like sweeping dirt under a rug; it’s still there and it’s still going to affect you eventually. The problem is just continuing to build up and get worse.

This problem is enhanced by the second problem faced with Xanax: it has an incredibly short half-life. Meaning that the amount of time it takes for the drug to completely leave your system is really quick. Which makes people want to take more of the medication even when they’re not scheduled to because of the adverse effects that come when it wears off.

Xanax Addiction and Overdose

Both problems, in turn, contribute to the third and final problem that Xanax is highly addictive. Because of the short half-life, the increase in anxiety when it wears off, and the effectiveness of the drug, people quickly become both physically and emotionally dependant on Xanax as a treatment for their anxiety.

It is also very possible to overdose on Xanax, especially taken with other opioids or alcohol. In 2015 over 30,000 drug overdose deaths were the result of opioids mixed with benzos like Xanax. It is also important to note that these numbers of Xanax use are only those prescribed by doctors; Xanax is also a very commonly used recreational drug. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars from prescribing and encouraging the consumption of a drug that is continuing to increase the amounts of anxiety and addiction in our country.

Treating Anxiety

Nevertheless, anxiety is a very real and serious issue. So what can people do to change the current system for go to treatment options? A community health center in Louisville, Kentucky started to notice how the mass amounts of Xanax prescriptions for patients were not only dangerous but also a drain on their resources.

Because of the lack of education surrounding the long term effects of Xanax they were also spending an enormous amount of time just simply educating people about it. This is why they decided to switch to prescribing clonazepam a similar drug with less adverse long term effects. They are trying to completely wean their patients off of Xanax altogether. There are some people who do truly benefit from its effects. However, it is such a dangerous drug that the risk just doesn’t appear to continue to be worth it.

Non-prescription Treatments

Finally, there are a lot of ways to try and alleviate anxiety using natural methods of treatment. Exercising can release endorphins and be a cathartic experience that can help with anxious feelings. Meditation and relaxation exercises like slowly relaxing each muscle group and breathing techniques can also help. You can also try reading, writing, natural medical treatments, or anything you may feel will help.

It’s most important to remember that anxiety isn’t the same for everyone and what might work for you might not work for someone else. It takes hard work and bravery to evaluate your options and find the best course of treatment for you. It’s okay to not want to try modern medical solutions, and it’s okay to want to! What’s not okay is not having the full story of how these solutions actually affect you. Do your research and make sure you’re not just making the problem worse while trying to solve it.


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The Gillette Ad Lets Men See Themselves in a Different Light

By Cassandra Twining | United States

Recently Gillette released an ad addressing and highlighting the changes that our society is moving towards when it comes to men. Namely, it addresses how we as a society are starting to hold men accountable for their inappropriate actions.

This ad has been very controversial and has received a lot of backlash from various media outlets and viewers alike. However, I think these critics are missing the main lesson that should be taken away from this video. Men do not understand what it’s like to grow up as a woman.

That seems like a given, right? But it’s not something people are paying enough attention to. Of course, there are differences in how people grow up. That’s obvious, but how blatant are these differences once you start to look closer?

Before I start I want it to be known I recognize while the way I’ve grown up is certainly different from others, but I certainly think there are a lot of similarities between me and most girls my age. Furthermore, these are just my experiences. I would never pretend to speak for women or men as a whole. It’s just not my place.

The main takeaway of this video is that men don’t know what it’s like to grow up as a girl can be narrowed even further. From as young as I can possibly remember I was taught to take responsibility for myself and the situations I’m in. If there was a man staring at me inappropriately it was my job to dress in such a way that eliminated his desire to do that. It was never his job to perhaps, not stare at a young girl in that way. This line of logic can be applied to many situations in my childhood.

I’m not the only one who has dealt with this either. 77% of women report they have experienced some kind of verbal sexual harassment in their life. That’s 3 out of 4 women. Sadly, it is not at all uncommon for women to experience this all throughout their life. It can make them feel very unsafe and scared. This is where I suggest men start to take a stand and attempt to help.

I certainly think people should be responsible for their own safety and should consider situations they’re getting themselves into, no matter their gender. However, we as a society could try to start changing the balance of who holds the responsibility. What if I was not only aware of putting myself in safe situations, but the men around me were also making sure they were doing their part to make sure I wasn’t in a situation I would feel uncomfortable in. If we shared the responsibility you would move towards women being able to feel safer and more accommodated.

Not only that, but men should want to learn how to make situations more comfortable for women. If you purposely try to make situations scary or uncomfortable for women the problem is much deeper than this ad addresses. If that’s not you, be open to learning! Ask the women in your life what are some things you could do to help them feel safer, or ask them things they fear in everyday life that you probably don’t even think twice about and think of ways you could make that a better experience for women all around you.

I’m not asking that men take all the responsibility for ensuring the safety of women everywhere. I think women should still be aware of themselves and their surroundings and be responsible for their own safety. However, if men started to notice things like a creepy man staring at a woman and stepped in to offer support to the woman, this would revolutionize our interactions and the feelings of fear women suffer from on a daily basis.

The fact of the matter is, women fear things men don’t even think to be afraid of. I encourage men everywhere to start a conversation about it. Whether that be with your mom, your sister, your girlfriend, or just a female friend. I can guarantee they will appreciate your proactiveness, and you will also be able to learn ways to make the world safer for the women around you. Why anyone wouldn’t like the idea of doing that is beyond me.


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