Sunday, April 12, 2015

The one with the big lie and the fried brain (with a side of bacon and hashbrowns)

Dear Dad,
My partner and I have 2 boys, ages 14 and 8, and we have been together since college. We have been watching (a current show about drug addiction and crime), and it got us to thinking about how to address the subject of drugs with our kids. We both smoked pot in college (he still does on occasion, but I don't now because I just overeat junk and fall asleep). My partner tried mushrooms a couple of times in college, and I think he dropped acid once or twice, but I mostly stayed out of anything beyond drinking and pot. Drugs are something we experimented with, but neither of us ever developed a problem.
I honestly don't know what to tell my boys about drugs, especially my 14 year old who has always rebelled against most things. I worry he is at that age, and with his personality where he may have gone or could go next. Should we confront him about drugs and ask if he has tried them, and how should we tell him that they could destroy his life? Should he watch (the show) with us? Help!

Dear 'Smoked Pot In College',
This salutation is addressing you based on your question, and is not in any way announcing anything about myself, nor anyone I know. I was a Nirvana-loving-phish-show-attending-birk-patchouli-wearing-long-haired-goateed-admirer-of-the-hippy-generation type of gen x-er. I don't have anything more to say on that - I was simply addressing you, 'Smoked Pot In College', and was in no way making a personal statement or announcement.
When I first read your question, I thought since I have young kids (ages 10 and 6), I don't have enough experience to answer this question. I realized after I thought about the subject for a bit, that my kids are exactly the age to talk about drugs, as are your children. I have warned my children about "Strawberry Quick" and Flakka when I learned about them (google the terms if you are not familiar - terrifying), but I haven't really gotten into specifics about drugs.
I was raised to "just say no" and with knowledge of "the big lie" and the image of a brain on drugs (with a side of bacon and hashbrowns - shows how seriously that was taken by my generation). I think based on your (and my) experience in college, it suffices to say that approach to curb drug use was ineffective. How can one who has experimented with drugs tell their children to just say no, especially when the odds are the conversation will most likely not help?
My advice, 'Smoked Pot in College', is to tell your children the truth about drugs, and from a young age, so long as the information you are sharing is age appropriate. Let your children know that a lot of their peers are going to experiment with drugs, and are going to try to pressure them into using drugs. I think it is imperative to empower our children with the truth about what drugs can physically and psychologically do to a person. We need to help our children understand that there are other ways to conform and fit in that don't involve risking their lives and their health.
I don't know that I'm going to tell my children to "just say no," but I am certainly going to tell them that if they try heroin once they have set themselves up for certain disaster, and that if they try quick or flakka (as younger and younger kids are), they could die the very first time they try it. I will advise my children that mixing alcohol with pills can kill them, and that addiction will end every dream they ever had for themselves. I will warn that every person is at risk for addiction and ask my girls if they think it is worth the gamble to "fit in" for a time in their lives that will only last a few years.
When we were in college, a lot of people smoked pot. The main issue for our children is the "first time/gateway drug" marijuana is being replaced with frightening hard drugs like heroin, meth, and designer street drugs. We need something more effective than just saying no because the world our children are growing up in is far scarier and dangerous than the one we grew up in.

The truth (with images and examples) of how horrific and destructive drugs and addiction can be is the only source powerful enough to teach our children to make smart choices when we are not there to help them make these decisions for themselves.  The only time we are going to be powerful enough to combat the incredible force of peer pressure and sense of curiosity is when they are still young enough to truly listen to us.  We need to talk to our children as soon as possible about drugs.

I think 14 is old enough to allow your son to watch the show with you (it is on network TV). Perhaps the images depicted in the show will be powerful enough to curb him from trying something down the road because he will be informed of the real repercussions of what can happen if he says yes to whatever is presented to him. I would advise him that he is in a safe place during this discussion, and encourage him to advise you of any exposure he has had to drug use (whether it be his own use or friend's use). Promise him (and stick to it) that there will not be any consequence to his honesty so you can start a dialogue about a critical subject.
I think my children are a tad too young to be exposed to the images presented in (that show), but I definitely think a defined and structured talk with them about drugs is in order immediately. Thank you for submitting this question and getting me to focus on a critical subject that requires action today.
There was a stigma when I was growing up that the drug crisis our country faced (and continues to face) was linked to socioeconomic status, or was only a problem in big cities. Four years at a private New England college (where NOT experimenting with drugs was deviant in my experience), I have learned firsthand people from all walks of life and different backgrounds experiment with, dabble in, or regularly use drugs. 

Why do you think we continue to make the issue of drugs about class or race? What methods are you going to use to inform and arm your children in the world of drugs that will undoubtedly surround them when you are not there to protect them?

On my way to Woodstock '94 - proud to say 100% drug and alcohol free (that weekend) 

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