But the Pot's so Much Stronger Nowadays!
Today's New York Times has a long article about crank in the suburbs. Guess what, America? Those of you who have been busy watching American Idol or charting the course of Brad and Jen's breakup (of course he was boinking Angelina) are probably stunned to discover that methamphetamine use is at "epidemic" proportions among our "suburban" youth. By suburban, by the way, we mean white. Those black and brown kids can snort, smoke and shoot themselves into a collective stupor for all we care. It's only when white young people start in that we get worked up. The crack "epidemic" freaked us out not because black people were using crack, but because black people on crack were encroaching on white golf courses. You think I'm kidding? Those actual words are in the Congressional record. Golf courses. I kid you not.
I don't know about you, but I'm a little tired of all this brouhaha about the latest drug epidemic. Don't get me wrong, it seriously sucks when your kid becomes a crank-freak. Meth is a bad drug. It has all kinds of serious side effects, from messing with your dopamine levels to causing long-term heart and arterial damage. Like any addiction, it's a hard one to shake. What bothers me is that we wring our hands about this latest drug and refuse to confront over one hundred years of failed prohibition policies.
We spend 50 billion dollars a year fighting this "War on Drugs," a war that makes the battle of Falluja look like an unmitigated US victory. Worse, the hypocrisy inherent here is even more obvious. We have a president who has a long history with cocaine. (And yes he found God. Blah blah blah.) Adolescence (which, for our fearless leader lasted well into his fifth decade) is a time that is meant to be devoted to making poor choices. Risking-taking during this period is developmentally appropriate. How many of you took foolish risks? I know my Israeli boyfriend and I climbed to the Annapurna base camp in cloth boots with insufficient equipment on a sunny day, despite warnings that the snow was melting in the crevasses and we were in danger of plummeting to our deaths. It was the most beautiful trip of my life.
I'm not going to list the drugs I used back then, but let's just say that if Meth were out there, I probably would have tried it.
But, you say, in 1986 a nickel bag of pot gave you twenty-five joints and you had to smoke all of them just to get a buzz on. Nowadays, two tokes gets a person stoned for a month. It's a much stronger drug. So what? What difference does that make? I have news for you. Your kids are going to do drugs. They are going to experiment. They are going to smoke pot, take E (or X, whatever they call it in your neck of the woods), snort some coke, and maybe do some Meth. The only thing you can control is your response, and what happens to them.
Conservative estimates say that 54% of high school seniors have used drugs. That's lowballing it in my opinion. If you want to reduce the harm associated with drug use, if you want to avoid the situation in the Times where the 13-year-old "suburban" girl was turning tricks in her nice suburban house after school to get the money for her crank, what you need to do is adopt a policy of harm reduction. You have to confront the issue head-on. You have to talk to your kids. You have to know more than your kids do about drugs, teach them what they are dealing with, and teach them how to stay safe. You tell them which drugs are relatively benign. Marijuana, even the stuff they have nowadays, is one of the safest drugs known to humans. You cannot overdose on pot. Nobody -- NOBODY -- dies from ingesting marijuana. There is no known quantity of marijuana that can result in a fatal dose. (That's not true of Tylenol, by the way.) You have to teach them which drugs are particularly dangerous, which drugs are dangerous to mix.
They need to be armed. When Sophie goes out to a rave, I want her to know that MDMA (ecstasy), despite its absurd placement in the DEA's Schedule I, is a relatively safe drug. (BTW - that spinal fluid study is the scientific equivalent of an urban myth. I'm not even going to waste space on it. Email me if you need the info.) But I want her to understand three things. 1. There is a risk of dehydration that can be fatal, especially if she's going to be dancing. 2. Dealers often try to pass off other, more dangerous drugs as E. and 3. MDMA's potency diminishes substantially with repeated use so that it would be a shame to 'waste' it on a lousy party, or a stupid boyfriend.
I want to surprise my kids continually by knowing more than they do about drugs. I want them to shock and frighten me with their questions. Think about it, if they shock me, that means they trust me enough to come to me with the frightening problems. If they didn't trust me, that wouldn't mean that the scary stuff wasn't happening. It would just mean that I wasn't hearing about it.
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