Friday, July 22, 2011

Yes, kids, Grandma does drugs

There’s no planning for an event like Grandma’s Big Talk On Drugs, but I’ve been waiting for the opportunity for a while now as my oldest grandchildren close in on the teen years.
The chance came on Monday, while I was driving four of my five grandsons home to the Comox Valley after a couple weeks of Island travel and camping.
The oldest two are 11 and 12, and well familiar with kids not much older than them using alcohol and illegal drugs.  I knew there’d be a moment one day soon when I could jump in with a word or two on the subject.
I don’t know how it came up - not at my behest, that’s for sure, because the only hope you’ve got of getting a fledgling adolescent to hear you is if you wait for them to bring something up. At any rate, one of the boys said something about drug use, and all of a sudden the door opened.
As was the case when I was their age, my two oldest grandsons are surrounded by people who drink and use illegal drugs. I was 13 when I smoked my first joint, introduced to it by a school pal whose older brother was a teenage science whiz cranking out acid for eager buyers.
I’d already started drinking to get drunk by that point, which I would continue with great enthusiasm for the next three years. I know my mother will be deeply embarrassed that I’m admitting such a thing, but Mom, it’s not your fault. I just came of age in the ‘70s.
My grandsons’ generation have had the added impact of being completely immersed in cultural references to drug use, from TV shows to movies to Web sites like YouTube. This is the generation that can check out photos of their dopey older cousin with a joint in his mouth just by clicking on his Facebook site. No kid today grows up in a vacuum about drugs.
So I figure the options are to either have a frank conversation to prepare kids for those intense teen years, or assume responsibility for sending the poor little sods into high-risk territory without a lick of sense to fall back on.
I have fairly vivid memories of being that kid, teenage drug use being something that my parents’ generation simply hadn’t considered much. In the end, nothing too bad happened to me.  But that was sheer luck.
I always wanted better for my own kids and grandkids - and yours. But I fear that in the 40 years since my generation was being scared with bad-acid movies in guidance class, “just say no” still prevails as the central message to young people. It remains an important message, of course, but hardly the only one.
Years ago a young relative of mine, in Grade 6 at the time, pinned a “Just Say No” poster from a school presentation to his bedroom door, declaring with conviction that he would never use drugs. It hung there for years, through the earnest times and on into irony.
Like me, and maybe you, he has grown into a good and responsible person despite having used drugs as a teen. Most people do. Would it kill us to mention that to our kids once in a while?
My grandsons wanted to know if it was true that crack and crystal meth were addictive after just one use, and whether I agreed that heroin was the worst drug of all. I parsed that first answer carefully, wanting to stress what rotten drugs crack and crystal meth are without portraying them as instant tickets to doom.
Heroin - well, that took a little longer, and gave me the chance to talk about the drug with the most catastrophic potential, alcohol. “Alcohol is a drug?” asked the 11-year-old with much surprise.
As for marijuana, what’s left to say? It’s not a harmless drug, but most B.C. kids over the age of five could probably name that scent what with so many of their parents and grandparents still smoking the stuff. I settled for telling the boys that some studies have found chronic, heavy marijuana use during adolescence is detrimental to brain function.
I doubt they’ll retain much of our talk, but I hope they got my point about making informed choices should it come to that. Kids, just say know.


Bernard said...

This New York Times article adds more to the whole talk....

Marijuana may help with PTSD

Anonymous said...

Nicely and honestly expressed my dear and wise old friend. This one is a keeper for a lot of people.

Arne S. said...

Just say Know. Well, I'm taking your advice and asking that you do the same thing Jody - get in the know. By focusing on your youth, you missed something critical to today's youth being able to successfully navigate the rough waters of adolescence.

The fastest growing drug addiction problem in the youth of North America today is prescription drugs.

The problem is Illicit use of prescription drugs, although prescribed over-medication of young people is almost as dire a problem as is doctor-prescribed over-medication of elderly people.

Proliferation of prescription drugs, pushed by the pharmaceutical industry, is a primary driver of this latest drug menace. These drugs are readily available in many households, especially those of Boomer parents or elderly grandparents.

The prescription drugs that are being used by young people today often have as great or deadlier consequences than alcohol, marijuana, coke or even heroin. The more reliable source of the adverse effects of prescription drug bar none is Ralph Nader's Citizen Watch group, who established a research body staffed with doctors and scientists in the 1990s:

Journalist, inform thyself.

Especially in BC, where the Liberal government has created a Pharmaceutical Review Board and filled it with professional lobbyists and employees of pharmaceutical companies. This is a disturbing precedent, and a dangerous situation when one also considers the growing epidemic of youth abuse of prescription drugs.

We should be very alert to the effects of this very disturbing and dangerous trend on our own loved ones, and alert to our own government's role in opening these floodgates wide to the manufacturers of these lucrative and dangerous, destructive products, and handing them the wheel and throttle.

Jody Paterson said...

A note to Arne S: I agree with you completely and definitely did not intend to have the few drugs that I mentioned be the only ones available to youngsters. But they kids wanted to talk about street drugs, so that's what we talked about. However, I'm with you on your concerns about prescription-drug abuse, not to mention the heavy hand of the pharmaceutical industry.

Arne S. said...

Thanks for your comment Jody. However, I need to correct you, for the safety of you and your grandchildren.

Illicit pharmaceutical drugs ARE street drugs.

Have a look at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) website (which also operates in Canada). You'll see the DEA has a special unit for specific pharmaceutical drugs, the most dangerous ones and those most frequently sold on the street.

One of the pharmaceutical drugs for which the DEA has established a special investigative unit is Fentanyl. This is a dangerous and very powerful narcotic which has become a very lucrative street drug, often "diverted" from hospitals and nursing homes by staff into the "black market" on the street.