Monday, February 16, 2009

Do Parents Worry About Pot Anymore?

So we find out that Michael Phelps does it. Heck, Rick Steves, the travel guru, does it as well. Statistics show just under a third of high school teens try/use pot in a year (about 18% in a month). Alcohol use is much higher at about 66% in the last year and 44% in the last month.

When the Michael Phelps story came out, I wasn't particularly shocked in that he's very young and has been in a largely sheltered life of being an athlete. (Not that athletes aren't around drugs but if you are that high a caliber of athlete, you won't have time or desire to do drugs.) But just like our ol' pal Alex Rodriguez who recently admitted to taking some kind of performance-enhancing drug (but he says he just doesn't know what it was or what it did), it's hard to believe that Michael Phelps (when he was training) would put something in his body that might affect his abilities as an athlete. (C'mon A-Rod, someone gives you something to ingest and you have no idea what it is? And, you're a professional athlete?)

What is troubling is that in 2007, over 80% of the high school teens surveyed said that they could easily or very easily get ahold of pot. And, you'd have to believe this could easily filter down to middle school kids.

Congressman Barney Frank introduced a bill last year that would remove federal penalties for personal marijuana use. Pot users are generally non-violent offenders and enforcement of marijuana laws cost American taxpayers $10 billion a year. Marijuana, the 3rd most popular recreational drug after alcohol and tobacco, does have medical benefits to those who use it for that purpose (unlike alcohol and tobacco).

But as parents, do any of us want our kids dealing with drug dealers (even your low-grade high school dealer)? Do we want our kids getting high? Is Michael Phelps setting a bad example where unsophisticated kids say, "See he does it and he won 8 gold medals." I would not be happy if my children smoked pot but frankly, I'm a lot more worried about drinking (and interestingly, more parents, from my experience, seem to have a blind eye for drinking than pot).

12 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I don't know if "worry" is the word I would use.

It is my expectation that my children, while teenagers and young adults, will go through the usual rites of passage that young people go through, including some participation in risky behavior. That's part of becoming an adult - you try out adult things.

I don't believe that "raising them right" will cause them to choose to abstain entirely from all of these experiences - rebellion, romance, tobacco, or alcohol and other drugs. Rather, I hope that "raising them right" will cause them to try these things in managed moderation. I can't imagine that they won't try smoking marijuana anymore than I can imagine that they won't try alcohol. I would expect, however, that they do these things on their own terms, by their own choice, and in a responsible way.

That might sound goofy, but I definitely believe that there are responsible ways to do irresponsible things. It's a matter of managing risks and not taking extra risks. So, when it comes to smoking dope, for example, I would expect them to do so only with people they know and not when they know they will be called upon to strain their impaired judgement.

I grew up in Southern California in the 70's. Everybody smoked dope. The key was moderation. We had enough examples of people who overindulged to know better.

It's really no different from alcohol in that respect. It's alright to have a drink or two, but it is foolish, rude, and dangerous to drink to excess.

Seattlehorn said...

Well said, Charlie. I think the hypocrisy over mind-altering substances in this country actually promotes irresponsible drug use.

Ideally, in addition to having parents who practice moderation, a child should be taught about his or her unique physiology, the risks of addiction, and how to recognize it in oneself and others.

Here is a recent New York Times article about teaching moderation.

JTW said...

Alcohol affects teens more severely because of their smaller body weight. Exposure to large amounts of alcohol during the teen years can contribute to higher risk of alcoholism, especially in girls. Drunk driving by teens is deadly. Girls are at greater risk of being attacked on a date if they are inebriated. It's important to teach children the risks of alcohol and to understand that their judgment is probably immature and influenced by peers. The NYT article reads like a rationalization because I don't know of anyone who chose to get a drinking problem, some just do. Fortunately most don't, and of course it's natural that teens will experiment, but parents must be the grownup: Don't be cool, love your kids enough to teach and guide them as teens.

Josh Hayes said...

I don't want to worry anyone, but I've talked with kids from at least five different middle schools in Seattle, and they all tell me that pot is readily available at school.

The message here is, if you wait until (just before) high school to talk about it, you've waited too long. Get on the stick.

Seattlehorn said...

Sadly, it isn't limited to pot. Two McClure Middle School 12-year olds are now under investigation after allegedly selling Ecstacy to another student.
News story here.

adhoc said...

Pot and alcohol, and many other drugs have been readily available to kids for as long as I can remember. Nothing new. Heck if they really want to get high and can't get hold of pot or alcohol at school they can just walk up Fred Meyer and buy a can of whip cream and inhale some nitrous oxide, or inhale a can of compressed air.

We continually talk (even though their eyes almost roll out of their sockets) to our kids about the affects of alcohol, pot and all of the other drugs that are literally at their fingertips. We talk to them about how to make wise choices, and we roll play scenarios with them to help them practice how they would handle themselves and what they could say and do if they find themselves in a situation which involved drugs and/or alcholol.

We had a severe alcoholic in our extended family and unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) our kids were able to see and learn first hand the effects of being an alocholic - up to and including a slow and painful death from liver disease.

We have told our children exactly how we feel about drugs and alcohol, which is basically no tolerance. That said, we don't have blinders on either, and we acknowledge that the reality is that our children will try pot and alcohol. If and when they do I hope they do so responsibly, and I hope that they don't find it tremendously appealing, and they move on quickly.

My husband always tells a story about being in his college dorm room as stoned as he could possiblby be. All of a sudden he said he started crying. He thought about what it would be like if his parents came for a surprise visit right at that very moment. He thought about how embarrassed he would be. And he thought about how disappointed his parents would be in him. It was such an overwhelming thought that he never smoked pot again.

I guess his parents did a great job!

hschinske said...

One of the arguments I use (and this is only one of many) is that drug dealing is a major underpinning of crime in our society, and regardless of whether it's right or wrong for pot to be illegal, it is most certainly wrong to support drug dealers. I blame Prohibition for a lot of stuff, but mostly for its reinforcement of organized crime.

And yeah, I know there are supposedly people who get their pot from nice old hippies who live in the woods and wouldn't hurt a fly, but that doesn't describe the way most middle/high-schoolers' drug transactions happen.

Helen Schinske

Dorothy said...

I bring up Len Bias to my son as often as possible, just to highlight the fact that life is random and you just never know. I don't know what the current thinking is on him, but at the time it was thought he had never done cocaine before and heart arrhythmia and death were just a rare but not unheard of side effect.

As for pot, my son knows a fair bit, pro and con. We talk about it a lot. He knows, for instance, that recent research indicates that pot may have a protective effect on lungs. This research was either sponsored by NIH or something equivalently respectable. So when the topic of drugs and the body came up in Biology class, and the teacher spread myths and untruths about pot being as bad or worse for the lungs as tobacco, he tried to point out the current research but the teacher totally shut him down. Same thing happened in Health Class. Especially in a Science class, it should all be about intellectual honesty, even when it comes to discussing recreational drugs.

I agree with Charlie a lot on this. In addition to discussing the pitfalls of pot or alcohol (criminal element, possible run-in with the law) I stress how both can be misused to tune out problems and thus squash growth, especially in teens. Some people who start using recreational substances in teen years stay stuck in adolescence. Not a place *I* would want to be stuck.

In addition to experimenting with recreational drugs, teens and young adults experiment with sexuality. As a previous commenter noted, mixing alcohol and sexual experimentation in teens can be disastrous -- for boys as well as girls.

I would suggest one potential pitfall of zero tolerance. I have reminded my son over and over that he should feel free to call me at any time for a ride home if he is in an unsafe situation. Any kid in a situation gotten into by a slippery slope of decisions and it's now out of their control --- will he recognize it and actually call? I fear that if I have given a zero tolerance attitude, it might be the tipping point to keep him from calling.

A wise coworker once gave me good advice though, a "pretend" zero tolerance. In his "toolbox" to extricate himself from a situation he doesn't want to be in, my son should feel free to blame me, to say how completely intolerant I am, "My mother would kill me, I really can't. she'd punish me for months, she's such a &#$%. I gotta go."

adhoc said...

I agree with Dorothy in that kids should always have an out, and always know they can call home when they are in a dangerous or slippery situation - no questions asked. When I said zero tolerance in my earlier post, I meant that our son knows how we feel about under age drinking and use of illegal drugs - we do not condone it. However, we acknowledge that at some point he will more than likely be exposed to, or partake in these activities to some extent. Or he may have freinds partaking who may be driving or putting him at risk in some way. He knows that he can call home anytime, from anywhere, for any reason and get a ride home. And our agreement is that if he ever has to make that call, and we encourage him to do so, there will be no questions asked and no judgement passed.

rugles said...

If I had wanted my school age kids smoking pot and doing drugs I would have sent them to a private school.

Josh Hayes said...

rugles said:

If I had wanted my school age kids smoking pot and doing drugs I would have sent them to a private school.

FX: rim shot

[Rodney Dangerfield impression:] So yeah, I saw my doctor and said I broke my leg in two places, and he said, stop going to those places.

FX: rim shot

Heey, I got a million of 'em!

Seriously: I think adhoc's approach is right on. My eldest is only in 6th grade, but he's already complained about kids being "altered" in class. I guess it's a good education, seeing how messed up one can get.

From a personal perspective, my nephew nearly died from abusing over-the-counter cough syrup. He's fine now, but it's a useful thing to remind ourselves that it's not all about pot, and Ecstasy, and meth, and booze, and so on -- it's also about perfectly legal, but nonetheless bad, things. We need to talk to our kids about ALL of this stuff, and well ahead of time.

(FWIW, I always hated any kind of smoke, so I told people I was allergic to pot. Worked a treat.)

Margaret said...

Very well written with quoting the possible statistics. I believe the only way to reduce the teen abuse problem is to conduct some awareness programs or spread awareness through articles in blogs, so that they reach both the parents and the young teens.
Thanks for spreading a helpful information here.
Keep posting more like this.