Drug Abuse in Schools – Underground With the “Good Kids”

It’s too easy to stereotype drug abuse in our schools.

Gang-bangers, minorities, skaters, skin-heads and boarders are the images that follow the words “drugs and schools.”

Unfortunately, there appears to be a deeper epidemic growing quietly in many schools. An epidemic that left unchecked, will hasten the moral, societal and intellectual decay of our present culture.

My forty-five-year teaching career has spanned five decades, both coasts and public and private schools. During that time I’ve observed plenty of “typical” drug and alcohol abuse situations. They have ranged from kids who overdosed, smoked pot in the restrooms, found drunk in the hallway and got busted for selling.

In almost all those cases, the students involved were ones you sort of knew were doing drugs, and it was just a matter of time until they were caught.

That syndrome hasn’t changed. Those kinds of kinds still populate our schools and create most of the headlines in the paper or the twenty-second soundbite on TV.

Starting in the mid-to-late eighties an interesting decline in attention spans, decreasing critical thinking abilities and a growing difficulty in memorizing simple lists or terms.

Now in 2009, focused attention for many students is a foreign concept, memorizing material other than words to songs or movie dialogue is almost impossible, and thinking critically about anything is absolutely overwhelming.

Nothing stands alone in producing this epidemic of apathy, but some obvious reasons exist.

  • constant use of EED’s (Electronic Entertainment Devices
  • lack of requiring responsibility and accountability of students
  • increased “enabling” by both parent and schools
  • students raised in a “flat-screen society

There’s one more possibility that might be lurking in the background.

Students talk… and I listen.

Lately, over the last eight to ten years, there has been increasing chatter about weekend recreational use of drugs by the “good kids” in schools.

You know the kind. A solid “B” or “C” average, plays on a team, goes to church (at least sometimes), doesn’t dress goth, and doesn’t shave his head or tatoo her back.

Many of these students are normal enough to have divorced parents and actually know who their father is.

Some have part-time jobs and drive safely on the way to school.

Contributing to their academic decline, but hidden in “normalness,” is an insidious use of various kinds of drugs ranging from marijuana to prescription drugs to their own experimental use of varioius drug cocktails.

Recently I conducted an informal survey in my classes, asking my students to voluntarily answer the following questions.

  1. Do you personally know someone who takes drugs in any form?
  2. If so, what is their particular favorite drug?
  3. How often do they do those drugs?
  4. In your opinion, are they addicted?
  5. Do you think their parents know about their drug use?
  6. About what percent of your friends do any form of drugs?

Over eighty percent said they had a friend doing drugs, with marijuana being the most common drug used. Ecstasy was second, but closely followed by Vicadin, often stolen from a parent.

Generally, students did not think their friends were addicted, mainly because they did drugs only on the weekends. The large majority thought that parents had no knowledge of the drug use of their children.

Obviously this was not a scientific survey, and only represents the opinion of a small number of students. (less than 150)

If we assume, however, that even a reasonable number of these students were telling the whole truth, it’s obvious that a deeper problem of the use of weekend recreational drugs could be growing into a major problem.

Here in California, where the governor has openly favored the legalization of marijuana, students are already using that as a rationale that it’s okay to smoke pot.

As a person who works in a profession that deals with the mind, my intuition keeps shouting quietly to me that any substance or distraction makes the effective use of young minds more and more difficult.

No wonder schools have the reputation of expensive failures!

What do you think?

Loved Ones Of Drinkers Should Get Out And About

If you have a loved one with a serious alcohol addiction the chances are that you have become very withdrawn. After all, the average person you meet at a drinks party or down at the tennis club is unlikely to be able to understand what you’ve been going through and, because you feel ashamed of your situation, you will naturally want to hide it from as many people as possible. Nevertheless, mixing with others with similar experiences can prove highly therapeutic. It can both enhance your own wellbeing and happiness and also introduce you to ideas that can help the drinker in your life. Others with the same experiences are likely to be on the same wavelength and should therefore actually be able to offer you support in your determination to be detached. So the more kindred spirits with whom you can talk about things the better. Such potential companions are far more plentiful than you realise, regardless of where you live in the world. There are hundreds of millions of people worldwide in a similar situation to yourself, so it’s just a question of knowing where to seek them out. The numerous self-help group meetings available are usually a good place to start.

A key message to partners and immediate family members of those with drink problems is that they should get out and meet as many people in similar situations to themselves as possible. Joining a local Al-Anon group or other similar self-help group is an essential starting point and, if you’re loved one is in or has been in a rehab clinic, make sure you take advantage of the opportunities most such organisations lay on specifically for the families and friends of those they are treating.

Talking to people with similar problems could well give valuable clues as to which treatment method might work for your particular drinker. For example, we found ourselves discussing uncanny similarities between a drinker we knew and one known by another couple at a self-help gathering for friends and families of alcohol abusers. By sharing the knowledge of a revolutionary new approach that had worked for our own friend with a drink problem and advising the couple to try it on their loved one, we pointed them directly to the key that fitted their particular door and their loved one has been dry ever since.

Some of the potential benefits are similar to those that can be derived from many other kinds of networking. Getting out and meeting those in the same boat is likely to broaden your knowledge of alcohol issues, provide you with personal recommendations of important books to read and suitable therapists and clinics for your loved one to attend and keep you up to date with any new medical developments that people are starting to talk about. It will also probably secure you some good friends and, perhaps most importantly of all, prove vital for your own happiness and wellbeing.

Only those who have also had to go through what you are having to go through are likely to be able to truly understand how you are feeling, and this is one of the reasons that explains the huge worldwide success of Al-Anon, which will also teach you how to live with yourself.

Taking that initial decision to get out and become sociable may sound intimidating because those who live with problem drinkers have invariably become very withdrawn. The stigma of having a partner or member of the family with such a condition can you wary of mixing with others, as can the realisation that you are unlikely to be understood. If, for example, you have decided that you should be practicing the art of detachment it could be very difficult to explain to those with no knowledge of the subject that the reason you are not actively helping a problem drinker is simply because you care so much about them! Even some types of professional helpers may prove largely oblivious to what you are having to put up with!

Talking to Your Kids About Drug Addiction

Parents have many responsibilities and one of them is to ensure that communication about difficult subjects occurs. Because of the easy access to street drugs, it is therefore important that you are able to provide the education and environment to talk that will protect your child from using and becoming dependent.

Following are some tips to help you with this process:

Start early – Unfortunately children are exposed to the idea of drug use through movies, technology and media. Sometimes the lives of people who children view as “heroes” in society are using drugs and their behaviours can therefore easily be misinterpreted as being acceptable. The availability of drugs has also allowed even elementary children to have easy access to them. The best thing to do therefore is to being talking about choices when children are young rather than waiting until they are in high school and might actually be facing problems.

Make sure you are well informed– I remember a few years ago when my friend was laughing about how her daughter and friends had baby soothers. What she didn’t know was that they were using as a way to prevent clenching of teeth when using Ecstasy. You need to make sure that you have enough accurate information that you can share with your child and not be “fooled” by a culture that you might otherwise not understand.

Know the resources to help you and your child– There are several ways that you can gain knowledge and support regarding drugs. The Internet is a good place to get information but the telephone book will also provide you with a number of local organizations that provide individual or group training opportunities as well as support.

Don’t make assumptions – Things are not exactly the way they were when you were younger and your child is not perfect. Just as you would need to help your child learn about sex and honesty, you will need to give good guidance about drug use. Do not assume that someone else will do this or that your child is smart enough to just say “no” without you.

Be honest – You are not protecting your child by hiding the ugly parts of dependency from him or her. Make sure that your child knows that you are concerned about this issue and have different expectations for the child. When Prince Harry was seventeen years old, his father sent him to a rehabilitation clinic because he admitted to drug and alcohol abuse. Prince Charles wanted his son to not only receive help but also understand that there are consequences associated with the choices he was making.

Help develop and practice strategies for your child to use – Peer pressure is a very powerful thing and children often do what others suggest out of fear or because they want to be accepted. It is therefore important that you help your child to think of ways to say “no” and have other options available to them. Role-play conversations with them and ensure that they have resources available to call on when they are needed.

Leave the door open for further discussion – Your child will need to be confident that s/he can come to you at any time for support and help. Invest yourself in establishing a good relationship in which you and the child enjoy open communication about all things.