In a study that was just released, my family’s home state of Oregon was ranked second in the country overall in drug addiction rate, and #1 in opioid and methamphetamine addition rate. A staggering nearly 20% of people in my state are addicted to either drugs or alcohol, leading to a 73% uptick in alcohol-related deaths and 39% uptick in drug overdoses between 2019 and 2020. You could probably pull some similarly-sobering statistics from the area in which you live.
Editorially, I try to always be uplifting on this site. However, the brutal reality of the addiction situation around us is really the only appropriate way to frame this issue. It’s never been as critical to ensure kids are armed with all the data they need to make good decisions when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
Historically, in the United States, many mitigation strategies around curbing drug use were limited to things like the “SAY NO TO DRUGS” style of campaign, essentially telling someone what they should not do. Folks generally don’t like being told what to do, so it doesn’t surprise one too much that this campaign did not meet with success. You can go to “war” on drugs, and attempt to destroy the means of getting the drugs into your area, but if there’s demand for the product, enterprising drug lords will find a way to get it there. Witness the rise of shockingly-advanced “narco-subs” to sneak drugs into American cities.
But an approach that has proven to have workability in demand-reduction is education. Educate people (and especially young people) on what drugs are, what they’re made of, why people take them (what positive benefits they think they’re going to get from them), and then what actually happens when they become addicted, dependent, or heavy users of these substances. Then, presuming they’ve got all the data, they can make their own decisions about how they want to live.
This is the strategy centered around education is the one that we’re using with our kids. They vitally need to know exactly what’s out there, and should have tools & data to deal with the sadly extremely-well-funded misinformation campaigns that always swirl around recreational as well as prescription drugs (and around alcohol).
Now, my wife and I have been working with drug education campaigns since long before we had kids. For context, you should know that our church has produced and run the largest and most-successful non-government-funded anti-drug campaign in the world. Back in 2006, I started what would turn into years of extensive work on the design, launch and 20-language online rollout of drug education materials for the Foundation for a Drug-Free World at a time when hardly any websites were in more than one or two languages. I poured countless hours and many late nights into web properties for the organization, and since we were on a shoestring budget, my wife and I even posed for a photo shoot for one of the drug education booklets that we produced for the many drugs of choice tackled by the program. (You can see if you can find us in there – we have to keep reminding our kids that no, we’ve never dropped E don’t worry.)
It’s been something we’ve been pouring our souls into for quite a long time, and feel pretty strongly about.
With our kids are growing into the ages where they can tackle and understand complicated subjects, it’s finally really become time for them to dive into a lot of these materials that we spent so much time creating. The real, and unfortunate impetus for diving into drug education though is that we’ve increasingly had to field questions from them that stem from interactions they have in daily life with people who are quite-obviously addicts. It’s sadly not-uncommon to be cycling with the kids past an encampment on the bike trail, and see needles right there on the side of the trail. I’ve had to physically intervene between an addict and my son on one of our light-rail trains who was shouting at passengers and spitting on people’s seats and at my son directly.
“Why was he doing that, dad!?”
Yes, at times like that you, as a parent, have to give kids the full picture about what drugs are and what they do.
We’ve begun to include the kids too in our activism, mostly because they’re asking to be included. They want to do something about it. My wife has been volunteering with our local Drug Free World Oregon chapter, specifically working with School Resource Officers (police assigned to schools who are tasked with creating a safe environment for students) on their drug demand-reduction education.
The kids have asked to come along to events that we’ve hosted at our local Church of Scientology in Portland for like-minded groups to come together and tackle this subject. They’ve gotten to rub elbows with police officers, pastors and other community volunteers who are out there doing something about it, like the amazing Michael DeLeon, who is working heavily with our volunteers in Portland to get effective drug education in schools.
Right now the “war on drugs” we see around us is an information war. Extremely-well-funded parties are at work, busy promoting how “safe” many street drugs are, and how powerful drugs are acceptable to be used by everyone (and may even be “beneficial!”). Even official conflicts of interest need to be explained to our kids, where legalized recreational drug and alcohol vendors are re-framed as “essential business” for states to pull in tax revenue.
It’s never been more important to help get factual information into young peoples’ hands, and to ensure they know what these substances are, their nicknames, and how parties and “friends” and even mostly-good people can sucker one into a potentially-deadly chemical dependency.
Just like “the birds and the bees” is a talk all kids eventually should have with their parents, there’s a just-as-thorough and just-as-important education about drugs that is an inextricable part of making sure your kids grow up safe and successful.