At school, the Free-Ride offspring have been celebrating Red Ribbon Week. For the lower grades, this mostly amounts to wearing sunglasses or crazy socks or whatever that day's Red Ribbon "theme" calls for. But there is also a wee bit of discussion in the classroom about drugs. The Free-Ride parents decided to see what the sprogs had learned:
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: So what did you guys learn from Red Ribbon Week?
Younger offspring: We shouldn't take drugs.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: What's a drug?
Elder offspring: Tobacco's a drug.
Younger offspring: Yeah, tobacco can hurt your lungs and your heart.
Dr. Free-Ride: Sure, tobacco is one example of a drug. But are all drugs like tobacco?
Elder offspring: Is our toothpaste a drug?
Younger offspring: Huh?
Elder offspring: There's a label on the toothpaste tube that says "Drug Facts".
Dr. Free-Ride: I guess that means they're counting the fluoride in the toothpaste as a drug. What about when one of you gets sick with a fever?
Elder offspring: The fever medicine is a drug.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Saying no to drugs doesn't mean you shouldn't take the medicine we or the doctor give you when you're sick, does it?
Elder offspring: No.
Dr. Free-Ride: So does "drug" mean something like a chemical that will have some kind of effect on your body?
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Hmmm....
Dr. Free-Ride: Because some of those effects can be good -- like reducing a fever -- and other effects can be bad -- like hurting your lungs.
Elder offspring: Lice shampoo also has a "Drug Facts" label.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Should that really count as a drug? You're not ingesting it, you're using it to poison the lice -- so it's not affecting your physiology, but the louse's.
Dr. Free-Ride: Dude, I didn't make the labeling rules.
Elder offspring: Coffee!
Dr. Free-Ride: That's right, coffee has caffeine, and caffeine is a drug.
Elder offspring: Chocolate also contains caffeine.
Younger offspring: (Horrified) You mean when I eat chocolate I'm eating drugs?!
Dr. Free-Ride: Yes, but we make sure you don't eat so much that it would hurt you.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: If it would make you feel better, you can say no to chocolate.
Younger offspring: No. As long as you say I can have chocolate, that's alright.
A week before Halloween and pulling the old "chocolate is a drug" move; shame, shame, shame...shame it didn't work with my kids either...
This sort of thing exemplifies what's wrong with the so-called "War On Drugs(*)" -- it's all about pseudo-religious proscriptions and purposely blurred distinctions, not about the actual dangers like dysfunctionality (e.g., DWI, doing dumbass stuff, escapism), actual health hazards (notably cancer), and addiction.
Argument from authority lasts exactly until the kids start seeking independence, and if they don't know any better reasons not to smoke et al., then they've got trouble waiting.
(*) If the "drug warriors" were serious about reducing drug abuse, then (a) the educators would pay attention to what works, (b) there would be funds to rehabilitate drug abusers, instead of just punishing them, and (c) the drug warriors would be focusing on the dangerous stuff, instead of second- guessing doctors on pain management, and arresting cancer patients.
Don't let them be tricked into the abominable demonization of 'drug-users' which permeates our culture. They (and you) will have friends, teachers, professors, bosses, and probably SOs who use illegal drugs. Teach them about the American Prohibition, and how America's prejudices against drug-users have greatly exaberated the dangers of drugs. Don't forget, that while the dangers of drugs are real, and serious, many politicians are only too eager to use people's anti-drug-user prejudices to manipulate the unwary into supporting causes that have no more to do with drugs than the Iraq invasion has to do with fighting Al-Queda. It's wise to avoid recreational drug use. But to demonize drug-users, to force them into the closet, and to hand out severe prison sentences to non-violent offenders is appallingly foolish.
(Disclaimer: I use caffeine daily, and alcohol and aspirin a few times a year. I do not use any other drugs. That's two recreational drugs, so that's perhaps not very wise ... )
I feel that it is some sort of professional duty and personal honor to weigh in, but leave it to the little people to point out the silliness of how adults rule the world.
Even the FDA has trouble deciding what is truly a drug (vs. a food or cosmetic.) I say (as does Goodman & Gilman) that it is any chemical substance intended for modulating the physiology of a person or an invading organism with the goal of treating, preventing, or diagnosing a disease. btw, "drug" is from the Middle English, "drogge," dervied from the French, "drogue," referring to dryness re dried herbs, from which most drugs were once derived. Don't get me started as to why herbs are not classified as drugs in this country.
Some drugs are legal while others aren't and adults have mixed up rules about why this distinction exists. So, even saying 'no' to mind-altering, addictive drugs presents the conundrum to kids about the legal sale (and aggressive marketing) of the demon, alcohol.
Hmmm...I have a lot more work to do before my daughter gets to Red Ribbon Week.
Yay chocolate! Gimme more chocolate! Chocolatechocolatechocolatechocolate...