Can kids be scared straight?

i-cd28c0f365c90c5411bfe3157511ef62-scaredstraight.jpgOver at 3.14, The Seed Overlords Official Blog(tm), Ginny (The overlord herself - is there a feminine version of that? The overlady? meh... doesn't have as good of a ring) wants to know whether teenagers can be scared away from drugs? D.A.R.E. is a complete and utter failure but there seems to be some evidence that the Len Bias cocaine OD scared a generation of kids away from the drug. meh...maybe? I don't believe it though. On the other hand all that "ecstasy will eat holes in your brain" scientific article publishing sure scared me. Even after much of it had to be retracted due to the fact that they used the wrong drug in their tests, ooops!

So go over to 3.14 and take the quicky survey and lets see what people think. Can kids be scared off drugs?

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Answer: no, with a giant caveat.

Take an average 16-year old. Namely, me some years back. Have him home alone at 2 in the morning. Show him Requiem for a Dream. What comes out of the mix?

"ohshitohshitnotdoingheroinohmygod", repeated while curling up in the fetal position. Hell, I still do that when I watch the movie. Great film, though.

By Aaron Lemur Mintz (not verified) on 04 Mar 2008 #permalink

By propaganda on TV or in classrooms ? Doubtful. By personal experience with the effects on people around them ? Sometimes.

I think seeing first hand how decent people were consumed heroin, coke and meth drove home to me that those things weren't worth getting into. Of course, being to close has it's own risks, as the children of users and alcoholics can attest.

I'd guess death of public figures falls somewhere in between propaganda and first hand experience.

The answer to the question, "Can teenagers be scared away from illicit drug use?", is yes. But then anyone can be scared away from any behaviour provided a sufficient level of fear is induced. The 3.14 survey is then rather flawed in that regard, to the point of being meaningless, unless of course the point was to encourage discussion of the issue.

And there are other questions raised by that one.
* Is inducing fear an appropriate means of modifying the behaviour of others?
* How effective is it?
* At what point does inducing fear become inducing terror?
* Is inducing terror going too far?
* Are there unintended consequences to using fear as a means of modifying behaviour, i.e., inducing a generalised, (semi-)permanent fear state?

Fear based tactics to modify and control behaviour have ethical implications. I have a general concern about it, and can't quite put my finger on it, but it is along that lines that such behaviour modification is a violation of the mind or of the person.

I think that education, together with intervention of at risk teens, would be more effective. Real education, that is, not some sort of faux-education like abstinence-only sex ed.

By Stephen D Moore (not verified) on 04 Mar 2008 #permalink

The fundamental lesson learned is that by frightening someone you can hope to get them to so what you want. Fear is a great motivator, as every thug knows in his black little heart.

It's the non-physical form of battering children, which teaches kids to bully younger and weaker kids.

By Nelson Muntz (not verified) on 04 Mar 2008 #permalink

I wonder how many kids were scared off drugs, but, upon discovering marijuana, assumed they were being lied too about all the other drugs as well...

Intervention. The terms smacks of Scientology.
At-risk teens = anyone over 8 and under 33.
Drugs need to be legalized and treated as the medical and social problems they are.
Some kids can be scared away from drugs, some kids can be reasoned away from drugs. But most kids cannot be either scared or reasoned with. As we all know (or remember) they have their own sub-culture into which we are not admitted.

Most kids survive drugs. Anyway. In spite of. Us.

For those who do not, we need treatment that works, not jails.
Something is different about those who cannot get past drugs (including alcohol). We need to find out what that is and find a cure. Jail is NOT a cure. But death is.

But most kids cannot be either scared or reasoned with.

according to the MtF data only about half of 12th graders and college students endorse lifetime use of illicit drugs.

whether this is "most" or whether you think they have been "scared or reasoned with", I'll leave up to the reader.

Offhand, I'd say there is a tremendous difference in asking "Do you use, have you ever used, do you ever expect to use any kind of drug in your lifetime for recreational purposes?" and "Do you recommend lifelong use of drugs to yourself or your friends?". As I said, most kids work their way through it. And they are not insane enough to answer yes to the second question. Not that many Timothy Learys out there I think. The problem is the ones who cannot work their way out of it, ever.

Intervention. The terms smacks of Scientology.

Not being a Scientologist, I have no idea why the term 'intervention' smacks of Scientology, or what you mean by asserting such.

At-risk teens = anyone over 8 and under 33.

That's a rather generous definition of 'teen'. Those ages suggest adolescence, and even then I think 33 is way beyond the upper limit. My upper limit to adolescence would be around 25. But anyway, whatever the ages, why would all such people be at-risk? I interpret at-risk to mean a significantly greater than normal risk. There is of course the question of what is normal, and statistics can be manipulated to make pretty much anything normal, but then that's part of the analysis and questioning that any reader of statistics ought to engage in. Assess and compare the data and make appropriate decisions based on that data.

I do agree though that gaol is not a cure for drug addiction. Indeed, sending people to gaol for minor drug offenses, is a complete waste of resources and is counterproductive, particularly in prison systems where the aim of imprisonment is solely punishment (retribution) rather than rehabilitation.

By Stephen D Moore (not verified) on 05 Mar 2008 #permalink

oldfart and anyone else who might have been confused, I cop to using a bit of jargon there. In this context "endorse" means simply that the survey gives a number of possible responses to a question. As in "Have you used alcohol- in the past two weeks? the past month? the past year?". Indicating a positive response to each option is called "endorsing" it.

I was not using it in the sense of a "recommendation".