Today’s kids in America are getting a muddled message about illegal drugs, from such sources as highway billboards, movies, magazines, and the Internet; from parents who drink at the dinner table; or from friends who experiment when nobody’s home, says the Christian Science Monitor.
In the first of a two-part series, the Monitor quotes screenwriter Mike Gray, author of “Drug Crazy,” as saying, “There are so many mixed messages that kids think everybody is lying. Drugg education is not about science. It’s not about justice. It’s about theater.”
Adults may not understand how contradictory and confusing their guidelines can sound, the newspaper says. Examples: kids are told that illicit drugs are bad and you should never do them, but prescription drugs are fine and can enhance fitness and happiness if doctor prescribes them; alcohol is all right and will help you relax and enjoy life as long as you’re older than 21.
“There are good drugs and bad drugs,” says Larry Murry of CASASTART, based at Columbia University. “We know cigarettes are bad, but opiates, for example, are good – except when they’re misused. To any thinking person, it’s confusing.”
“Monitoring the Future,” the most comprehensive federal study of drug use among U.S. high school students said in 1975 that 55 percent of high school students said they had tried an illegal drug at least once. A few decades later, that number hovers at about 53 percent today. Despite decades of antidrug education programs in schools, drug use among American teens has held steady.
When the federal government founded the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign in 1998, it tried to instill in children the notion of an “anti-drug” with 30-second MTV-like ad spots. A government’s study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that, while parents responded well to the campaign, kids did not. In fact, kids more heavily exposed to the ads were actually more likely to experiment with illegal drugs.