Thursday, April 03, 2008

Just Say Maybe? (part 2)

In yesterday's post, I finally finished up a post I had started writing almost a year ago about my frustration with the anti-drug messages that are promoted by government and community agencies. They seem too black and white, too out-of-touch with reality. To hear these messages, you have 2 choices: 1) take drugs and become an addict and ruin your life forever, or 2) don't take drugs. There is no middle ground.

Now, we all know that there IS a middle ground. So how do we explain THAT to our kids?

The reason I started thinking about this issue again is that the Manic Mommies had a guest this week who was talking about prescription drug abuse among teens (now we have to worry about prescription drugs as well as illegal ones - oy!). I'm sure you've all seen the ads on TV in which a "drug dealer" is complaining because he isn't getting business from teens anymore, as they are simply going to their parents' medicine cabinets and taking their old prescriptions to get high.

So the Mommies spoke with this woman for a while, and she gave lots of information about the incidence of the problem, examples of cases she knew of, ways to clean out your cabinets and try to protect your kids... but the one thing no one talked about is: WHY ARE TEENS DOING THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE???

Why do teens feel the need to go through the medicine cabinet and take whatever they can find? What is the problem here? Why do they need to get high, or anesthetize themselves from whatever they are feeling? What is going on???

I just took a look at Vanessa Van Petten's blog Teen's Today to see if she had any insight into the issue of teens and drugs (since she is closer in age to a teen than I am), and I was reminded that one reason teens use certain prescription drugs, like ADD drugs, is to stay awake while they are studying. Another reason she mentioned is the social use, that taking drugs helps smooth over social situations in which a teen (or anyone) might feel stressed or ill at ease. Another reason she mentioned is: boredom! Some teens take drugs (and do other things we wish they wouldn't) because they simply are bored. Add these reasons to typical teenage low self-esteem, feelings of isolation, feeling left-out and different, possible depression... and you have a million reasons why teens might be seeking a way to feel different and better than how they normally feel.

So in my mind, the way to prevent teens from using your old prescription drugs isn't to take the drugs away, but rather to talk to them and help them learn to deal with these sorts of situations. If teens are bored, they need things to do. If they feel ill at ease in social situations, they need to learn skills to deal with these situations. If they need to stay awake while studying, they need to find other ways to stay awake (coffee? soda?) instead of drugs. If they are feeling normal teenage angst, maybe they just need some love and attention and help finding friends who will make them feel included and part of something larger than themselves and loved...Maybe I'm naive, but I think that happy, busy teens aren't that interested in taking their parents' old antibiotics. But maybe I'm wrong...Talk to me in 5 or 6 years.

Here are some more articles on this topic:
Wall Street Journal article
Slate article

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