Pubdate: Mon, 26 Dec 2005
Source: Journal Times, The (Racine, WI)
Copyright: 2005 The Journal Times
Author: Mike Moore


Some time in grade school or junior high, we were trucked over to the 
police station to be warned about drugs. I suppose the officers 
talked for a while in that Matt Foley, motivational speaker voice 
about where we'd end up living if we used them.

Maybe they even showed us the temporary facilities we'd get comp'd if 
we got caught.

I don't remember a word of it. I was focused on the confiscated drug 
paraphernalia sitting on display.

It resembled the horrible science lab a comic-book villain might 
operate and, for some reason, it gave me nightmares for weeks. After 
that, no way was I going to use any of that stuff.

I realize now it was more cumulative than that. That day wouldn't 
have had the same effect had my parents not bombarded me with 
warnings dozens of times before.

By then they'd done their best to convince me if I used marijuana 
even once, my brain would shrivel and they'd have to run a theme park 
on the extra property in my head. That fried-egg analogy on the TV 
ads was a relief compared to that.

Later experiences firmed up my "anti" position. One guy in my high 
school class dabbled in weed, but still managed to be the math and 
science genius. Then he turned up a couple of summers later wearing 
tie-dyed shirts and bragging about the epiphany that drove him to 
major in philosophy.

If I got the munchies, it was going to be for the traditional reason: 
a good, old-fashioned craving.

As for alcohol, I don't remember any nightmares warding me away. If 
there were strongly worded talks, they've escaped me. I took that 
lesson in the form of headaches, real and figurative, for a while.

News from Racine County lately shows we're still deciding how best to 
do our part to prevent those fried brains.

It would be fantastic for everything on our abuse-fighting checklist 
to go perfectly. We'd have enough money to keep D.A.R.E. officers on 
the west end of the county beyond this school year. Somebody would 
give liquor sellers a financial reason to turn away underage 
customers so all of these compliance checks would actually mean something.

Missing those things shouldn't mean losing the battle. Those are the 
last lines of defense. As Burlington's city Police Chief David Walsh 
was quoted, "I'm nervous if the Police Department is the only place 
sending the message out that drugs are bad."

As long as parents are around, we'll always have the first line. That 
line has to be willing to do the defending.

Science will back me up on this. I plucked a study from the Archives 
of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

I'll summarize, to spare you the temptation of using uppers to get 
through it awake. Researchers set up a mini-grocery store for a bunch 
of children ages 2-6. The place was stocked with all kinds of 
products, including alcohol and cigarettes. The kids picked out what 
they wanted and played with their purchases and some dolls.

Kids whose parents smoked were almost four times as likely to pick 
out the cigarettes as the others. One 4-year-old girl grabbed the 
smokes, saying, "I need this for my man. A man needs cigarettes."

A 6-year-old boy couldn't name the favorite cereal in his hand (Lucky 
Charms) but had no trouble picking out the Marlboros. Score that an 
error on mom and dad, with an assist from marketers.

The alcohol numbers were less dramatic but still there. Not hard to 
imagine those statistics carrying over to illegal drugs.

What the researchers took from this study is we need to find a way to 
intervene earlier in children's lives. I'd say there's already a great way.

For the really bad stuff, prove to the young'uns it's bad by not 
doing it. For the rest, keep reinforcing the word. And don't defeat 
it by glorifying it yourself. Little Jimmy doesn't need to hear the 
adults in his life chortling about getting trashed last night.

Of all the mouths repeating the anti-drug message, remember who has 
the loudest megaphones.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman