The above the influence dot com commercials have fascinated me for a while now.
I’ve long wanted hipper people talking to kids about substance use, but in the end all commercials are propaganda and it’s what is behind them not what is on the screen that matters.
First though lets admit this – These ads are definitely made by people that have used drugs, and like Mitch Hedberg said “I use to use drugs. I still use drugs but I used to too,” I’m guessing that they still do. It’s quite clever if you are trying to market yourself to existing drug users.
Here’s the issue I have with this Government program.
1. It’s an abstinence only program and to me this is just as damaging with substances as it is with sex. There are plenty of examples of people who have ruined their lives with drugs to give to kids to help inform them. If I were in charge, my anti-heroin class would last about 30 seconds, because all I’d have to do was show before and after pictures of the once James Dean like Chet Baker.
Kids can see Lindsey Lohan throwing her life away daily with alcohol, but they never see anyone responsibly using drugs or alcohol. Paul McCartney, if you think about it, smoked marijuana for forty years, created a lot of great art, became a billionaire, had an incredibly successful first marriage and family. Where is that story? I’m not advocating putting forward Keith Richards, who has probably been pretty lucky that his body is geared to survive anything, but McCartney has obviously successfully managed to partake from time to time with little or no serious problems. When you tell kids that marijuana is as bad as heroin and they find out marijuana isn’t that big of a deal, well then why not do heroin?
The number of people on the planet that live their lives completely clean of substances is pretty low. These kids are going to grow up to do something and education programs should deal with that no matter how hard it is.
2. Although the program apparently deals with alcohol as well as drugs (That’s a misnomer because alcohol is a drug too.) its main thrust is marijuana. Who wants to really go after alcohol? It’s legal and it pays a lot of television salaries, but if I had the choice of having my kids go out for a night and smoke marijuana or go out and get drunk, I’d choose the former every time. Kids that drink get into fights, make bad sexual decisions, and kill themselves in their cars. Kids that smoke marijuana usually watch television and giggle a lot. I wouldn’t want my kid smoking weed every day, but if I can tell they’re partaking once a week or so and they’re being productive in school, I’d probably talk to them about it and deal with it.
Almost every party that I went to in high school was at the same house. His parents let the kids drink (I didn’t) and made sure that everybody that got into a car with the intent of driving was relatively sober. These parents of course are the ones that the Government wants to put in jail. It’s very illegal, look it up. They were taking a huge chance too because if someone had gotten hurt, even if they had gone somewhere else after and gotten drunk, it would have come back to them, but I bet they saved at least one life.
3. Look at the above the influence web site. It lists the harms of marijuana, but none of the positive effects. The kids who smoked a little and watched television and giggled, there is no acknowledgement of them whatsoever. Where is may make you write Yellow Submarine? Your story doesn’t get told at all unless you wind up dead in the bathroom naked with a needle in your arm.
4. Everything is equal. Alcohol – bad. Marijuana – bad. Heroin – bad. Because the Government can’t conceive of any instance of positive or least harmful use, they keep information away from kids. It’s fine to discuss the effect of aspirin on every user in history, but not drugs. There is plenty of information out there any time you don’t show it all you are telling a lie period. Paul McCartney exists and my guess is that the difference between your kid becoming Paul McCartney instead of Sid Vicious lies in acknowledging that. The Drug Czar, if we really need one, like Bill Hicks said should be a person that dealt with drug addiction not a cop.
5. We’re just filling kids up with psychiatric drugs like crazy. Maybe Tom Cruise isn’t that insane. These things can be just as dangerous as marijuana maybe more and kids aren’t stupid. They can see that they are both drugs and it’s a decision to do either. Why do you think they are crushing up their adderal and snorting it?
I really like Drew Pinsky, who does that radio show Loveline. The show is mostly about sex, but he’s also a specialist in chemical dependency. He’s doing great things. There are plenty of things kids are completely at sea about that they can’t talk to their parents about. When a kid calls him about drugs, he tells them the truth, and if they have a problem he’s usually able to point it out in seconds. A lot of the time kids have way bigger problems and he usually is able to see that too.
All education or rearing for that matter is you trying to influence how someone else lives their life, and to me it’s impossible to do adequately without complete honestly, because the first time a kid realizes that their parents or a teacher isn’t being completely honest with them – that initial bond is broken forever. Parents tell their kids that when they break their trust it’s something they may never completely earn back again forget that the bond goes both ways.
My aunt smoked marijuana in front of me at least 12 times when I was probably between the ages of 8 and 12, and I’m guessing that I was the only kid I went to school with that didn’t have a cigarette, a drink, or anything all the way through college.
One of my best friends had a really strict lecturing mother. He used to drive out to a cul-de-sac and smoke cigarettes with his shirt off so she wouldn’t find out. The choice is yours.