There is nothing to be gained by using illegal drugs and alcohol. Period. That sentiment is difficult to understand by teens. There are 0 (zero) health affects that are gained by using these illegal substances that can’t be achieved through healthy eating, exercise, or legitimate use of pharmaceuticals or natural meds. The reason illicit drugs are illegal in the first place is because they have powerful affects on the body, so powerful that people throughout history have had a difficult time regulating their use and often impinge on the rights and safety of others while they are using. Unfettered access to these substances have mentally and physiologically enslaved large populations. When a person can’t casually use the drug, they are addicted. And, you know, if you’ve been in the world a little, people can become addicted after one use.
It’s true that many people use illegal drugs to self medicate issues of depression, anxiety and other mental and behavioral issues. It is important to address these issues in ourselves and our kids when needed with medically trained folks. Why? Because the chemical makeup of our bodies is complicated. After watching a self help Youtube video on depression, you may think you need more seratonin, when, in fact you are deficient in dopamine. Do you know the difference? Even doctors have to figure it out! So, don’t mess with your own chemicals or the brain chemicals of your kids. (How many mothers do you know that drug their kids with Dramamine or antihistamines, just to put them to sleep? Outrageous!)
Some people use health as an excuse to use drugs, but it is folly, indeed. Years ago, I was working for a scientific lab full of brilliant scientists and human biologists. One morning a big headline in the paper was how wine was good for you. There was an actual medical study that proved it. That day I walked into an office where there were a group of these scientists were meeting and they happened to be talking about the article. There was much cajoling and tittering. After I inquired what was so interesting about the article they told me that they had read the actual medical paper that was published in the medical journal not just the article. The study was commissioned by the wine industry. And, all the chemical reactions and positive affects of wine drinking could be attained at a fraction of the cost in money and calories by simply drinking grape juice. The amount of these good chemicals were found in greater quantity in regular old 100% red or purple grape juice. But of course, that’s not what was in the article. Over the years I’ve run across many articles that assure us that some forbidden food or drink is healthy. Be aware that if it’s a product that is sold, then there is a money motive behind the study. Nowadays, folks all the time are trying to tell me how healthy wine drinking is. I say nothing, because, they need to keep telling themselves that and nothing I can say as a Mormon will convince them. Now, I haven’t heard of any doctors honestly prescribing wine. Doctors will ask if you drink, after which most people say “Oh, I drink a glass of wine once in a while…” and then the doctor will say. “Well, that’s good for you…” Then the person tells everyone they know that their doctor told them to have a glass of wine ( or bottle) a day. I’ve seen it, too many times. “I’m supposed to have a glass of wine every day!” Hmm, I wonder if your doctor knows you think a glass of wine is equal to 25.4 ounces.
Back to Teens. While you may feel strong in your testimony on abstaining from drugs, perhaps because the Holy Ghost is at work in your life, don’t assume the Holy Ghost is working as prominently in your teen’s. You have power and control over your world and emotions, while your teen does not. You, as an adult, can impulsively seek out pleasure daily. Trips to shop, Strawberry smoothies at Starbucks, sexual satisfaction are yours. You can find joy in little things like children’s laughter and Hallmark channel movies. It is doubtful they find the same joy in their teen years.
Your teen’s life might be a long and tedious day starting with early morning Seminary, then school, then sports, then chores, then homework. Moments of happiness and joy may be harder to come by in their day to day life. They probably don’t consult the Holy Spirit as much as you do. So it is not surprising that a little chemical buzz on a Friday night that fires up all the neurological pathways in their body might seem to be the best thing that has happened to them all week! All month! As a parent, you can hope it’s just experimentation, but the very real danger is that after a few Friday nights, the experimentation is over and they are addicted! So really, you don’t even want them experimenting.
Sometimes, appeals to kids about the morality of drug use falls flat. The argument that says that as long as I’m not hurting anyone else, then why is it immoral? is an argument that you can’t win easily, because the answer is complicated and messy. But if you dare, you can find the resources online and you can show that ANY illegal drug use directly funds crime, violence, murder, human trafficking and prostitution. Remind them that buying illegal drugs directly funds that, all of that. Oh, yes! If they have an ounce of compassion in their young body then they should think of the little girls in South America being sold into the sex slave industry as part of this wider illicit drug underworld. Hell, yes! scare the crap out of them! If you are really lucky, you might know someone in law enforcement that can show them crime scene photos or take them on drives through that world. It’s important to be educated. Don’t be the mother who dared not venture into that world because it is too seedy even to think about..
Sometimes, for some kids, using science to show that drugs create a reaction in the body, that is impossible to overcome, might be a better avenue of teaching. Start with stories about botulism. Why? Well, botulism bacteria creates a chemical reaction (toxin) that causes paralysis. In deadly cases this paralysis causes the organs to quit working. People die of this. It is simply a function of a chemical on the body. They use the botulism bacteria in cosmetic surgery situations. The same mechanism that causes the organs to not function, can be used to make specific muscles stop working. Amazing right? This is Chemistry and Physics, no morality involved at all. Street drugs do similar things. They inhibit or excite body functions, thereby causing these “fake” feelings. Letting them know the mechanism that gets them addicted in the first place might appeal to them. Learning in Anatomy & Physiology class and other science classes about Sodium cycles, serotonin receptors, dopamine systems, etc., may be the thing. At least if they do take Ecstasy at a party, they may be able to recognize that the serotonin response is real. Or, when they get heart palpitations after trying Meth, they’ll remember what you told them. “Mom told me this would happen!”
As a parent, seek out resources that will appeal to your kids. Keep trying to get through. Your chatter should be constant, especially if you are in drug addled communities.
The church has good resources on the website. A class on Anatomy and Physiology could do the trick, also. YouTube instructional videos can be good.
Drinking alcohol and doing drugs is so prevalent, that if you don’t talk honestly, and often you may lose your kids. And I don’t even mean death, I mean a life unlived. Not every addict dies. An addict who stumbles along using for thirty years is a zombie, not an individual. And you, the loving parent gets to watch it happen.
The church came out with a series of 12 videos on addiction that I think every teen should watch. They are a little tough to watch, but if your teen is one who thinks you are making a big deal our of a little drug use, it might be helpful.