This is (or was; the week’s almost over) National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. It continues through Jan. 28, with local events all over the country (check your community bulletin boards).
NDAAW was designed by scientists with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — both part of the National Institutes of Health — “to counteract the myths about drugs and alcohol that teens get from the internet, social media, TV, movies, music, or from friends.”
The idea was to stimulate local interest and events, for which it offers information and guidelines and “science-based facts.”
My advice for what to tell your teens about drug and alcohol abuse is the truth, even at the risk of underselling the dangers. It will be far worse, in the long run, to try to scare them with exaggerated stories of the negative consequences of drugs because if — when — they learn that you exaggerated, they may not believe you on this subject again.
Take marijuana. There are real dangers and unanswered questions about marijuana’s effects on the developing brain, at least through age 25. We don’t know how much because it has not been studied, which in turn is because the dangers were exaggerated so much that legitimate scientific study was virtually impossible.
At the same time, unregulated unscientific research has indicated that marijuana has real medical benefits that the law denies, which has resulted in a federally unsanctioned medical marijuana market in more than half the states in the country, and recreational marijuana that is legal at the state level in eight states. Rather than scaring people from using marijuana, the over-the-top claims of its dangers has resulted in contempt for the law.
Even worse, Canada is scheduled to legalize all marijuana use nationwide on July 1. A sane, scientific marijuana policy might have confined it to medical use until and if scientific study proved its safety. Now, if our nice, even boring, neighbor to the north considers it to be that safe, it may be too late to un-ring that bell. Full legalization may be coming to the U.S. as well. We can’t stop it with fake scare tactics. Maybe we can mitigate it with true facts.
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