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Posted about 6 years ago
I've never given a drug talk, but the school has asked myself along with the other nurses and counseling staff to give a talk about drugs to the kids. I know a number of kids who have admitted to taking drugs, "But only during the holidays, never at school. I wouldn't be that stupid" is the general confession I get. I've also received a lot of questions which I'm not sure is the best way to answer.
"Which is the safest drug to take?" I was surrounded by a group of boys, ranging from 15 to 18 years. The kids often came to the health center to get some time out of class. They would always ask an interesting question in the hope that I would get distracted and start rambling on. If they were then late for class, it was my fault and I had to give them a pass. But this was one question that I wanted to answer...well.
"Marijuana is harmless" said Dwayne. At 18 he was the oldest in the group. I shook my head "I don't know about any statistics, but nearly all the teenagers I dealt with in the psychiatric unit were there because of Marijuana." The boys' faces registered disbelief. "I've got friends who smoke it all the time, since they were young, and they're fine" Dwayne replied, although there was some uncertainty in his voice. "Let me put it this way, I don't know if Marijuana causes psych problems, or just brings them out, but I've heard that there may be a genetic link. Some gene, it's in about one in four of us. If you have this gene, then you've an increased chance of getting schizophrenia from drugs." I had heard this on documentary on BBC, but wasn't entirely sure of the facts and had never followed up the information, but I didn't want to mislead the kids. "I'm not completely sure of the whole gene thing, but if you spend any time in a psych ward, you cannot deny the obvious link between Marijuana and psychiatric problems."
"So you're saying I"m better off taking ecstasy, or coke then" it was Robert, the boy from California who asked this. After two years working in a boarding school, it no longer surprised me how much teenagers can read into a statement, justified or not. "I never said that, I'm just saying that Marijuana is not harmless." It was not often I had the kids hanging off my every word, and I wanted to use this chance to do some good. "I've seen a couple of deaths from ecstasy, and a teenager with coronary artery spasm that eventually led to a heart attack" I explained the fancy words and the kids were aghast. "They must have been heavy users" Dwayne said. "No, not always" I replied.
"So what would you do? Have you tried anything?" The kids had asked their chemistry teacher, in the guise of furthering their chemistry education, this question. They asked their social studies teacher, in the guise of better understanding society. They asked all their teachers, and now me. "No" I said. "Don't lie, you must have tried something" said Robert. "No, but I won't deny I've been tempted. But working in an emergency room and psychiatric ward soon cured me of any temptation." The kids seemed satisfied with my answer "But what would you recommend? Say we were going to do something, regardless, what would you recommend?"
And that was the dilemma I had. I couldn't say to them stay well away from methaphetamine, and that I'd rather you smoked a joint than take methaphetamine. I couldn't condone any drug taking whatsoever, but there definitely is a huge difference in lethality in some of the drugs. "Let me put it this way. If you decide to take something, then know what you're taking. Don't trust others to tell you that it's ok. Find out before hand what the dangers are. That guy on the street who's offering you cocaine, is probably selling you battery acid so he can make big money to support his own drug habit." There was a chorus of disgust at the mention of battery acid. "Battery acid, you've got to be kidding?" Robert asked. I shook my head. "No one out there is your friend. No one will tell you the truth. Don't take anything, but if you do take something, know what it is you're taking and what it can do to you."
"So which one do you think is the safest for us to take?" I was back to square one and sent the kids back to class, with a pass for being late.