Prescription drugs are now one of the most serious problems facing our youth. High school students have full access to a broad range of pharmaceuticals. Ask Amy Graves.
Concerta, Oxycontin, Valium, Vicoden, Ritalen, Clorazipam, Ativan, Dilaudid are all available locker to locker. Codeine cough syrups mixed with Starburst or Jolly Rancher candies are in vogue these days.
On the illegal side pot is always available. Sometimes hash. Acid is more seasonal. MDMA, Cocaine and Crystal Meth are available on request.
For boomers, drugs and high school is not all that peculiar. Sometimes I think some perverse pride is taken by our generation in introducing recreational drugs to our culture. Smoking pot and hash was a rite of passage. For the more adventurous, there were more serious drugs, LSD, Cocaine maybe even Opium or Heroin. All had varying degrees of impact.
Many just stumbled through their illegal drug experience, some kept their pot and hash smoking, others struggled with more serious addictions.
From a public policy perspective, we waged our war on drugs, filled our prisons and made some people very, very rich. Against a backdrop of government regulated alcohol, cigarettes and gambling, the hypocrisy of our approach is now breathtaking.
Recently, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has been given the task of selling the new Liberal Party vision of legalised marijuana. This “evolved” thinking he is espousing makes the case that legalisation and taxation will somehow reduce usage among young people and provide a lucrative revenue stream for government. Presumably this will be a plank in their next election campaign. The Canadian public will have their opportunity to make up their mind on this issue.
I don’t agree with the Liberal position and feel Trudeau’s political opportunism may in fact throw the babies out with the bong water. The answer lies with decriminalization, education and addiction treatment.
Like alcohol, there is a need for personal responsibility, but above all we have a responsibility to help young people move away from potential dependencies, not simply incarcerate those who are profiting from abuse.
If we are to use that reasoning, every doctor and pharmacist in the country could carry some level of accountability for this problem.
Legalization a la Colorado is rich with messaging that does not square with appropriate adolescent development and mental health priorities. This is, after all, a mental health issue. Unless the current government understands that addiction, not crime should be the focus of drug policy, we will continue with this fool’s battle.
I’m not suggesting marijuana is an addictive substance in the league of cocaine, crystal meth, heroin or opiates, but within the context of current adolescent cultural norms, it can lead to behaviours which are increasingly destructive.
Smoking a joint is not a big deal. Smoking a joint, then popping a few ADHD meds, an opiate and an alcohol chaser IS a big deal. This is more often than not the cocktail being offered up.
Recently I had a chance to watch Matthew Cooke’s thought-provoking film “How to Make Money Selling Drugs.” My son, who is well aware of the dangers and temptations of the street also watched it…and had some valuable insight.
The film deals with the profiteering that has resulted from the “war on drugs”, something which is quickly becoming regarded as one of the great public policy failures of the last 50 years.
While it is a sidebar to the greater issue of illegal drugs, his 15-year-old perspective of the proliferation of pharmaceuticals in high school was enlightening.
“They’re filling their pockets with dead teenagers and broken families.” he said.
Perhaps those writing and filling the scripts…and those manufacturing them, should look at what they are doing through that lens.