Adolescent Substance Abuse and School Policy
Jeanette Friedman, C. S. W., Director of the Impact Program at Phoenix House, discussed aspects of adolescent drug and alcohol use of particular relevance to school personnel at a meeting of the NYU Child Study Center Education Advisory Committee.
Ms. Friedman set the stage by stressing the danger, on the part of both parents and teachers, of viewing adolescents as mature, responsible adults. It is her belief that children are "extra-socialized" in today's society. Children, due to their desire to emulate current role models and to increased interaction with adults, often look and act more mature than they actually are. Thus adults may make the mistake of thinking of them as capable of making decisions - such as whether or not to use drugs - which are in fact beyond their capability and experience. Parents need to realize the true age of their children, and that they are not yet ready to make informed choices.
In some cases parents, in an ambivalent communication, may admonish their children, saying "don't use drugs," but often include a dangerous caveat: ".but if you do use drugs, be careful." Ms. Friedman believes this kind of statement is an open invitation for children to use drugs; adolescents hear "be careful" as "go ahead." Ms. Friedman advocates that not only schools but parents also develop their zero tolerance rule with drugs and alcohol. Some parents may not enforce a strict policy due to their belief that since they smoked marijuana themselves with no ill effects, the same situation will occur with their children. Ms. Friedman believes this viewpoint to be self-centered and potentially harmful.
Adults need to be aware of the differences between the drugs of thirty years ago and those of today. Drugs have become stronger and therefore more addictive over the years. For instance, the potency of marijuana has increased 40% over the last thirty years. Due to new technologies in the growth and harvesting of marijuana, growers can now produce a stronger, more potent strain, thereby increasing the drug's addictive properties. The marijuana smoked today is considerably more addictive and more dangerous than the marijuana smoked in the l960s, adding weight to the argument for zero tolerance policies.
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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