How not to get freaked out with drugs

29th May 2009 at 01:00

Despite the proclamation of the Know the Score drugs pamphlet, What Every Parent Should Know, that it is about telling us parents the "facts" and advising us not to use "scare tactics", the more I read it the more it reminds me of Corporal Jones from Dad's Army shouting "don't panic", while running around like a headless chicken.

Know the Score is one of today's "non-judgmental" classics, presenting itself as scientific and non-moral, while being drenched in the safety- obsessed moralising of our time.

First, it patronises and treats parents like children. Telling us we "often are doing better than we realise" when dealing with our teenagers, while encouraging us, in the now familiar therapeutic way, to "listen", "talk", be "open-minded" and "don't preach". It is all backed up with a picture of a father sitting crossed-legged on the floor (why do we have to sit like a hippie to talk to our children today?) with what can only be described as a "wet" expression on his face.

Then we do actually get a few facts about how many drugs young people take, again with an encouragement to use "plain facts" and not to "over- emphasise the dangers" of drugs.

But then we get other facts and, in my naivety, I thought I might get some statistics about how few people die from taking ecstasy and so on. But no, we are given other facts, many of which are true, but almost all of which carry a message of impending doom.

"What happens to young people who take drugs?" we are asked. A few different answers are given here but, in case you are missing the point, in bold at the foot of the page it reads: "The bottom line is that, whilst some young people appear to be more vulnerable to addiction than others, all drug-taking is potentially dangerous and carries serious risks to physical and mental health."

This is true and untrue. Everything in life is potentially dangerous, but do smoking the odd joint, snorting the odd line of cocaine or taking the "odd" any drug, pose "serious risks to physical and mental health"?

The document then discussed things like overdosing - a fact; how some young people "may" be more prone to addiction than others - another fact. It warns us that just because our children may have taken drugs doesn't mean they did this voluntarily. No, they may have been "drugged by a third party and sexually assaulted" - another fact.

In case you don't get it, there are lists of "risks" from all the available drugs, and a diagrammed two pages about first aid and emergency life-support techniques - should we need them.

After all of this, it is hard not to conclude that parents would be better off not "knowing the score". Armed with this document and your emergency life-support techniques at hand, most sussed kids will truly think you are from another planet. Unless, that is, they have also been "educated" about our world of "risk" and "safety".

The issue of young people and drugs is not an easy one, but surely some kind of genuine perspective and an adult sense of judgment would be more useful than these morally empty, "scientific", therapeutic "facts".

Stuart Waiton is director of GenerationYouthIssues.org.

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