Do you remember when the local drug dealer was the high school kid with the chalk-painted Camaro who smoked during math class? Or maybe it was the friend twice removed who would set up lines of coke in shiny bathrooms of boom-boom-boom nightclubs? How about the neighborhood kid who rode his bike around town to deliver a mishmash of badly rolled joints? You would think to yourself, “Jesus Christ, am I the only one who knows what is going on around here?!”
Upon reflection, it really was kind of quaint. I am not trying to make light of drug dealing; but it was simple. It was local. It was a much naughtier version of the farm to table movement.
The latest way for teen’s to acquire drugs is through the snapchat app. Snapchat’s mascot is a small ghost: “now you see me, now you don’t.” Rather than being a cute play on peek-a-boo, it is meant to highlight the disappearing nature of texts. There is no paper trail, no electronic trace, no phone record…nothing to help you deduce why your child is writhing on their bedroom floor in a drug induced psychosis. Or worse yet, not even moving. This is a big problem for parents, and an even bigger problem for law enforcement.
One thing is certain: kids are still going to experiment. So absent a time machine, what are we supposed to do?
First, acknowledge the difference.
I have heard many parents say “It’s a rite of passage…I did it too in high school.”‘ Umm… no you didn’t. Marijuana in the 60s had a THC content of 2%, in the 90s it was 4%. Today’s weed is 200% stronger. THC derivatives like dabs, oil and shatter can contain THC content north of 95%.* Sadly, the higher the THC the lower the CBD content, and CBD has been shown to mitigate damage caused by THC to the brain’s hippocamus.** So if you are a reformed teenage pothead think twice before assuming your child’s brain is undergoing the same neurological “fun-fest.”
I am also surprised that parents willingly serve underage kids. Their justification? Learning how to “handle alcohol in my house is safer than the alternative.” But there is nothing safe about sharing alcohol with teens. Today’s research has proven there is a link between early drinking and a lifetime of addiction. We didn’t know it back then, but we know plenty about brain science now. We also know that parental disapproval is the number one reported reason teens put off drinking.*** (So why blow that safety measure?) Yes, some of us safely snuck a few beers in high school; but it’s important to realize that todays teens disproportionately binge drink. (Sadly, in my highly educated town, 17% of high schoolers reported binge drinking within the last 30 days.) Kids also have access to higher alcohol beers and very quaffable “fruit punch” flavored hard seltzers. Most of them have easier access to cars. It’s not as rosy as adult memories may suggest. So why romanticize it?
And let’s return to that teen smoking marlboros next to his camaro. It’s now a vape pen. Vape pens may not contain tobacco but they are still highly addictive and still contain cancer causing chemicals including VOCs, Diacetyl and formaldehyde. And realize that, just like marijuana and alcohol, our kids are getting “more bang for their buck.” A single e-cartridge is the equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes. And they can be discretely smoked right in class – teachers can’t even smell them! Thanks big tobacco for developing a product that helps our kids avoid detention and comes in so many delicious fruit flavors!
For God’s sake the playing field is not the same.
So let’s stop saying it is.
* National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, PMID: 30643324
** Harms, Protection and Recovery Following Regular Cannabis Use, pub.med.gov PMCID: PMC5068875