PSAs on YouTube
The government has posted nine anitdrug PSAs to the video-sharing site Youtube, along with a three-part video of the SAMSHA's September press conference about the results of the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The PSAs, predictably, are receiving low ratings by viewers — one to one and a half stars. Cynics will mock the effort ("Yes, YouTube is where the kids are so perhaps this will spread the anti-drug message further," says Ad Rants). And at least one of the PSAs requires that you register and certify that you are over 18 because some wise guy has flagged it for "possible inappropriate content."
I don't know how effective the ads are quantitatively. But if they make a few teens think twice about using drugs, they've done their job at no extra expense.
Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has herself said that anti-drug programs that attempt to scare teens may inadvertently spur drug experimentation.
"It is that notion of 'I dare you,'" she says. "It may be appealing to an adolescent because they are seeking for danger in many instances."
These ads are not like the old "scrambled eggs/this is your brain of drugs," however. They talk about peer pressure, and getting lazy and boring when you smoke pot. One, in fact, goes out of its way to dispel the reefer-madness myths of the past. Here's the transcript:
I smoked weed and nobody died.
I didn't get into a car accident, I didn't O.D. on heroin the next day, nothing happened.
(Shot widens to show the guy with two friends sitting on the couch)
We sat on Pete's couch for 11 hours.
Now what's going to happen on Pete's couch? Nothing.
(Shot now shows the guys on the couch in the middle of the woods with some mountain bikers riding by. Then to a basketball court. Then an ice rink.)
You have a better shot of dying out there in the real world, driving hard to the rim, ice skating with a girl. No, you wanna keep yourself alive, go over to Pete's and sit on his couch til you're 86.
Safest thing in the world.
(Shot now shows the guys on the couch outside a movie theater. The guy talking gets up from the couch and walks into the theater)
Me? I'll take my chances out there. Call me reckless.
Heavy-handed? Perhaps. Not too many effective ads aren't. And I don't expect it will set a record for views, or catch a viral fever. But if it plants the idea that weed is a waste of time in some kids' heads, it will have succeeded.
(A MSNBC interview with Dr. Volkow, the great-grand daughter of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsy, is a good read, by the way.)
I saw a gleam on Carrick's face about an hour ago that I haven't seen since she was a little girl. It was pure joy, as if she were at one with the world, both within and without.
We were standing outside a doctor's office on 75th St. in Manhattan. Carrick had ingested two milligrams of suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) 45 minutes earlier. After withdrawing from methadone for the last day or so, she was feeling normal again. The days of trudging to the clinic three times a week, empty bottle in hand, are over. She was talking a mile a minute on the car ride back home about her plans for her last two years of college, people she's met on her journey, and ideas (she has a great book or documentary idea that I'd steal if I weren't her father
Two milligrams of suboxone is a low dose for someone just coming off methadone. The doctor had written out a prescription for four mgs. She told Carrick to take more if she felt sick later, and she will. But Carrick is tired of being dependent on anything, and wants to get off bupe as soon as possible. "Three months," she told the doctor. "But I'm not going to be stupid about it," she assured me. "If I still need to take some in three months, I will."
I haven't written much about Carrick lately. She has been telling her own story much better than I could at the Silent Treatment website, and our part of the story has gotten pretty "normal" as Carrick has gotten well. But I do feel compelled to post something about how proud of Carrick and grateful to the cosmos I feel today. I literally saw chains lifted from her spirit this afternoon, and I felt as fortunate to be there as I felt despair when I found her sleeping in an abandoned band shell on the lower east side five years ago next month. It only seems like a lifetime ago because it was.
Everywhere, or Just Here?
Does this stuff happen in your community, or is it just Westchester, New York?
A few years ago, a father was arrested in a nearby town for providing booze and a stripper at a party he held in his home for his son's football team.
I passed a guy on the street today who used to smoke marijuana with his daughter, who was a classmate of Carrick's in ninth grade.
I sat in on a meeting yesterday among people representing a countywide organization who were planning programming that would attract teenagers. I answered their question about what teens do for entertainment in our town thusly: "Sports are big here, and the arts, and poker, and drinking in woods or at the waterfront." They beamed at the last revelation.
"Of course drinking goes on everywhere, but you're the first one to admit it," one of the representatives said.
I resisted the temptation to deliver my spiel about the elephant on Main St.
But the story that has really fascinated me for the past few days, though I can't say it surprises me, is about the Westchester mom who took her 15-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old friend to a club in the city that was doing a Ramones retrospective. On a myspace.com page, the woman, calling herself "RoccerMom," wrote that she wanted to "rediscover her punk rock roots."
On the way home from the club, close to 5 a.m. (on a school night), they all stopped for a bite to eat in Dobbs Ferry, the next town up from us. Mom, whose exact alcohol level has not been revealed except that it was over the legal limit, got back on the parkway going the wrong way. She crashed head on into another car. Her daughter's friend, riding in the back seat without a belt, was killed.
Of course it's not just our village, town, county. It's everywhere, and it's often us, not the kids, who need help the most. We need to overcome denial, learn to set limits like parents instead of enabling like buddies, and to make sure our own behavior is a halfway decent model to start with.
The mom's lawyer said: "Clearly, Mrs. Ciarcia is a responsible (woman) who exercised poor judgment one evening of her life. She will be responsible to remember that for the rest of her life."
He may very well be right, Mrs. Ciarcia's RoccerMom fantasies aside, and that's probably the most sobering thought of all. I can see something similar happening to people I know, and my heart aches for everyone involved.
The New York Times recently published a story about boredom in western states like Montana and Wyoming leading to a heavy incidence of teen drinking. (It was reprinted in newspapers like this where you don't have to pay to read it.) Timothy Egan's story also briefly pointed out that "many parents think it is a rite of passage for children to drink."
My reaction to the story at the time was that 1. kids everywhere use the "bored" excuse, including those in our village just forty minutes by train from the heart of New York City; 2. parents everywhere turn a blind eye to their kids drinking.
A letter in the Times today from Peter Provet, the president of Odyssey House, drives home the point that parents' attitudes are more important than geographical location.
"While geographical isolation may increase vulnerability to excessive drinking, similar spikes in use exist in a wide range of rural, suburban and urban communities. Briefly mentioned in the article, parental attitude and behavior are far more significant determinants in adolescent alcohol and drug use.
"In Manhattan or the Great Plains, if a parent conveys the attitude to his teenager that drinking is a 'rite of passage,' that teenager is more likely to use and abuse alcohol."
"While boredom may be a general ally of substance abuse, alone it is an insufficient causal factor."
My brother tipped me off to a gripping story about Jeff Riordan, who was a star closer for several baseball teams in the '80s and '90s. I remembered reading about his bizarre stick-up of a jewelry store last Christmas and wondered at the time what the rest of the story was. It turns out that Riordan was on a combination of twelve medicines at the time of the robbery, including a batch of anti-depressants he's been taking. Riordan's 20-year-old son had fatally overdosed the year before, and he had slipped into a debilitating depression.
Riordan was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He remembers nothing about the robbery. Following two months of hospitalization, which included electroconvulsive therapy, he is recovering.
"People don't understand unless they're going through it," he told ESPN's William Weinbaum. "Everybody says, 'You've got to get over it, you've got to get over it.' Well, it's kind of hard when you spend 20 years with your son, and you love him and still love him, and all of a sudden he's not here for you to get a hug or a phone call or anything like that."