New drug approach

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I worked at Malibu High School for nearly a decade. Based both on my experience there, and as a concerned citizen and community member, it is my belief that the parents are not to blame for the constant substance abuse problems at HMS. Nor is the school itself. The fault lies with the Drug War. And with “Zero Tolerance.”

Humankind have been using mind-altering substances since Paleolithic times. This will always be. I do not condone substance abuse in our kids. But unless and until we address the cultural, psychological, and even spiritual aspects of mind alteration we will be in no position to help our kids. And experience has proven that harm reduction should at least be tried as an alternative to zero tolerance.

In conversations with many kids, including those that partake of mind-altering substances and those who do not, I find that a certain consensus emerges. The fact that so many kids are stressed out and overtired leads them to abuse prescription drugs. They feel that it helps them relax and “zone” out.

Drug testing has been suggested, but in a way it has made the problem worse. It has caused many kids to move from cannabis to the much more dangerous drugs. The reason being that cannabis can be picked up by most tests for as long as a month. The harder drugs can only be detected for a few days. Kids therefore plan their drug sessions based on their parents travel plans. Such truths are never brought out at school and community meetings. Instead school officials are left to mutter wishy-washy mealy-mouthed cliches. The kids get more candor from the culture, and sadly in some cases from their dealers, than they do from the school. This leads them to find pleasure in the most dangerous drug of them all: cynicism.

Let me emphasize that I in no way condone adolescent drug use. But the current Draconian attitude has been given decades to prove itself. Look at the dismal results. Our society could help by legalizing cannabis for adults while emphasizing that it is a perk that teenagers are not ready for.

At a time when such fresh change is happening at the national level it is ironic to see our school and community leaders still hanging on to the same stale and failed cliches of the drug war. Our kids know that parameters must be set, but they want to know that these parameters are based on some kind of reality and efficacy. Let us try a new approach that may not only lead to less drug abuse, but also manifest itself with greater and more rewarding communication with our kids.

Lenny Shaw