11 Medical Drugs; Herbal
Remedies; Smart Drugs 142
12 Problems with Drugs 161
13 Alternatives to Taking Drugs 174
14 Final Words 179
Appendix: First-Person Accounts and Comments 185
Straight Talk at the Start
Drugs are here to stay.
History teaches that it is vain to hope that drugs will ever disappear and that any effort to eliminate them from society is doomed to failure.
During most of this century Western society has attempted to deal with its drug problems through negative actions: by various wars on drug abuse implemented by repressive laws, outrageous propaganda, and attacks on users, suppliers, and sources of disapproved substances. These wars have been consistently lost. More people arc taking more drugs now than ever before. Drug use has invaded all classes and ethnic groups and has spread to younger and younger children. Also, more people abuse drugs now than ever before, and the drug laws have directly created ugly and ever-enlarging criminal networks that corrupt society and cause far worse damage than the substances they distribute.
The authors of this book were teen-agers and college students in the 1960s. They had to confront the explosion of drug use of that era and find out for themselves the benefits and dangers of substances they never learned about at home or in school. One of us — Andrew Weil — has since become a professional health counselor. He has a medical degree from Harvard and a rich background of travel among drug-using cultures in other parts of the world, from the deserts of east Africa to the jungles of South America. He draws on his training and his professional and personal experience with most of the substances described in these pages. As a recognized expert, he is frequently invited to lecture on drugs to audicnces of doctors as well as students, to testify on drugs in court trials, to write about them for textbooks and popular magazines, and to consult about them with government officials.
The other of us — Winifred Rosen — is a writer, the author of more than a dozen books for young people. The daughter of a psychoanalyst, she has long been interested in psychology and mental health. As a former high-school teacher and veteran of the 1960s, she has talked extensively about drugs with people of all ages and social backgrounds. She now does landscape gardening as well as writing.
We have been writing and traveling together on and off ever since we first met in San Francisco in 1968 (where we both served for a time as volunteers in the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic). Both of us believe that the present drug problem can only change for the better if society alters its strategy drastically. In this book we are not going to argue for or against drugs and will not side with either those who endorse them or those who oppose them. Instead, we will follow a middle course by presenting neutral information and will ask people on both sides to change some basic conceptions about drugs as a result of reading this material.
At the outset, we will insist that readers learn to distinguish drug use from drug abuse. As long as society continues to call all those who take disapproved substances "drug abusers," it will have an insoluble problem of enormous proportions. Real drug abusers are those in bad relationships with drugs/ whether the drugs are approved or disapproved by society, and unfortunately little can be done to help them, unless they want to change. Once people get into bad relationships with drugs it is very hard to get them out. For most abusers the only practical choice is total abstinence or continued abuse. (Some people may prefer to see heroin addicts in methadone treatment rather than seeking heroin on the street, but let us not kid ourselves: the "treatment" is just addiction to another narcotic.)
If society cannot do much about drug abuse once it develops, it certainly can, and should, work to prevent abuse. Instead of wasting so much time, money, and energy fighting the hopeless battle against existing drug abuse, society must begin to help people avoid becoming abusers in the first place.
Preventing drug abuse is a realistic goal. Two approaches are possible. One is to teach people, especially young people, how to satisfy their needs and desires without recourse to drugs. The
*See Chapter 4.
second is to teach people how to form good relationships with drugs so that if they choose to use drugs, they will continue to he users and never become abusers.
The burden of this task will fall mainly upon parents and secondarily upon teachers; it is not a process that can be mandated by law or accomplished by public policy. However, laws and public policies must not undermine the work of parents and teachers by perpetuating irrational ideas about drugs, ideas rooted in fear and prejudice.* The kind of instruction we would like to see will bear no resemblance to what is called "drug education" today. Drug education as it now exists is, at best, a thinly disguised attempt to scare young people away from disapproved drugs by greatly exaggerating the dangers of these substances. More often than not, lectures, pamphlets, and film strips that take this approach stimulate curiosity, make the prohibited substances look more attractive to young audiences, and make authorities appear ridiculous.
Parents and teachers will probably be open to efforts to interest children in alternatives to drugs. It will be harder for them to support programs that teach young people how to form good relationships with drugs. With drugs so available and young people so disposed to experiment with them, good drug education is vital. The most that responsible adults can do is try to interest children in alternatives to drugs, and give them information that will enable them to use drugs nonabusively should they choose to use them.
We have tried to make this book accessible to young people by keeping our language and ideas simple and straightforward. When we were growing up, information like this was not available to the general public. As teen-agers, we struggled to get the facts, making many mistakes in the difficult process of learning the effects of drugs and adopting rules for living with them. We know how hard it is to grow up in a drug-filled world and hope our experience will be of use to younger generations.
To our teen-age readers we offer some general advice at the start:
You are growing up in a world well stocked with drugs. All of them can be used wisely or stupidly. Grownups will give you much misinformation about them and will often be dishonest or hypocritical about their own drug use.t You will see many of your
*Scc Chapter 2. tSee Chapter 2.
acquaintances become involved with drugs and will have many opportunities to experiment with them yourself if you have not already done so. The fact that grownups exaggerate the dangers of drugs they disapprove of does not mean those drugs have no dangers. All drugs are dangerous.
The only way you can be absolutely sure of avoiding problems with drugs is never to use them. That is a perfectly reasonable choice and may allow you more freedom than your drug-taking peers. Keep this in mind if you find yourself under pressure to take drugs. You may feel left out of certain groups if you abstain, but you will not really be missing anything. All of the experiences people have with drugs can be had in other ways.* If you do decide to experiment with drugs, whether approved or disapproved, make sure you know what the drugs are, where they come from, how they are likely to affect your body, and what precautions you should take to contain their potential for harm.t Remember that forming good relationships with drugs is not easy, and maintaining them takes work. Don't use drugs unconsciously and don't spend time around people who do.
If you are tempted to experiment with illegal drugs, keep in mind that being arrested can bring terrible consequences to you and your family. On the other hand, do not make the mistake of supposing that just because a drug is legal it is safe. Some of the strongest and most dangerous drugs are legal.
You are less likely to encounter problems if you take dilute forms of natural drugs by mouth on occasion, especially if you take them for positive reasons according to rules you set for yourself." * You are more likely to get into trouble if you take concentrated drugs frequently, particularly if you take them to escape feelings of unhappiness or boredom, or just because the drugs happen to be around.
It is a bad idea to take drugs in school. Even if school bores you, you have to be there, and mastering classroom skills is your ticket to freedom and independence in adult life. Drugs can interfere with your education by making it hard to pay attention, concentrate, and remember, or by involving you with people who reinforce negative attitudes about school.
Drugs are likely to be a source of friction between you and your parents. If your parents get upset with you for taking drugs, consider that they might have good reasons, such as valid fears
"See Chapter 13. tSee Chapters 6-11. * *See Chapter 4.
about your safety, health, or psychological growth. Be willing to talk honestly with them and to hear their side with an open mind. Think about how you would feel in their place. What advice would you give your child if you found out he was taking drugs? Question your parents about the drugs they use. Maybe they will agree to give up theirs if you will give up yours. Try to see what your experiences have in common with theirs. What alternatives to drug use can your parents suggest? If you can convince them that your drug use is responsible, you may be able to allay their anxiety. If their fears come from ignorance or misinformation, try to educate them, not by being emotional but by being well informed about the drugs you use. Give them this book to read as a background to your discussions of drug use.
Finally, remember that wanting to change your consciousness is not a symptom of mental illness or an unhealthy need to escape from reality. It is normal to want to vary your conscious experience. * Drugs are just one way of doing it, though, and if you come to rely on them before you are grown up, you may not be able to appreciate a whole range of nondrug experiences that are more subtle but more rewarding over time. There is no question that drugs can get you high, but they are difficult to master and will fail you if you take them too often.!
We hope that parents will read this book and use the information in it to help their children. We sympathize with parents today. You are much more likely than your own parents to have to confront the issue of a child's involvement with drugs. Before you react to the discovery that a son or daughter is using drugs, you should keep several points in mind:
A period of experimentation with drugs is today a normal phase of adolescence — a rite of passage that most children pass through unscathed.
Be sure you have accurate information about the drugs your child is using before you attempt to give advice. Children today are often well informed and contemptuous of antidrug information they know to be false. Insisting that marijuana leads to heroin* * or that LSD breaks chromosomest is a sure way to lose a child's attention and respect for your credibility about drug use. Examine your own drug use before you question your child's.
*See Chapter 3. tSee Chapter 13. * * See page 120. tSec page 97.
If your relationships with alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and tranquilizers are not as good as they might be, a position against drug use may have little impact on your child. If you use illegal substances, your stand is further weakened by your own violation of drug laws.
It is important to create a climate of trust in which you and your child can communicate openly about difficult subjects like sex and drugs. Good communication is impossible when a parent assumes the role of detective, police officer, judge, or warden.
As we will stress throughout this book, a drug user is not necessarily a drug abuser. Meet your drug-using child with an open mind. Try to remember how you felt as a teen-ager. What forbidden activities did you engage in, and how easy was it for you to discuss them with your parents when you were discovered? Remember that though the specific issues change from generation to generation, the basic conflicts and problems between adolescents and parents are universal and remarkably constant.
The primary responsibility for preventing drug abuse in your child is yours. Providing models of intelligent drug use is the best way to assure that your child will use drugs rather than abuse them (if he uses them at all). It is well known that alcoholics tend to come from families where one or both parents are alcoholic, but it is less well known that alcoholics also tend to come from families where both parents are teetotalers. Apparently the absence of a parental role model for successful drinking is the determining factor. The low incidence of alcoholism among Jews has long been ascribed to the integration of occasional social and ritual use of alcohol into Jewish family life. The more you encourage openness within your home and the better your own relationships are with the drugs you use, the more effective you will be at passing healthy drug attitudes and habits on to your child.
Make rules and set limits for your child about drugs. If your child respects you and the ways you use alcohol, caffeine, and other substances, he or she will welcome guidelines. Be realistic about the rules you make. For example, if you feel strongly that you do not want illegal drugs in the house, you have the right to ban them. Of course, you must realize that your child may then use illegal substances outside the house.
Keep in mind that the main reason children experiment with drugs is to experience other states of consciousness.* High states appeal to young people as much as they do to adults. Grownups enjoy racing cars and boats, hang-gliding, dancing, drink
*Sce Chapter 3.
ing, smoking, and many other consciousness-changing activities. Don't make your child feel it is wrong to want these experiences. If you oppose the use of drugs to have them, be prepared to forgo your own drug use. Also, be prepared to suggest alternatives. Alcohol is not an alternative. It, too, is a drug, and the advantage of its legality is more than offset by its many dangers for users of any age/
Finally, consider the parallel problem of sexual experimentation, which, like drugs, is an adolescent rite of passage parents have to deal with. Is it better to provide support for your child by expressing trust and offering reliable information about these issues or to force your child to seek information and experience without guidance and in risky ways? We believe the answer is obvious, in matters concerning sex and drugs alike.
Both of us have taught in schools and colleges and are aware that schools are now popular places for the distribution and consumption of drugs. We know that teachers are likely to be distressed by the prevalence of drug use among children today, especially when they encounter increasing numbers of students who cannot concentrate and have trouble learning because they are intoxicated on one substance or another.
Teachers have a special role in influencing children, but when they have to talk about heated, emotional subjects like drugs, they must bow to so many pressures that often they cannot follow intuition or conscience. Teachers must frequently present drug education programs based on incorrect information and irrational attitudes. Acknowledging the falsity of the information may gain them the respect of students and allow them to influence drug use for the better, but it may also cost the teachers their jobs. We would like to see teachers inform themselves about drugs and work within the limits imposed on them to make classrooms places where young people feel free to discuss interest in, experiences with, and conflicts about drugs.
Just as with successful sex education, to do so teachers will have to clarify their own attitudes and he prepared to answer questions about their own uses and habits, since students will certainly ask. As in parental discussions of sex and drugs with teen-agers, honesty and consistency are required for teachers to have credibility with their students. Given the political dimensions of the drug controversy, many teachers may just want to avoid the whole issue. We cannot blame them, since we know
'See pages 60-68.
how vulnerable their positions are. Still, because teachers can contribute so much toward the prevention of drug abuse, we hope they will try to find ways to change attitudes for the better.
Although we have written this book so that young people can read it, we intend it for doctors, lawmakers, members of the clergy, teachers, and users and nonusers regardless of age. We have gathered this information from many sources, including our own experience, and, whenever possible, we have included first-person observations by others to create a more balanced overall picture. We have tried throughout to indicate how society can work to prevent drug abuse by encouraging the use of alternatives to drugs and encouraging the formation of good relationships with drugs when people choose to use them.
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