Just Say No, Yes or Maybe
Ever since smoking pot became ubiquitous among American teenagers in the 1960s, parents have struggled with how to talk to their children about it and how to protect them from its negative effects.
Now, in an era of broader acceptance — two states (Washington and Colorado) have legalized recreational use of marijuana for ages 21 and up and 23 states have approved its medical use, all while marijuana remains illegal under federal law — teenagers are clearly getting conflicting, widely disparate messages.
The War on Drugs and “Just Say No” campaigns of the 1980s provided a national moral mandate and a singular template for parents: All drugs are bad. But many parents today believe that the reductionist catchphrase oversimplifies the complex landscape of the nation’s drug use.
Today, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 18- to 25-year-olds are the biggest abusers of opioid pain relievers, A.D.H.D. stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs. Prescription drugs account for more overdose deaths among this age group than all illegal drugs combined. Alcohol remains the No. 1 health hazard and date-rape drug on college campuses. And a new generation of pen-size, odorless vaporizers, with USB ports for easy recharging, allows students to get high virtually anywhere, even at school.
Photo by Matthew Staver for The New York Times.