|Michael Jackson: Child Star Makes Us Think About Our Own Childhood
As you may have suspected, many people have been asking us about Michael Jackson. Since we didn’t know him, I try not to speculate on what happened until we know
the official and final toxicology report from the coroner says. I’ve listened to a lot of ideas and suspicions and until today I felt like there was nothing for me to discuss.
Today I heard a woman who called in to the Gayle King show http://www.oprah.com/oafhost/gking that airs on Oprah Radio on XM radio (a show that I absolutely love!)
She said that she didn’t realize until she watched the memorial about Michael Jackson what a great childhood she had while growing up. Now that is worth talking about.
No matter how you feel about MJ, his music, his legacy, his dancing, his lawsuits, his lifestyle or his death, what we do know is that he started working at a young age and
continued for his entire life. Child stars have a lifestyle that changes them in ways that most of us cannot imagine. As most of you know, I worked on a TV show with
child stars in the 90’s and have since worked with several others from the 60’s & 70’s. As teachers we have had many parents who were once child stars and now we
have child stars in our classrooms. Every one is very different, but each and every one of them is changed by the world watching them. It is not all the glamour and glitz
that we see on the red carpet.
Every time a kid tells me they just want to be a star, my question is, “What do you think that means?” Most of them reply, “Lots of money and cool stuff”. What they don’t
see is how hard it is to go to the grocery store or eat a meal without getting your picture taken and then have a blogger write about what you put in your mouth and how
you wiped your mouth after you ate. They don’t know what it’s like to have people go through their trash or have to pay extra for security everywhere you go. The show
Hannah Montana deals with the issue of stardom in a very humorous way by living normally and working in disguise.
A child star becomes a new creation based on the reaction of the audience, and that is what happened to Michael Jackson. He became someone that was created, and had a
very difficult time living life the way most of us do. While so many of us complain about our childhood, we have two choices about what to do with that upbringing: we
can complain and stay victimized by it or we can move forward and live a proactive life. How much negative energy goes into lamenting the past? How much positive
energy can go into moving forward? Can we overcome those challenges instead of being incapacitated by them? How much negative energy from your past do you project
onto other people and your family? I’m asking everyone, good childhood or bad, to keep moving forward. Regardless of what we think of Mr. Jackson, we did get a
chance to reflect on our own upbringing and compare it to his. This may be the best lesson learned: how to live life to the fullest; because when you stand in someone else’s
shoes, your life may be better than you realize.
Goal Setting Role Models
We spend a lot of time talking about goal setting and role models as major tools of drug prevention. This weekend we saw examples of some of the best role models take
the world’s stage with the conclusion of Wimbledon and the beginning of the Tour de France. The Williams sister won the singles and doubles women’s tennis
championship and Roger Federer won a remarkable 15th men’s Grand Slam Title on the center court of Wimbledon in London, England. The winners of these events are
not the only focused athletes performing at their best, which was proved hit after hit by Andy Roddick who came in a very close second place in the men’s tennis.
As the tennis came to a close, the Tour de France began, with some of the fittest cyclist in the world coming together to prove they are the fastest sprinters, the best
mountain climbers, and the most focused riders over a grueling 3 weeks of racing. Lance Armstrong is back on his bike, surrounded by an amazing team including Levi
Leipheimer, Alberto Contador and many other amazing athletes.
Not only have most of them found their element that they excel in, but they have expanded past their primary focus. The Williams sisters have gone to school to make sure
that they have expanded their personal interests in fashion, languages and business. Roger Federer speaks several languages fluently and will soon become a new father.
They all have foundations they have created and causes they believe in, but the most famous is the 7 time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, who has a goal of
raising awareness about cancer eradication with his foundation called Livestrong (www.livestrong.org.) We have both participated in Livestrong events several times! Also,
all the aforementioned athletes have competed in the Olympics, and most went home with medals.
Each of these competitors has trained since they were very young to achieve a single goal of being the best they can be in their chosen field. They didn’t just train their
bodies, they trained their brains to be disciplined enough to follow a path. All of these athletes have been accused of drug use (called doping) more times than they can
count and passed many, many drug tests to get here. Does this mean that they will never have an incident of drug use or never become an addict? Nobody can predict what
choices these people will make for themselves in the future, but what is obvious is that they have worked extremely hard to make it happen and to be drug free.
These examples of success are people who found something they loved, set a goal, made a plan, and executed that plan. It’s that simple! Anyone can do it, they just have to
find one thing that they love and make it happen. You don’t have to achieve greatness on the world stage, you just have to set a goal and make it happen. I have several
goals: to make a great chocolate chip cookie, to finish my Ph.D, to be an active parent and to go on another big Disney Cruise. I calculate and recalculate over and over
how to meet these goals with charts, plans and dates while trying to jump over all of life’s obstacles that are thrown at me each day. My daughter has a “dream board,”
with pictures of snapping her fingers, doing a cartwheel, and whistling. Jonathan will ride a 125 mile bike ride on his “Tour of Southern California” goal this summer. You
can do it, and you can teach your children and students how to do it, just set one little goal today and then take that first step down the path to unlimited achievement.
California Has An Opportunity To Reduce Teen Smoking, Let’s Not Waste It.
The other day I was writing about the upcoming bill in the CA legislature that will raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.50 per pack. One of the more important effects
that will result is the expected lowering of the number of teen smokers. The majority of studies indicate that teens are the most price conscious of all smokers—the higher
the price, the fewer teen smokers there are. I know, it doesn’t make sense, since anyone under the age of 18 can’t legally buy tobacco, so why would price matter at all to
them? And yet, there it is in study after study—when the cost of a pack goes up, teen smoking rates go down. When you consider that about 90% of all smokers start by
the age of 19, it’s not too hard to see that less teen smokers directly results in fewer adult addicts.
Teens aren’t the only group that smokes less when the price per pack goes up—all groups smoke less as a result—so in addition to creating fewer addicts the increase in
price also convinces current addicts to stop. One report, commissioned by the state of Indiana, concluded that every 10% increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes
resulted in a 7% drop in teen smoking and a 4% reduction in adult smoking. One bullet point went so far as to say, “Raising state cigarettes taxes always reduces smoking
rates and always increases state revenue.”
That last point flies in the face of CA Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks and the Senate Health Committee vice chairman), who said in the LA Times article on May
25 I referenced the other day that he doesn’t think it makes sense to fund state programs with revenues that will decline as smoking rates go down. Most of what I read
says the opposite—smoking rates will go down, but gross revenue will go up. Even if revenue held steady or dropped, though, we would experience a net gain due to the
lowered health costs associated with lowered smoking rates. The Times also saw fit to note that Strickland received $16,000 from tobacco companies in 2008 and that the
CA Republican party, which spent $1.5 million promoting Strickland, took in $440,000 in tobacco donations last year. I’d probably feel obliged to speak out against an
increase in tobacco taxes if I’d taken that much support from tobacco companies.
Please take a moment to contact the 11 senators on the Senate Health Committee and encourage them to support this upcoming cigarette tax bill. How can a reduction in
smoking rate, no matter what motivates it, be a bad thing?
14 Times Is Too Many Times In A Row To Do Something Wrong.
According to an article published in the Los Angeles Times on May 25, 2009, the California legislature will consider a bill in June to raise the tax charged on a pack of
cigarettes from $0.87 per pack to $2.37 per pack. If history is any measure, the chance of passage is slim, since California has failed in 14 previous attempts to enact
similar measures; and while 45 other states have passed tobacco tax increases in the last decade, California has not. According to the Times, the major tobacco companies
consider California to be extremely important as an example for the rest of the country, and that’s probably why they poured $66 million into defeating a 2006 bid to raise
the per pack tax by $2.36.
We may want to consider a different path this time, since the tax will earn the state $1.2 billion per year. As we watch teachers get laid off and programs that serve the
poorest among us drastically cut or eliminated, this seems like a perfect time to look at any and all sources of income.
The most common reason cited by the anti-tax forces in opposition to the cigarette tax is that it is a regressive tax—it unfairly places a larger burden on lower income
groups by taking a bigger percentage bite from them than it does from those more well to do. OK, it’s true—it is a regressive tax. But seriously, there’s more to it than that.
Smokers are addicts, and they are going to keep using their drug until it becomes too painful or destructive to do so. A billboard I saw today on a bike ride through
Huntington Beach said that the average pack-a-day smoker spends $1,600 each year to support their habit. I find it disingenuous to act like lower income smokers aren’t
hurt more financially by each pack they buy than richer smokers are—it seems like smoking itself is regressive. My experience with addiction, both mine and other’s, is that
addicts don’t quit until all the negatives of use become unbearable. Is it possible the added cost of a pack taxed at $2.37 will be the straw that breaks this camel’s back?
(Ever so sorry for the lame pun).
Beyond that, is it logical to act like the regressive tax is the biggest issue here? There is absolutely no doubt that smokers have more health problems than non-smokers do.
Are poorer families better able than the rich to handle the medical costs associated with smoking? Is a poor family more resilient in the face of the loss of one of its
members, probably a wage earner, when they die of a smoking related illness? Probably not.
Please take a moment to contact your CA senator to express your support for the increase in tobacco taxes that comes up for consideration by the Senate Health Committee
soon. It’s time we joined the ranks of Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey, which tax tobacco at the highest rates in the country, and leave the company of
Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina, which tax at the embarrassingly low rates of a few cents per pack.
Where Should My Child Go To School?
Each spring as the school year comes to an end I get many questions about where parents should send their kids to school next year. Which schools are going to be safest?
Which school has the least drugs? Which school will allow my child get into a good college? Is private safer than public? Is a religious school safer than an independent
school? If I pay more money will my child be safer or do the rich kids have more drugs? And what about a single sex school or a boarding school? And each year I get this
statement, “I hear that (fill in the blank) school has a big drug problem.”
Here’s my answer: Every school will have some drug issues at one time or another. Most schools will not have a big drug problem on campus, but some kids will find a
way to sneak drugs into a pocket, purse, backpack, or locker. Most drug rumors that we hear about are false!
I can only tell you what we have experienced. There are some schools that have more drug offenses and issues than others. The larger the school, the higher the odds that
there will be a drug offense.
The more demanding schools usually have more students with goals. A goal oriented school attracts a student who is less likely to be a big partier. However, at many high
achieving schools we see the “blow out party model.” The kids are so exhausted and have so many demands placed on them that they will hit the weekend and explode.
And yes, we do see kids abusing study drugs at these schools, especially in demanding colleges.
A party in a gated community often has drugs and alcohol because there is a mistaken belief that police won’t bother them. The place to find the drugs is the house where
the parents provide it for the kids (and yes, that includes alcohol – more to come on this subject in future Blogs.) This is why you need to know exactly where your kids are
going, who they hang out with, and what kind of parental oversight is present.
A private school will have less tolerance for drugs and alcohol use because they make their own rules and if you don’t adhere to them you get expelled. A public school has
to take all students and so you are stuck with who your child’s classmates. Who they choose to hang out with is as important as which school they go to. And yes, we
have seen just as many drugs at single sex schools and boarding schools as any other.
If they go to a private school, they most likely have some level of drug education and/or life skills training. If they go to a tiny private religious school, they often will not
have any drug education. If they go to a public school, you may think they’ll have drug education classes, but what they’ll most likely get is a single day presentation from
an organization that comes in during red ribbon week. During that week they may make posters and take a pledge not to do drugs, but that isn’t a comprehensive drug ed
program. Assemblies rarely discuss the different drugs; they simply refer to “drugs” in a general sense. Often I will talk to parents who tell me that their school has a great
program, but when I review it and talk to the kids, they’ve had nothing like what the parent described.
So, which school is the safest to send your child to? You must know your own child. Is your child a leader or a follower? Is your child goal oriented or do they float along
with what they are told just to get by? Does your child have an opinion about this subject? Does your child desire to fit in or do they have a mind of their own? Is your child
living their own dream or yours? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Is your child a whole child or an academic child? A whole child develops their entire brain, not
just the left side of their brain.
It all comes down to how you prepare them and how much you talk to them about life skills. Is addiction part of their genetic history? Is use a part of their current
environment? What behavior are you role modeling for them? How do you prepare them for daily choices? Who is your child and what are their dreams? What is their
The discussion begins in kindergarten and continues until high school. It doesn’t begin the summer before high school begins. It continues and continues and continues until
college. That is how to pick the right school.
Who Is In Charge Of Your Body?
Well, we've lost another athlete to drug suspension. Baseball Dodger, Manny Ramirez has expressed his regret and said that it was an accident. He said that he took a
medication that he didn’t realize was a banned substance, given to him by his doctor.
My question is how often do we hear that an athlete didn’t know it was a banned substance? Why does this keep happening?
In my class we begin talking in 4th and 5th grade that you are in charge of your body. You need to be aware of what is in everything before it goes in your mouth or into
your body. Read every label! Ask questions!! This is the beginning of a life time of responsibility. I encourage my students to not accuse athletes until it is a fact, but the
problem is that it is hard to know what is fact or myth. If it is hard for the educator, imagine how hard it is for the kids to sort out this mess.
Think Before You Post!
Once upon a time a public figure condemned a private school on a national television show for not allowing the child to go to the school because of the parent’s public
persona and history. Well, it didn’t take much effort for any admissions director in town to figure out that if she would bad mouth one school then any school was fair
game. A few years later, the character Ari Gold from Entourage had the same problem when his son was rejected from every private school in LA. Was that life imitating
art or art imitating real life? These are just two examples of Hollywood showing what really happens behind the scenes of what seems like an exclusive club and a publicist’
s nightmare. Do our reputations impede our children?
Now, what has always been thought to be the private world of visiting friends on the internet has turned very public. For several years we’ve been warning people about
posting pictures, commentary and personal information about themselves on the internet. Especially drug talk! Now, schools, jobs and organizations are using social
networking sites as a research tool. Companies are no longer relying on resumes and applications as a way to decide if you are welcome into their organization.
For those of you who do not know; social networking sites are internet websites for discussion, learning, socializing, planning, and connecting with lost friends and family.
Some allow you to post in real time and have written conversations about a specific subject matter, others are simply for posting information for the general public. What
you write on a social networking site can come back to haunt you. There are several stories of people who are being refused entrance to jobs, groups, schools and colleges.
Now, there is record of people actually losing their jobs for activity on sites.
While we have our personal favorite sites, we worry about how much information goes out about people’s private lives and their children. Putting out pictures of drunken
escapades (adults, teens and college students) can turn out to bite them in the behind. But it is the pictures of their children, with their back packs (with names on them),
school names, grades, and teacher names that gets truly dangerous. There are plenty of lurkers out there other than employers and admissions directors who are searching
for empty homes of vacationing families; children to copy and post pictures of on porn websites; and not very nice people who prey on the innocent. The very real
possibility of organizations waiting to deny you entrance now exists. Once you post on a website, it is there for eternity! So, just because your kid is only 7 now, you may
be surprised when a college counselor sees your “drunken shots” of your vacation 10 years earlier. We now hear that scholarships are being denied as well for student or
parent behavior. Think about where you will be in the future and where your children will need to be in the future.
Is this paranoia – or self protection? If you’re addicted to social networking; there is no pill to pop to stop your actions or reverse a bad posting. Just think and project what
could happen because not everyone thinks like you. If you are counting on financial aid, don’t get caught with that lampshade on your head!
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|Simplifying a Complex Subject
Do Role Models Have a Bad Day? Part 2, Looking in the Mirror.
In our parent meetings (both “Not All Kids Do Drugs” and “A Mother’s Checklist of Drug Prevention”) we talk about how our kids mimic our behavior when it comes to
drugs and alcohol; but the truth is that they mimic our behavior with everything in life. As we are all trying to adjust to getting back to school, many of us are juggling
work, home, family, personal goals, exercise…. Eeeeekkkkk!!! how do we fit it all in? Well, I’m no different - I’m trying to make sure I attend the PTO meeting, the
spring benefit planning meeting, and back to school night all while I kick off the 14th year of our lecture series, try to finish my Ph.D, add several pages to our website,
develop all our new webinars all while putting the finishing touches on our first handbook! On top of all that I’m running to gymnastics and tap lessons and celebrating
family birthdays. Then, just when it seemed it couldn’t get any busier, my daughter got spider bites all over her arms and experienced an allergic reaction. Yep, I’m busy.
In between all of that, my principal stood up to welcome everyone to the first PTO meeting and reminded us to please walk our children in the cross walks through the
parking lot at school. I sunk in my chair, expecting a big spot light to hit me as he said, “Let’s teach our children the correct way to walk through the parking lot and be
safe.” This poor man is terrified every morning that someone is going to be hit by a car.
Here I am trying so hard to model healthy eating and living, moderate caffeine use, no road rage, healthy body image and kind, un-colorful language. With all that, there I
am cutting through the parking lot when we’re in a hurry. Leading by example, that’s me! I’m leading my child right through the parking lot as she yells at me, “Safety
I work so hard to teach other parents how to be careful about their children mimicking their own behavior. Today was the day for me to look in the mirror and add one
more thing to my checklist of prevention. Thanks for the gentle reminder, Mr. Principal.
Do Role Models Have a Bad Day?
As many of you know, we are big on goal setting and role modeling here at Miles To Go. This past weekend at the US Open one of our favorite role models, Serena
Williams, had what appeared to be an amygdala hijacking when she yelled at a lines woman. She received a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (on match point)
and was then defaulted from the game and the US Open, where she had been expected to win the singles championship. An amygdala hijacking, made famous by Daniel
Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence, is when a person receives a visual or auditory stimulus that is followed by an explosive, unexpected reaction. When we see a
person over-react to a situation, first we have to ask, “What information does that person have or not have that I don’t know or understand?” Sometimes we are the
ones who don’t have all the information. When an amygdale hijacking occurs, the brain’s neurochemistry allows the thalamus to bypass the cortex and immediately
activate the amygdala, which results in an extreme emotional reaction that is based solely on previously stored information. When this happens, we observe a person who
explodes in an outburst that seems shocking, out of place, or wildly excessive to the observer.
Life is all about how we process information and what we do with that information. Since there were millions of people watching when Serena lost control, she
immediately became fair game for everybody’s opinion. One writer proposed that she ruined her career as a role model; another said she was smug, with a big smile
across her face; another said that she should apologize and get back out there on the court. People usually use their knowledge bas and personal experiences when they
attempt to assign meaning to events. My personal impression as I watched Serena was that of a professional athlete who faced a challenge that night. She did not look
smug or smiling to me, she looked sad and disappointed. Something happened to upset her, and she reacted without forthought or consideration. The reaction was
unsportsmanlike and against the rules, but it was the exhibition of behavior that we’ve never seen from her before that surprised us all. Did she have a bad day? Did she
hear something that we did not? Do we all lose our tempers occasionally? Until we’ve played a few sets in Serena’s tennis shoes, we can’t answer any of these questions.
I suggest that we consider all the people who have been given a second chance and proved themselves worthy. Are you one of these people? Have you ever said anything
in the heat of the moment? Imagine the pressure and stress when millions of dollars and championship points are on the line! We give addicts who relapse a second
chance to get back on the wagon. We give smokers as many chances as they need to stop smoking. I’m not saying that Serena is addicted to yelling at lines people, but
we need to recognize that everyone has a bad day occasionally. Serena has already paid dearly for her outburst, and will probably continue to do so as an investigation
into her behavior unfolds. In the light of day, she apologized for her behavior and regretted her actions.
For me, no discussion of sports role models is complete without Michael Phelps, a role model on the world’s stage who has been caught several times using drugs and
alcohol. Certainly his actions have been immature and disappointing, but we have hope for him too. These role models are humans who make mistakes, but one or two
mistakes do not define a person’s character. It is repetitive mistakes, where the person never seems to learn a lesson, that we worry about. Hope stirs, though when a
person learns from their mistakes and shows growth, a higher emotional intelligence, and self awareness. One bad day doesn’t mean the end of a positive role model.
In the end, Serena’s quote says it all: "I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act -- win or lose, good call
or bad call in any sport, in any manner" she said. "I like to lead by example. We all learn from experiences both good and bad, I will learn and grow from this, and be a
better person as a result."
|Post your comments, Reply to this article, Share your thoughts;
A growing trend in NON-factual information!
October 29th, 2009
An ongoing trend in internet research is for websites to allow comments, replies and shares which allow the reader to create a discussion about the subject matter.
Unfortunately, in the field of drug education, comments translate into inaccurate information that is later passed on as factual science and news. Lately, we’ve seen an
increase in the volume of “online” opinions being reported back to us in the classroom. It is a high tech telephone game of misinformation. Referencing comments about
articles is not factual or scientific; nor is it a consensus – it is simply the echo of opinion.
Over the course of a year we review thousands of articles, news reports, science journals and case studies which have comments attached. People who comment on
drugs articles represent a wide range of roles and careers such as doctors, nurses, family members of addicts, teachers, and counselors who all have real life experience
and something to add to the conversation. Unfortunately, not everyone has something helpful to say; some are terribly misinformed know-it-alls. Others are teenagers
who have so little life experience that they’ve never seen any damage from drugs, so they assume there are no dangers involved. Pro-drug advocates often seem to have
the loudest voice and will comment on anything and everything.
For years, we’ve warned teachers, librarians and parents about using the internet for research due to the proliferation of pro-drug websites. Today, we want to warn you
about using comments. They are usually nothing more than a finger on the pulse of one group of people who are interested in the subject at hand. People who portray
replies to an article as factual perpetuate rumors and ignorance. We all need to work together to watch where our students get their information for debates, classroom
discussions and reports.
|There is NO Tobacco in Tabasco!
This is dedicated to Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby:
After 14 years of teaching drug education, I’m tempted to think I’ve heard it all. I’m used to getting questions from out of left field, but I
always attempt to answer my student’s questions honestly, scientifically and without laughing. I NEVER want to make them feel bad for asking. My
class is a safe haven for 4th – 6th graders to ask drug questions, and it is my job is to simplify a complex subject by teaching a class called “Myths
Around The World,” which is the history of drugs played in a geographic game. Our goal is to dispel myths, discuss slang vs. scientific terminology,
and talk about how many of the drugs of abuse began as medicines. It’s a fun way to learn the beginning levels of drug prevention education and
jumpstart this life-long discussion. The history of drugs is naturally funny without me or my students adding anything extra. After all, hundreds of
years ago, they actually thought tobacco could cure lung cancer!
The usual questions come up in every class: “My uncle smokes, how do I make him stop?” “What do drugs taste like?” “Why do people do drugs?”
These are simple, honest and expected questions.
There is one question, though, since I hear it so frequently and because it points out the kind of hilarious confusion drug education can inspire, that
I feel I must address once and for all -
I want to officially say that there is NO TOBACCO IN TABASCO.
Honestly, this makes me smile every time I hear it. It is a simple case of misunderstanding the language, and it is my job to clear up the confusion.
After I get the question, the class comes to a complete halt. I carefully take a few minutes reiterating my answer in several ways just to be
Tabasco is a hot sauce. Tobacco is a plant that cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff are made from. Nicotine is the stimulant drug in
tobacco. There is no nicotine in Tabasco. In my class, I use the example, “My husband loves Tabasco hot sauce on his tacos, but as a former tobacco
smoker, he is very careful to never use tobacco products.” I promise you that there is not now, nor has there ever been, tobacco products, leaves,
ingredients or additives in Tabasco. Some kids giggle, but after I answer the question I always get the same exuberant sigh of relief, and some
kid always shouts out, “I love Tabasco!!! I’m so relieved I can still use it.”
Being a traveling drug educator has the potential to be a very depressing, but my husband and I have found a way to make this job fun. We never
expected questions that are so innocent and naturally funny. I couldn’t write funnier questions than some that I get repeatedly from my students.
The number one cutest question I get is, “How high do people float when they get high?” The number one award for literal thinkers is, “When a
person barfs their brains out, how do the brains come out of their head?” And for those readers wondering what is the number one most common
question I get? The winner is, “Which one is worse, pot or weed?”
Most adults remember drug education as gloom and doom coupled with scare tactics (that is if they had any drug education at all.) But in my class,
scattered among the myriad questions about drug abuse, are the questions that bring a smile to my face. It’s these questions that remind me that
kids are still innocent and that it is my responsibility to guide them, because I may be the first person to ever talk to them about this subject.
How I choose my words can make an impact for the rest of their life, and at the very least I will have made this small difference – they’ll never
be scared of Tabasco again.
|How Do We Explain Prop 19 To Our Kids?
As the California election approaches on November 2, 2010, we’ve had a lot of questions about prop 19. Miles To Go tries very hard to not discuss politics and
legalization of drugs in the classroom, but we’re overwhelmed with questions about proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. Many teachers
and parents are confused about what to do, and their students and children are just as confused, so in this blog we will attempt to explain what we know about the
proposition. We must urge you, however, to keep this in mind: We are drug PREVENTION specialists, not legal specialists, and WE ARE BIASED.
Proposition 19 wants to legalize marijuana to help with California’s budget problems, and its proponents believe it will cut off funding to violent drug cartels and redirect
law enforcement resources to more dangerous crimes. Proponents also say that it will control cannabis like alcohol. The proposition allows local governments to
regulate marijuana related activities; it permits local governments to impose and collect marijuana-related fees and taxes; and it authorizes various criminal and civil
The “No on 19” organization argues that the proposition is filled with gaps and flaws that will cause serious unintended consequences with public safety, in the
workplace, and with federal funding since marijuana use remains illegal under federal law. We wanted to give you an idea of who is against this proposition, but the list
was so long that is took up over 50 pages, so here is the link: http://www.noonproposition19.com/endorsements/leaders
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana:
We often get the question, “Which is safer: driving high or driving drunk?” Of course, neither is safe. Driving under the influence of marijuana is not safe, because a
person’s response rates are slower and impaired. The list of Police and Highway Patrol organizations against this proposition is extraordinarily long. Patrol officers
lament the fact that there are currently no field sobriety tests that can effectively demonstrate operational impairments caused by marijuana use; and since current
drug tests for marijuana only reveal past use, not current intoxication, there will be no way for them to effectively remove stoned drivers from the roads the way they do
drunk drivers via the use of breathalyzer testing.
The questions we raise are:
Do you want people under the influence of marijuana driving on the road with the rest of us?"
NIDA link about drugged driving:
ABC news and Good Morning America recently put this idea to the test – watch/read the report here:
From the NO on 19 FAQ: The initiative expressly omits any definition of what constitutes being “under the influence” of marijuana. No driver over 21, including bus, taxi,
light-rail train operators, and everyday commuters can be required to be drug-free while operating a vehicle. Although the initiative says you cannot use marijuana while
driving, it appears completely permissible to use marijuana just prior to getting behind the wheel. This also opens up a tremendous liability question for employers who
operate transportation companies or have company vehicles. They will no longer be able to require employees operating these vehicles be drug free.
Marijuana for 21 and older:
Proponents of Yes on 19 argue that like alcohol, marijuana will not be available to anyone under the age of 21. We can barely keep a straight face at this argument--we
all know that kids can get alcohol!
Yes on prop 19 says in their FAQ’s that “(marijuana) has fewer harmful effects than alcohol and is not physically addictive with no long term effects on the body.” We
feel it would be better to say that marijuana has different detrimental effects, as it seems to be a matter of opinion which detrimental effects are worse. Unfortunately,
saying that marijuana is not “physically addictive” is nothing more than lying by omission, and a pure misstatement of the science. Marijuana addicts approximately 9%
of its users, unless they start smoking in their middle teens, when the addiction rates almost double, to 17%. Whether the addiction is physical or psychological hardly
seems to matter if it is your child entering drug treatment for their addiction to marijuana. Finally, “no long term effects on the body” seems to ignore the European
Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery when it says that “known consequences of habitual marijuana smoking include an increased prevalence of chronic cough, sputum
production and wheeze, as well as a higher frequency of acute bronchitis.” We guess that no “long term effects” as it is used here means that if you STOP using
marijuana, they will go away, and yet nowhere do they seem to be suggesting that their intention is that people actually stop.
The questions we raise are:
Will legalization for people over 21 increase the usage rates of people under 21?
Here is a link to Lance Armstrong’s website Livestrong that has a series of simplified articles on the subject:
NIDA’s series on addiction:
Science of Addiction: http://www.nida.nih.gov/scienceofaddiction/
Marijuana Research Reports: http://www.nida.nih.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/default.html
Info Facts: Marijuana (scroll down to addictive potential) http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/marijuana.html
Currently, the polling shows that most voters are opposed to proposition 19, and the majority of California’s newspapers are against the proposition. The Sacramento
Bee conducted an Ad Watch analyzing the current Yes on 19 commercial which concluded that the commercial was “Mostly misleading.” According to the Bee, it would
not generate the “billions” of tax revenue dollars claimed because the math was based on inaccurate per ounce tax numbers.
A Rand Corporation study said, “Legalizing Marijuana in California Will Not Dramatically Reduce Mexican Drug Trafficking Revenues.” http://www.rand.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “The federal government will ‘vigorously enforce’ federal marijuana laws and that any retail establishment selling recreational pot
would be admitting to a federal crime by the very act of paying taxes.”
‘Let me state clearly that the Department of Justice strongly opposes Proposition 19. If passed, this legislation will greatly complicate federal drug enforcement efforts
to the detriment of our citizens.’”
Roger Salazar, No on Prop 19 spokesman stated, “Let’s take stock of where we are:
• No revenue guarantees: The California Board of Equalization says that it cannot determine how much, if any, revenue would be generated by Proposition 19 because it
neither establishes a regulatory framework nor does it impose any taxes on marijuana.
• No controls: Prop 19 contains no prohibition against driving after smoking marijuana meaning anyone, even school bus drivers and heavy equipment operators, can
smoke up right up until they get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
• No reduction of illegal drug trafficking or violence: The Rand report released earlier this week notes that legalizing marijuana in California would not appreciably
influence the Mexican drug trafficking organizations and the related violence.
“This sets up a situation where the Feds could withhold billions in federal education funds while cracking down on California’s marijuana industry. It begs the question:
Why would anyone vote for this mess of a proposition?”
The questions we raise:
Kelly is concerned with the long term repercussions of addiction, brain and lung damage. Who will pay for the costs of health care in the long run? It seems that while
other countries have shown successful models for decriminalization and taxation, there are still no long term studies on health care costs. Here are several links to the
annual cost of alcohol abuse in California, which runs in the billions of dollars.
Jonathan is concerned that Proposition 19 will add to our confusion, not reduce it. The current war on drugs is a money burning mess, but this proposition does nothing
to change that. Our ultimate goal is to keep drugs out of the bodies of adolescents and teens, but nothing here will move us closer to that goal. The legalization of
marijuana in some form or another is probably a foregone conclusion in the long run, but we worry that it will lessen in the teen mind the perceived risk of using the
drug, and further open young people up to the questionable role models some adults currently provide with their unhealthy use of tobacco and abuse of alcohol in front
of seriously impressionable kids.
Kelly & Jonathan From Miles To Go Drug Prevention Education
Wish You A Happy And Safe Holiday Party Season
Are You Serving Alcohol To My Kid During The Holidays?
Last Christmas an old friend and fellow mom called me because she was shocked to find out that another mom was serving alcohol to
all the 8th and 9th graders from her school. This other mom obviously subscribed to the theory that kids can safely drink if they confine
their drinking to someone’s home. My friend’s daughter then added her perspective, saying “Mom, all the kids drink--it’s really no big
deal!” Now doubting her sanity, my friend phoned me to ask, “Kelly, do all the kids drink? Is it really no big deal, and am I the only mom
who isn’t letting this happen? Have I become the old, uncool mom?”
Listening to my friend’s dilemma on the other end of the phone, I was saddened. After 15 years of talking to parents about keeping their
kids safe, I realized that one of my oldest friends was not benefitting from our parent lectures because she was on the other side of the
country and never had the opportunity to attend. This open letter is not just to our friend Ann, but also to everyone who has not been able
to attend our lectures, view our webinars, or read our emails and drug fact updates.
You are NOT the only mom who doesn’t want her child to drink, and you are certainly not alone! Here are a few thoughts for you, but this
is only the beginning of this conversation. We will continue to talk about this in upcoming parent meetings and online book discussions
scheduled for early 2011. Our goal will be to find out what other parents and communities are doing to battle the problem of adults
providing alcohol to minors.
First: I’m reprinting a passage from our new book “Not All Kids Do Drugs” for you. (Find it at the end of the letter.) It is such an important
part of our presentation that we began our book with this subject. (Shameless plug: Anyone who would like to buy a copy of the book,
click here: Milestogodrugeducation.com).
Second: There are social host laws popping up all over the country specifically designed to stop parents from serving to minors.
California has no state criminal law on social host liability, but many cities and counties do have local ordinances. Find out what your
local statutes are, and if there are currently no laws in place, find out why not.
Social Host Liability defined: Social host laws are set up as criminal or civil actions against people who serve alcohol or drugs to their
guests, especially if those guests are minors. Adults can be held responsible if this occurs on their property, regardless of who
furnishes the alcohol. These laws vary depending on your city or state, and can include misdemeanor charges as well as fines and
possible jail time.
MADD: Simplifies this explanation and provides a brochure: http://www.madd.org/underage-drinking/social-host/
NIAAA: Underage Drinking: Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties http://alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.
Model Programs: Excellent website from San Diego County Alcohol Policy Panel about Social Host liability and explanations http:
Third: What do you do if someone is hosting these parties? (A more extensive list is in Part 2 of our book)
1: Tell your child why these parties are off limits. You are allowed to say, “No.” You are their parent, not their friend.
2: Saying, “No” to dangerous activities begins as a pattern in preschool, not when they are in high school. Practice early.
3: Know your kids’ friends and their friends’ parents – this also begins early and lasts a life time.
4: Host the parties at your house. Keep them small and lock the bar.
5: Call ahead and ask the parents hosting the event for details about the party.
6: Alert other parents about these unsafe environments. Don’t assume they know what’s going on and are OK with kids drinking—they
may not be aware of the danger these parties pose.
Not All Kids Do Drugs - Part 1
Answering The Big Questions
“All kids are going to do drugs, so why don’t we teach them how to use safely?"
We might as well start with this common parental assumption—all kids will eventually try drugs, especially alcohol. Since this is our starting
point, it’s also where we’ll make our first stand:
NOT ALL KIDS DO DRUGS!!
We can’t tell you how often a parent in one of our presentations announces that, “All kids are going to do drugs.” Without fail, at least a couple
of parents who stayed silent in the face of this all-knowing pronouncement approach us after the event ends and say, “I’ve never done a drug
in my life,” or, “I’ve never had a drink or smoked a cigarette. Does that mean I can’t teach my kid about this subject?”
In our drug abuse prevention presentations for parents, we’ve always encouraged schools and parents to support the nonusers—because
the users have the loudest voice and will drown out the voice of the nonusers. We are astonished that, despite all we know about the costs
associated with teen drug use and adult drug abuse, large segments of our society still perceive users as the cool group. The party people
are seen as popular and cool, and they reinforce this image with a language filled with terms nonusers might not understand. This special
slang acts to bring the users together and exclude others. They also have an easy time finding like-minded others—they just go to a party,
look around--and voila--instant peer group. The most vocal members of the party group, the ones that lord their drug knowledge over less
exposed members of their class or school, are a special breed. We refer to them as drug bullies. Nonusers tend to be scattered among the
chess players, the musicians, the athletes, the rock climbers, the actors. They don’t know each other, and they have a lot of difficulty identifying
each other. These nonusers need encouragement to continue their conscious choice, and we need to actively encourage healthy alternatives
to drug use.
A major problem, though, is that a few of these drug bullies don’t change when they reach adult age. The parent who stands up and says, “All
kids are going to use,” may well be nothing more than an adult drug bully. The parent that doesn’t stand up and insist, “No, they aren’t,” is still
being bullied and may still to this day feel uncool about their lack of drug experience. They have told us repeatedly that they don’t feel they have
enough knowledge to speak up about the subject because they are not part of the supposed “in-crowd.” They are the parents who don’t get
invited to, or choose not to attend, the parties where binge drinking is happening. They also don’t attend parties where marijuana is smoked
and everyone pretends it’s cool as long as their kids aren’t around to see it.
We’ve been teaching drug abuse prevention education in schools for a long time, and one of the things we are sure of is that not all kids do
drugs. We’ve had many students get in touch with us years after they saw our program to tell us they still haven’t used drugs. Many are now
married and starting families and careers of their own, and they did it without falling prey to the silly notion that all kids are supposed to use
drugs as a part of growing up.
Of course, it would be foolish for us to think that out of the 10,000 kids we teach each year not one would drink or get high—far from it. We
have also heard from some of those who did choose to drink or use drugs. Several of them told us that they stopped before they got into
serious trouble; several others went into rehab sooner than they normally would have because of their knowledge that help was available.
Many had friends in trouble and were able to help them find their way out of a bad situation. Unfortunately, there are some students we are no
longer able to hear from, but that we hear of—they are the ones that didn’t make it out the other side of the decision to use. They are the ones
Let’s Look At A Few Common Variations Of The Original Question:
1. “All kids will eventually use, so why not let them do it in the safety of our home?”
First, it is impossible to monitor a group of kids who are drinking and using drugs in your home unless you are a trained drug specialist or an
ER doctor with all the meds and tools you’ll need in your bathroom medicine chest. If you think you will stop them from drinking and driving by
taking away their car keys, we can tell you from experience that some of the kids are smarter than you are—they bring a second set of keys. If
drunks want to drive, they will drive. Before you have your “safe” party, ask yourself these questions: “Can I tell the difference between a
drunken, passed out teenager and a teenager who is in a drug-induced or alcoholic coma?” “How do I know if that teenager has alcohol
poisoning?” “Do I know the complete health and addiction history of these people and their families?” “Do I know what other drugs and
medications they may have used tonight?” If you don’t feel 100% confident about everything mentioned above, then you are not capable of
taking care of a group of teen drug and alcohol users.
Actually, if you think about it, even if you are confident about all of the above, you are still not capable of taking care of a group of using teens—
there are just too many variables to deal with effectively. With so many balls in the air at the same time, even a pro can miss something
A tragic story we heard while back east illustrates this point exactly. Some parents felt confident they could manage the mayhem associated
with a teen drinking party, so they allowed the party to take place at their home. As expected, some of the teen attendees got really drunk, and
a few even ended the evening getting sick all over themselves, but hey, that’s what it’s all about, right? Unfortunately, nobody thought to
monitor the little sister of the teen host and the daughter of the parents allowing the party. She, in her effort to emulate the behaviors of the
teens she so much wanted to be like, drank alcohol also. When she got drunk enough to feel ill, she went upstairs and lay down on her bed,
where she proceeded to lapse into a coma.
We weren’t able to follow this story to its conclusion, but it does beg the question: Are you confident that these parents would act in a timely
and responsible fashion if your child was the one passed out and possibly lapsing into a coma? They would certainly be aware that their
participation in and sponsorship of illegal teen drinking would be frowned upon by the very authorities they would be calling. They may well fail
to make the call in an effort to avoid the legal consequences that await them if they do. Their hesitancy may well cost your son or daughter
How do we explain celebrity meltdowns (i.e. Charlie Sheen) to our kids?
A conversation to have with our children.
My classes (4th – 6th graders ) have now been spending an average of 7 minutes of my precious 90 minutes of class time asking questions about Charlie Sheen. Which
drug is he on? What has happened to him? Why does he look so bad? He is my neighbor and the helicopters have been driving my parents crazy - will he get arrested for
We at Miles To Go (Jonathan and Kelly) have to this point chosen to stay silent about Charlie’s behavior because we do not think that bad celebrity behavior in the name of
media attention should be rewarded. We have spoken many times about rewards and consequences in our parent meetings and in our book. Reinforcing bad behavior with
a job, press, money, fan letters, sold out shows, and, worst of all, non-stop news coverage only encourages that person/child to repeat that behavior. In his current “show”
touring the country, the news clips have shown Charlie becoming a parody of himself, repeating lines like “I’m on a drug, it’s called Charlie Sheen.”
If we stand in his shoes, there are no signals telling him NOT to repeat his behavior. He is getting support from everyone who wants to see someone implode publicly for the
chance to laugh at them. He is getting support from all the drug users who want to support their party life style as “cool.” He is getting support from everyone who wants to
ogle at his free-wheeling sex life as he calls Hugh Hefner “an amateur.”
Let’s now stand in his parents’ shoes for a moment. I can speculate that they are heartbroken. No parent, no matter how old the child is, can easily stand by and watch their
child be in an unhealthy mental state and physical danger from their behavior. As with every drug user, there are others who must share the pain caused by that use. These
people are shut out of the user’s life and are forced to stand by and watch a public destruction. I’m sure this is not what Charlie’s parents thought would happen when they
first held their baby in the hospital 45 years ago. Reports say that his family has tried repeatedly to help him in every way possible, but he is an adult with limitless money who
is not ready for help. A person doesn’t reach out for help with drugs or mental issues until they have the ability to recognize that they are in trouble or danger. He may not be
receptive to help until he is caught doing something illegal and is arrested; and if history is any indication, not even then! If Charlie is arrested or institutionalized, he may be
able to detox, or at the very least get a mental health evaluation. Drugs or mental illness appear to have robbed him of the ability to be introspective.
Now let’s stand in our kids’ shoes. Public spectacles like this can be confusing to kids. Some of them are scared for Charlie and his children. Some are wondering why
people are laughing and why nobody seems to be helping him. The exact same thing happened when Brittany Spears was the media target of bad behavior, when Anna
Nicole Smith had her own reality show. Every time Lindsay Lohan goes to court, my child is heartbroken. The kids in my class will all blurt out their analyses about him all at
the same time, and we now we have 20 kids spreading misperceptions to each other like the old telephone game. I stop this immediately, because I have a strict rule in drug
education classes: when someone asks a question in my class, the kids are not allowed to teach each other by blurting out everything they know about the subject/person.
They learn from me, not from each other. The unfortunate part about this is that it seems there will be another Charlie, Lindsay and Anna Nicole coming in the future.
Standing in our own shoes doesn’t make the road much easier to navigate. For adults, parents and teachers this is a tough subject. Most of us are not mental health
professionals, and those of us who are must remember not to assess a person from an edited television interview. What seems obvious to most adults is not obvious to
kids, teens and young adults, so, as tedious as this next section sounds, every little detail needs to be explained. If you use business 101 and psychology 101, you’ll be
surprised how children as young as 4th grade can understand this concept.
This is how I’ve been explaining it in my classroom: drugs are a business! Everyone is in it for the money, and everyone gets a piece of the pie. This is a subject that is
integrated into my Myths Around the World class for 4th -6th graders. Charlie has multiple addictions: the first is drugs and alcohol, the second is fame. The liquor store
makes money from his alcohol purchases. The drug dealer makes money from his cocaine purchases. The blogger makes money from the ads that people click on or the
pop up advertising at their web or blog site. The cigarette company is thrilled every time he is seen smoking their product because it is free advertising for them on TV, where
it is illegal for them to advertise. The news makes money by promoting Charlie Sheen latest antics, and then they sell advertising based on how many people watch their
Charlie then starts selling t-shirts, or is paid for an interview, sells tickets to a live show. He needs to keep generating money to pay for the drugs that his brain and body are
craving. He needs to have fans on his side to encourage the television stations to give him a TV show or internet web show. He also needs to keep acting outrageously so
that he earns enough money to pay the people around him to stay with him. For example, besides his obligations to pay for his house, food and children, he needs to pay for
his manager, his t-shirt business partners who make, package and ship the t-shirts, a publicist to arrange for the press to cover his antics, accountants to manage his
money, and lawyers to make the deals and sign the legal contracts for him to appear on the shows.
You also have to explain to your children what a “Yes Man” is and how it works. People with power/money tend to keep “yes” people around them. They are the people who
always say yes to the person with power so that they can keep being paid in cash, paychecks, advertising or drugs. If Charlie’s girlfriend keeps telling him “Yes, Charlie, you
are funny, popular and cool,” then the girlfriend keeps getting clothes, drugs, a place to live and a party lifestyle with the cameras/press taking her picture. (Imagine what her
parents think!) Does this mean that people with power and money are always right or should always be told yes? Of course not! Fair and clear thinking individuals will
surround themselves with people who will tell them the truth. If someone tells Charlie the truth, will that person be fired? Probably, because Charlie is not a clear thinking
person right now due to the drugs or mental illness clouding his judgment. At present, “yes” is what Charlie wants. He appears to have reached the point where madness is
normal and what the rest of us see as normal is, to him, the epitome of madness.
Many parents’ default position is to answer their kids’ questions with the statement, “He’s crazy.” Unfortunately, this is not an answer; it’s a delaying tactic to avoid the real
answer, because a considered answer is so difficult to explain. It is never appropriate to label a person as “crazy,” no matter how easy it is and how quickly it slips out of our
mouths. There has been much speculation about Charlie being bi-polar. This, of course, is very difficult to assess from our living rooms, but Charlie’s behavior does appear
to be manic, and unfortunately, it may be followed by a deep and threatening depression that many have speculated could lead to overdose or suicide. This is not a topic
suitable for young children. Stay where you are comfortable with the discussion and don’t get into heavier psychology than you are adequately ready to explain.
Here’s what I say to my students: “He is a man in trouble, with something going on inside his head that is very complicated and difficult to understand.”
First, it is the way the drugs are making him react and behave. Second, he is doing what we call imploding. Let’s go to Merriam Webster for this definition of Implode: 1.a : to
burst inward b : to undergo violent compression 2.: to collapse inward as if from external pressure; also : to become greatly reduced as if from collapsing 3.: to break down or
fall apart from within : self-destruct. Now kids hear this and picture in their heads that a brain is collapsing inside his skull (remember kids are literal thinkers). So, explain
that inside his head the drugs can change the very sensitive chemistry and inner workings of the brain and his thoughts.
The pressure to make money and watch his career fall apart is causing him stress. I’m going to use Merriam Webster’s C and D definitions and I’ve listed the examples of
stress below. Incorporate your own examples of stress to include something that may be stressful for your child that they can internalize the definition. From MW- Stress: c: a
physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation d: a state resulting from a stress; especially: one of
bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium <job-related stress> http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stress
Examples of usages of the term STRESS from Merriam Webster’s free online dictionary:
1. She uses meditation as a way of reducing stress.
2. Hormones are released into the body in response to emotional stress.
3. She is dealing with the stresses of working full-time and going to school.
4. He talked about the stresses and strains of owning a business.
5. Carrying a heavy backpack around all day puts a lot of stress on your shoulders and back.
6. To reduce the amount of stress on your back, bend your knees when you lift something heavy.
7. The ship's mast snapped under the stress of high winds.
8. measuring the effects of stresses on the material
Ultimately, I think we want our children to strive for empathy and understanding. We can feel disgust and anger when important news stories are pushed aside and replaced
with sensationalized headlines about another celebrity falling apart, but I still feel it’s important to talk to my students about understanding that something very serious is
happening to another human being. We need to understand that Charlie is in trouble, but he doesn’t understand what is happening to his brain and body. For now, he has
destroyed his legitimate career and business relationships, but most importantly, he has hurt himself and his family relationships. That doesn’t mean that his parents don’t
love him, but that they are emotionally hurt, sad, disappointed and scared for their child. Charlie is an adult, but he is still someone’s child, and no parent wants to watch
anything bad happen to his or her child. In the end, that is why we are talking about this today.
Post Script: there are ads on our blog page and website as well, but to date I think we’ve made about 90 cents in a year and we pay $60 per month for web and email service!
We’re not the example of bloggers who make money, but I do see there is a contradiction.
Post Script 2: A big mommy-hug to Gayle King for vowing not to talk about Charlie Sheen or promote and sensationalize his behavior.
Post Script 3: Hopefully, there will come a day when the pendulum swings the other way and we will spend less time with the lurid details of the next celebrity self-destruction
and more time strengthening the relationships with family and friends that really matter. (Pardon me if you don’t see me holding my breath.)
Miles To Go’s 8 Tips For A Safe New Year’s Eve: