THE LIFE, WORK AND CHRONICLES OF JEFF KOYEN: REFORMED ITINERANT, OCCASIONAL WRITER AND FRIEND TO ALMOST ALL DOGS

I'm Just Tired, Mom. Really.
Not that every day isn't a day off for Ann Landers, but Monday's syndicated column was utterly ridiculous. In what must be a quarterly tradition, Ms. Landers published tips to help parents identify and prevent drug use by their children. Three quarters of the column was provided by Donnie R. Marshall, the administrator of the DEA. He wants parents to recognize the "warning signs of Ecstasy," namely the possession of "pacifiers, Vicks VapoRub, surgical masks and glowsticks." (The remainder of column was a pitch for Ann's booklet, The Lowdown on Dope, which "now includes the bottom line on club drugs such as Ecstasy, PMA, Ketamine, Rohypnol and GHB." New & Improved -- Now with Ecstasy!)
I won't deny that such "strange paraphernalia" is enjoyed by kids tripping on E, but isn't this just another excuse for lazy parents to feel as if they're making a difference? That they're doing their best to keep the kids off drugs by keeping tabs on the Vicks in the medicine cabinet? What a load of self-congratulatory, self-comforting bullshit. Out in the wasteland that is the American suburbs, parents raise their children while dosed on Valium, shove Ritalin down the randy ones' throats to keep the grades steady and accept lazy doctors' prescriptions for Prozac when their teenage daughters are diagnosed as "clinically depressed." Why, one could argue, should other drugs be considered off limits?
Kids experiment with drugs because kids experiment with drugs. Today's parents shouldn't waste their time searching bedrooms for pacifiers, for the same reason their parents were wasting their time being suspicious of long hair, tie-dyes and headbands. Accessories to a supposed lifestyle are not necessarily indicators of that lifestyle being lived. Sometimes they're just fashion, or even affectation, or pretension. And if they aren't, it's a little late to prevent your child's drug use when you finally, accidentally find the bong. Where the fuck were you in the years before the kid started using drugs? Watching tv? Reading soundbite advice columns to learn what your kid was doing after school?
One can't deny the importance of parents being educated about drugs, but those who fall into the drug escalation argument are either lied to, or lying to themselves. Take, for instance: Today's pot is so much stronger than it was in the 60s. What a load of crap. That's just an excuse for grownup potheads to try to prevent their children from doing exactly what they did as teenagers.
Some kids will always experiment with whatever is available to them, just as some of their parents smoked dope and took acid, just as some of their parents drank and ate whatever stimulants were available to them 40 years prior. Such useless advice as that from Ann Landers smacks of the quaint antimarijuana film strips of years past. What are concerned parents expected to do about the VapoRub? Mark it off like my parents with the vodka? You know how crafty kids can be: they'll just fill out the jar with Vaseline.
A more useful guide for concerned parents can be found at the Drug Test USA website, which has a handy chart explaining the various types of drugs, symptoms of their use, side effects and potential damage. The chart is offered free of charge (unlike Ann's booklet), presumably with the hopes that, should a parent recognize some symptoms, they'll rush to order a testing kit.
Just don't let your kids see the chart -- they'll probably turn it into a shopping list.