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August 2010
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Advice to those heading to school

At the Drug Czar’s “blog,” the ONDCP’s Ben Tucker gives advice to students heading off to college.

Much of the advice is fine and appropriate: “Get to class on time, get to know your professors, be respectful of your peers and professors, read your course syllabus, know what is expected of you, complete assignments in a timely fashion, study for exams and show up to take exams as scheduled, make time to exercise…”

But you know that’s not why he’s writing this. And sure enough, he gets to it. And blows it.

And while many students adjust and learn to navigate the higher education terrain quite well, without the help of drugs or alcohol–and that’s as it should be– there are many who do not fare as well. And while this message is a cautionary tale for all students, it is the students in the latter category to whom I now speak.

Do not assume that the solution to your stress lies in the abuse of drugs and alcohol. The inherent dangers of drug abuse and underage drinking are real. At best they can derail your education and force you to squander your dreams, at worse they can…? Think about It!

Notice the existence of only two categories.

  1. Those who never use drugs or alcohol.
  2. Those who abuse drugs and alcohol, squandering their dreams or worse.

Pretty pathetic advice.

I work at a university, and while there are some students who will abstain from most drugs (including tobacco and alcohol), most students will experiment at the very least. Despite the lack of useful information given to them, many of these will go on to have productive educational careers. The abstinence-or-loser advice from the ONDCP is the absolute worst possible advice you can give to these students.

If you have a youngster heading to High School or College and want to communicate in a realistic way that respects them while emphasizing safety and offering your help, then I urge you to read a letter written in 1998 by Marsha Rosenbaum to her son Johnny, then entering High School.

Amazingly, we also have an unsolicited letter to her from her son, written 8 years later.

These have been around for awhile, but even if you read them years ago, I think they’re worth reading again: Mother and Son.

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13 comments to Advice to those heading to school

  • Tony Aroma

    Gotta love the way our Drug Czar and other prohibitionists separate drugs and alcohol. Kind of like saying, “fruit and apples.” Never ceases to amaze me that prohibitionists refuse to acknowledge that alcohol is a psychoactive substance, aka a drug. I guess they have a different definition of the word “drug” than the rest of the world. Drugs are either medicinal or illegal. If it’s legal and not medicinal, then it it is not a drug. Or maybe it’s because alcohol is a liquid that comes in a bottle or can. Either way, it’s just plain CRAZY.

  • Cliff

    When I first tried college right after high school, I was lazy because my high school education didn’t challenge me enough and I didn’t have good study habits. I ended my first year on scholastic probation. I smoked cannabis very infrequently and drank every weekend.

    I did a 3 year tour on active duty in the Army, got kicked out for consuming cannabis and returned to college. I found out that Geography was my favorite subject. My first semester I made the Deans List (3.5 or higher). I ended my BA with a 2.8 GPA and made straight A’s in my MS. Consumed cannabis every day and studied hard and held down a 3/4 time job. I don’t know if that helps anyone.

  • kaptinemo

    Cliff, I’d say your experience is more the norm rather than the exception.

    Prior to being ‘invited to leave’ a promising civil service post (in which I got an unbroken string of Exceptional performance reviews) I would show up every morning at least a half hour early (unpaid) to tend to all the minutiae necessary before opening for business.

    I didn’t have to; I could have been a ‘minute man’ as we used to call them (those who showed up for work one minute before opening hours completely unprepared), but I felt I had a responsibility to my ‘regulars’…who often would lean over the desk and whisper “Thank God you’re back!” after I’d return from vacation or an illness, as the bureaucracy failed to take care of them the way I felt I had to.

    And the whole time I did this, I smoked cannabis nightly to alleviate Service-related injuries.

    Compare this to my perennially lazy, shiftless, back-sassing, never-around-when-needed, non-using, non-smoking, non-drinking, overly-pious co-worker, who for 3 hours a day out of the 8 hour shift was nowhere to be found. For political reasons her actions were never properly chastised, and thus she was able to get away with her poor performance…while I had to pick up the slack, day in and day out.

    My point? I daresay that my demonstrated work behavior is the norm rather than the exception with most of the (so-called ‘professional’) people I know who consume cannabis. Decent, hardworking, civilly- and politically-engaged parental householders with work ethics that don’t allow for slacking. Scores upon scores of millions of us…the largest minority in America.

    And yet, we’re hunted by those who fear for their own safety despite being armed to the teeth, for cannabists are not likely to shoot back…but murderers are. The irony is so bitter you can taste it.

  • Mike R

    BS Info Systems at a decent college. MCSA, MCSE, RHCT, CCNA, CCDA. 11 years field experience. I support several hundred application servers that my company has deemed high availability. Uptime is valued at tens-of-thousands of dollars a minute. I evaluate all new technologies that enter our workplace for suitable in-house application. I finished the Internet.

    I have smoked marijuana for over 20 years now. No real problems to report other than some minor memory loss – no doubt PTSD-realted from my brushes with the local Narco-Nazis.

  • sovietski ussa

    Advice for students is to read up on the Soviet style of education since ours is the same. More advice is learn how to say “do you want fries with that shake” since your piece of paper showing you camped out for four years is practically worthless now. If they wanted smart people in this country education would be free or apprenticeship schools would still be around. Smart people who think for themselves are hard to control.

  • Ned

    In the mid 80s when the baking soda process method to produce smokable cocaine was invented (crack), my close friend from college, managed to master the technique. Prior to that “freebasing” cocaine was much more of a chemistry lab thing involving fancy pyrex vessels and ether etc. He needed other people to do that for him. Once the crack method came along, he was liberated as he could do that himself. While massively indulging, he got himself through law school, met his future wife (to this day), and even though he needed three tries to pass the CA Bar exam, he is now a very successful property lawyer in SF. He is a founding partner in his firm and has three children and leads the life of a affluent professional. Yet I remember nights when the coke was finally gone and he was picking at white specks in the carpet,hoping they were dropped rocks. He rarely indulges in any drug use today but occasionally he will
    if he gets the urge. Oh, and did I mention he hated alcohol? Never touched the stuff.

  • @Ned… lol… “picking at white specks in the carpet” yeah I shared a house w/ one of them once. Smart as a whip and dumb as a post this fella. Had his masters in psych.

    And the funny thing is, when Len Bias died and that whole chain of legislative unfortunateness occured, they didn’t increase the penalty for coke, they made the penalty for baking soda one hundred times greater than cocaine.
    Damn those pesky disparities. They’re like… well.. facts that get in the way of Prohibitionist’s nocturnal omissions.

    I was like Cliff, sucked in HS, went into the military after a worthless year of JC, came out of the military hungry to learn, went to college, had a great GPA… smoked the best shit every day (we were tied into a great Thai stick connection in the late ’70s) and active politically and socially in the community.

    My work history is exemplary, customer service skills that make me an effective (and reliable) salesman, good health… I mean wtf did I do?

    I mean I bought a joint in HS in homeroom, alright?</b It was 25 cents, how could I not. Took it home and lit it up in the garage. How was I supposed to know pot stunk to high heaven when burned? We didn’t have the advantage of the DARE progrm in the ’60s…

  • Servetus

    In the early 70s, I recall there was much prohibitionist brouhaha hair-pulling over a survey that indicated a majority of students at Caltech had used marijuana.

    The statistic probably hasn’t changed much. Maybe that’s why there have been no recent Caltech marijuana surveys.

  • Scott

    “…and that’s as it should be…”

    The major (if not most serious) problem in our nation is the powerful people who tell us how it should be.

    Given the often idiotic stance of the ‘always sober’ crowd, I wholeheartedly disagree with the ‘sobriety always no matter what’ viewpoint.

    When drugs are used responsibly, they provide a benefit difficult to articulate to the uninitiated.

    Unhealthy stress is arguably humanity’s greatest ‘enemy’. It causes people to behave wrongly, and if left untreated, can permanently debilitate.

    According to the U.S. NIDA, “Researchers have long recognized the strong correlation between stress and substance abuse…” [emphasis mine]

    Certain responsible drug use allows individuals to counter unhealthy stress (including the stress-relieving power of laughter).

    Certain responsible drug use allows individuals to open their minds against brainwashing by our “public servants” and other “community leaders” (who need us to conform to their view on how things “should be”, so they can keep their power), because such use allows the user to step outside the strong effects of that brainwashing system.

    In other words, certain responsible drug use allows people to ‘step outside of themselves’ and experience an illuminating perspective helping them advance in a positive direction in their lives.

    Powerful people telling us how it should be are responsible for more suffering throughout history than all drug abusers combined in that same period.

    Inquisitions, witch hunts, wars, genocides, etc. are not started by people who abuse drugs and lack power. They are started by self-righteous fools (always sober or not) who cannot grasp that their view of the world is subjective, never objective.

    To realize liberty as an unalienable right and to improve society in general, we need a “war on self-righteous fools”.

    That requires a continuous effort to have a constitutional amendment passed requiring objectively conclusive evidence proving an act directly infringes upon another person’s rights prior to any ban or regulation against that act (no exception).

    The notion that humanity can reduce overall tragedy is baseless, when it is equally likely that overall tragedy is never reduced, only shifted in a way so someone else becomes the victim.

    People who have their lives ruined by prohibition are examples of victims of shifted tragedy.

  • Duncan

    Cliff, if I may ask: During the time you were putting up those scholastic achievements, or immediately after you graduated notify any authority whether it was a school administrator or public official that you were in fact using cannabis while doing so? Don’t worry that’s a rhetorical question, of course you didn’t. I often hear the propagandists say that statistics show that a D student is 4 times more likely to use cannabis than an A student. This statistic based on a government authority going directly to the students and asking them if they break the law and then compiling their answers. I always think, no, this proves the D students are 4 times more likely to report that they had broken the law than A students. If I recall my high school daze correctly the D students enjoyed torquing the school administration authorities and the A students had brown noses from their interactions with the same people. Another point is that A students are very talented at rote learning. Have you ever heard the old chestnut that after graduation and entry into the work force that the A students teach the B students to work for the C students? A couple of different variations but always with the C students on the top limb.

    When I was 15 my academic career hit the skids, I became extremely rebellious and exhibiting all the behaviors of what they call oppositional defiant disorder nowadays. Started cutting class, ‘sassing’ the teachers, quit the baseball team, quit going to Church, etc. When I actually made it to first period geometry I’d almost inevitably stretch out on the radiator in 1st period geometry and sleep because the school day started too damn early. I was pretty much doing everything that you’ll read prohibitionists saying are the distinct and classic signs of a teenager that has taken up drugs. Only one thing was missing: I didn’t get high until I was almost 17, and it was absolutely part of the ODD that found me hitting that first joint. The plan was to smoke pot and then tell my parents about it to piss them off, and it was only supposed to be a one time thing. How was I to know that I was a natural born pothead, and decades later would still credit it for turning my life around? I do credit cannabis with saving my life because there was significant suicidal ideation involved and I’m certain that I would have committed suicide had I not found cannabis. I know lots of people are going to look at that and claim I don’t know what I’m talking about, but then there was a significant time period of a number of months where I was forced to do without cannabis in 1988, which was 11 years after I discovered cannabis, and the suicidal ideation and many of the other symptoms that had been absent returned, and even included a significant suicide attempt which had me in the ICU for a couple of days. In 1991 I had to go to drug reeducation as part of getting arrested for growing cannabis and sure as shit the symptoms returned, only this time I was lucky enough to learn how to manipulate the results of the urine tests so I was able to return to my cannabis use before there were any serious ramifications. I also quit for 5 weeks in 2003 after the wife and I bought our first home in order to qualify for a life insurance policy. Sure as shit I could see the symptoms returning. BTW USAA doesn’t test for cannabis when issuing life insurance, just cocaine and nicotine. No one can ever hope to get me to entertain the idea that it wasn’t cannabis that got me out of that nonsense state of mind and is the sole reason why I’m around to tap this keyboard this morning. But the true irony of the situation to me is that my symptoms in high school are considered ‘classic warning signs’ of drug abuse. I’ve got to say I was a little Skip Miller clone in high school and fanatically hated drug users. I even tried to start a school sanctioned after school anti-drug club, but that was in 1975 or 1976 so no one beyond a few total dweebs and social misfits were interested. I think that the reason the ODD is considered ‘classic signs of drug use’ is because it isn’t that uncommon for those that have this syndrome to try getting high to piss off whichever authorities are the object of their rebellion, precisely like I did. I believe that the syndrome causes the drug use, it isn’t a symptom of it. I was slightly different because I entered the ODD as a fanatical little anti-drug propagandist so my foray into getting high was significantly delayed compared to other kids. Also consider that this was the mid-70s, and in that time frame being a fanatical little Skip Miller wannabe was in fact a symptom of my ODD because getting high was almost mainstream at my high school. I had a heckuva time finding people to sell me pot for the rest of my high school term because everyone knew I had been a ‘narc’ and thought it likely that I was trying to set them up to get busted. That was actually the reason that I sprouted my first pot seeds because if I couldn’t buy it I was just going to have to grow it myself. More ODD, everyone in the 1970’s knew that you couldn’t possibly grow good pot in the United States. Propagandists seem to not have a keen grasp of cause and effect IMO.

    One other thought, I often hear propagandists claim that they’ve ‘seen’ a lot of people who have ‘ruined’ their lives with cannabis. I often wonder how many of my classmates from high school say that, and include me in their assessment. I certainly was a Butthead equivalent in high school and appeared on my way to totally fucking up my life. That didn’t end up happening but it wouldn’t shock me at all to learn that people who knew me in the ODD days believed that was the inevitable future for me, and without peeking back into my life 5, 10, 20 years after graduation would confidently state that I was one of those people they had ‘seen’ ‘ruin’ his life with cannabis. No people, cannabis saved my life, it didn’t ruin it by any stretch of the imagination.

    My apologies to Pete, I seem to have spilled my guts all over your blog.

  • No one

    Cool story bro

  • Brandon

    Scott, are you a lawyer? And if so, will you be mine? Lol. That is the root of the problem, you’ve nailed it perfectly.

  • Scott

    I am not a lawyer, Brandon, though my dad was a civil litigator for four decades.

    Thank you for the kind words about my comment.

    For years now, I have been mentally tossing around this issue when my limited spare time permits, trying to learn and articulate the essence of it all to sharply focus our message in a way that the public majority can embrace (whether they like illegal drugs or not) and consequently apply the needed pressure to break the strong political iron triangle we face.

    While our positioning online (literally having the whole truth on our side) is naturally weakening the CSA proponents’ constant (and baseless) proclamation of disaster upon weakening our drug laws, and so the repealing of the CSA is logically a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’, I would love to have the resources to firmly go after the Republican party on this issue to expedite that repealing.

    I believe the Republican party is very vulnerable on this issue, and can fairly easily be converted to our side, greatly and quickly tipping the public and private sector scales in our favor.

    The public record makes it perfectly clear that the “New Deal version” of our Commerce Clause is the sole “constitutional” basis for the CSA.

    No Republican supports the “New Deal version” of our Commerce Clause, because it is a very powerful legal force used by the political left for decades to invade the private sector.

    There is likely an upcoming legal battle regarding the constitutionality of ObamaCare. This case will be huge.

    The ridiculous ruling of Gonzales v. Raich will be the front-and-center legal precedence easily solidifying the constitutionality of ObamaCare.

    After all, if the free possession of marijuana can be banned due to having a substantial affect on interstate commerce, then anything relevant to ObamaCare will have that substantial affect too.

    What most Americans do not apparently realize yet is that the “New Deal version” of the Commerce Clause allows Congress to literally regulate their thoughts, since thought activity determines every part of their buying and selling decisions.

    The likely result is a Supreme Court in the public spotlight heavily pressured to clearly identify the limit of the Commerce Clause. We need to be there to ensure the CSA is repealed as part of that limiting.

    Now is the time for us to be actively pointing that out to Republicans, but there are a lot of political leftists in our movement who would never challenge the “New Deal version” of our Commerce Clause.

    The clear lack of a true constitutional basis for the CSA combined with enough national scrutiny of the public record to verify that fact is likely the end of the CSA.

    It is one thing to appear as someone fighting drug abuse. It is an opposing thing to appear as someone sacrificing our Constitution (i.e. seriously abusing our legal system) to fight drug abuse, especially when that someone took an oath to uphold our Constitution.

    Aforementioned national scrutiny can sooner be achieved by a competent public relations campaign focused solely on this strategy. If my hands are ever no longer tied (i.e. resources permitting), then I will be there with my strong multimedia skills and connections to do my part to whatever extent possible.