How about protecting our children from drugs … now? |

How about protecting our children from drugs … now?

John DiMambro

Drugs have always been a problem. Even a quick study of pop culture reveals that some of the world’s groundbreaking artists experimented with drugs: Charlie Parker, Lenny Bruce, Montgomery Clift, Kurt Cobain (OK, so he shot himself, but only after he took a lethal dose of heroin), Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison.

Brilliant artists all. The list is longer than a stairway to heaven. Or is it more like an elevator to hell? With drugs, those artists found inspiration and solace. They also found death. Death under a blinding mudslide of booze, pills, and powders.

I remember being a kid in the 1960s seeing the flower children sitting on church steps or street curbs, blowing harmonicas. Their hair was caked with grease, their clothes torn and dirty, their bodies boned like the devil. Then in the 1970s, that counterculture became a point of self-parody by comedians like George Carlin and the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Did we laugh? Sure did. Is it a laughing matter? Like hell. And I mean the worst kind of hell. The kind of hell that burns in the bodies of teenagers. Their brains become a temple of human sacrifice by fire, torching every cerebral avenue jungle red as if by some sudden napalm blast.

The most recent Youth Risk study conducted by the Nevada Department of Education rattles with disturbing results. Very much like a death rattle, in fact. And to those parents who think that sending their children to another school will wash over and cleanse the possibility of such insidious influences, take a minute a rinse your own eyes first. I only use Carson … Hey, wait a second. Better yet, let’s do a head check. Your head.

If you’re thinking your child is unconditionally safe from falling into the quicksands of drugs, it means your head is probably buried somewhere up a vital piece of your body. Kindly remove it before I continue. That’s it … All out in the open now? Good. Like I was saying, I only use Carson High School as an example. One example. One example that just happens to be in our backyard.

The problems extend much farther than just one school. And deeper. Like some lost fog-filtered underworld. For instance, the overall state study I have been referring to was culminated from 1,982 students in 84 public schools throughout 17 school districts, and targeted to grades 9,10,11 and 12 . Ninety-nine multiple choice questions were asked with a response rate of 60.2 percent (from an original total of 3,280 students selected for the survey). Of the high school students who were part of the 17-district state survey, 15 percent admitted to using heroin, hallucinogens, depressants or tranquilizers. In a separate instance, 12.5 percent of the overall high school students have taken methamphetamines (you know, street argot stuff like crystal, speed, crank or ice).

Think this only happens in high school? Take a seat. The middle school students who already started running to the starting gun with meth within the 17 districts comprise 5.5 percent.

Now, if you took me up on my urging to take a seat, now strap yourself in. Tightly. Let’s talk about suicidal thoughts. You think this is unrelated to drug usage? Yeah, sure, so are some car accidents. If so, then maybe it’s you who needs help even more so than your child. At Carson High alone, 20.2 percent of the surveyed students have seriously thought of attempting suicide in the past 12 months. Among the 17 school districts,18.1 percent for high school and (get this), 16.4 percent for middle school.

Folks, these kids haven’t even started to live yet, and already they are thinking that the express check-out lane is so much more attractive than the shopping experience our lives were intended to have. Females lead this race to the premature six-foot medicine cabinet in the dirt. Nationally, over 500,000 young adults attempt (not think about, but attempt) suicide each year; 5,000 of those youth succeed in finding out what the other side of this life is way before their time.

As of this week, 1,559 American soldiers have been killed in the war with Iraq. Five-thousand teenage suicides in one year. One year. Even if 40 percent of those suicides were invited to their final surprise party by drugs, the American casualties in Iraq still have a while to catch up.

A very trustworthy source this week shared with me an educated guess of the percentage of students at Carson High School who are using drugs of some type. That percentage hits with rifle-powered force. Fifty percent or more. Closer to 60 percent perhaps. Fifty percent or more??? This is just one school. Carson City is just one city. Nevada is just one state. In fact, I mentioned this estimate to a few local parents, who responded by saying they were surprised the percentage was that low. Get the picture?

Do the math. Let’s use the high end of the percentile range at 60 percent.You know … just for chills. Carson City High School has 2,396 students enrolled this year. Sixty-percent of that total is 1,438. Wow. Nearly 1,500 students are on some type of drug. Yup … Just one school, one city. Now, let’s stick to that same 60 percent range and use it as a measure of how many of these kids drive cars. That total comes to 863. That’s a lot of cars being driven by drug-induced kids, folks.

And I’m even including the drunks who drive cars. Yes, I know that many (far too many) adults take drugs and driven like drunken idiots, threatening every minute of our lives on the street; but I’ll save that for another column. Let’s stick to the kids for now. This is not a midnight coffeehouse showing of Reefer Madness folks. This is a mask of death, shrouded and coffin-ready, with eyes sunken like caves in the side of a mountain; black lifeless pools, like the dead eerie eyes of an old porcelain doll. Underline the word DEAD.

I know many people in this town. Many parents who are so proud of their children’s upbringing. Hey look, my wife and I have a daughter. Eleven years old. We’re proud too. Very proud. And we’re also scared. Very scared; like hearing the faintly audible but unmistakable sounds of a rape or a murder from around the corner of a darkened alley. Scared. I’ve heard some parents say that drugs can never enter into the lives of their children. Is that right? No hell? Here we go again. Remember, we made a deal earlier in this column. You were supposed to remove your head from your…

Can I continue now? You sure? OK. So, that means that every one of the 60 percent estimated kids on drugs at Carson High all belong to parents who don’t give a damn. Right? Wrong! Drugs can enter the lives of our children at anytime anywhere. The influence and peer pressure is like nothing I have ever imagined. Nothing like you could ever imagine. That’s why you as parents should be very painfully aware of what could happen. Sure, we need to be certain we are doing everything for our children to avoid such abhorrent influence. But my imploration to all is, don’t blind yourself. Denial can be more dangerous than any drug.

These are children of the Baby Boomers. These are children of the children of the Baby Boomers. Most Baby Boomers are much more financially sound (or at least more comfortable) than our parents. More cash means more drugs. And better ones too. Stronger ones. Ones that flirt with death with more life-stealing impact than a .44 magnum shell.

Look, I’m not here to preach. I’m too busy thinking about how to keep my own 11-year old daughter protected as best as my wife and I can for the day she enters high school. As long as we remain fearful, so painfully fearful of what could happen when we drop our guards, and keep a gauntlet-like shield of metal constantly in front and in back of us and our children, reminding us of the necessity of incessant protection, we may stand a chance. Actually, forget about high school. How about from day one? How about when an infant? How about … How about now?

n John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at jdimambro@nevada