KIDS ON DRUGS
SEPTEMBER 25, 1996
To understand why drug use has skyrocketed amongst American youth in the past five years, Betty Ann Bowser talks to a group of teenagers and gets some surprising answers. Following the discussion, Elizabeth Farnsworth talks to advisors to Bob Dole and Bill Clinton about the growing drug use amongst teenagers.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
Drug experts from the Dole and Clinton camps argue how to handle the Juvenile drug problem.
Bob Dole emphasizesthe twin evils of drugs and crime in a speech at the University of Virginia.
President Clinton's speech on crime and drugs was delivered in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he received the endorsement of the National Fraternal Order of Police.
The worrisome report on rising drug use makes waves on Capitol Hill.
Two new and deeply troubling reports have just been released showing that drug abuse among 12 to 17 year olds doubled in the US between 1992 and 1995.
Because one of the appropriations bills tied up in Congress calls for sharp reduction in funds to fight drug abuse, Jeffrey Kaye of KCET-Los Angeles examines some local treatment programs, to better understand the issues.
March 20, 1996
Three weeks ago the United States said officially that it was not satisfied with Colombia's fight against drug traffickers. In a Newsmaker interview, Colombia's embattled President, Ernesto Samper, talks to correspondent Charles Krause about his relationship with the drug cartels.
June 24, 1996
The Supreme Court ruled today in two cases involving double jeopardy and the way this country has fought the drug problem.
April 2, 1996
Kwame Holman looks at the political furor that surrounds Judge Howard Baer's decision to deem 80 pounds of drugs inadmissible evidence, a decision he has since reversed.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: What is the reason that there's been this increase? Why do teenagers take drugs?
TRACY : It's always in your face, no matter where you go. It's always there. You are walking through a park and you smell it, and you're like, mm, well, I smell someone smoking butt or marijuana. It's just always there. It's--you see it all the time, so you think, well, I might as well try it in my face.
ABBY : A lot of kids are, umm, I've seen who just come into high school, maybe it's the first time they really meet people who actually do drugs. And they'll experiment, not necessarily peer pressure, just they're curious, but they don't always start using them regularly. It's like two different things.
ALYSSA : I know a lot of people that at least tried drugs the first time out of boredom. At parties they're like this isn't fun doing nothing, smoke a joint, and then people get hooked because they like it.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: What do you like about it?
AARON: A different experience.
ALYSSA: It makes you feel different.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Aaron what do you like about it?
AARON : The different experience you have every time you take it, like, it's like an adventure every time you, umm, smoke it, you do something different.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect us to rebel by playing tennis? (laughter among group of teens)
FELIX : I don't even think it's a thing all of such rebellion because most of--it ain't like I'd rather, you know, disobey my parents, you know, on purpose. It's the thing that I like to do.
AMBER : Drugs are so accessible you can choose to do them or not to do ‘em, and a lot of people think they're fun, so they choose to do ‘em, and they get into it, and they like being high better than being sober, so why be sober?
TRACY : It's just individual. If you want to take drugs, that's your own self. You have your own right to say yes or no.
AMBER : It happens for an infinite number of reasons, for each individual person, but as I think a collective group, it has to deal with stress in our environment, in the world that we're living in. It does have to do with peer pressure and what people think is cool, or you know, hip to do, and, umm, I would just think mostly stress.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: What is so stressful about being a kid?
FELIX : That's the worst thing--you are a kid. You are held to being a kid. That is--that is your limit. You can't do anything but be a kid, and it's so aggravating. Being 16, being a teenager, that's when you find out who you are. You're moving out of being a kid, but you're going into what, as a grown-up, you would like to do. That's, that's very stressful, turning into yourself.
ALYSSA : What isn't stressful, is the question. I think everything is stressful. Home is stressful. School is stressful. Meeting new people is stressful.
ABBY : I think we have a lot more stress than adults in the fact that sometimes we have to act like adults; other times we have to act like kids, and we don't know when those times are.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Another study that's been releases recently put the blame of drug increase, the increase in use of drugs by teenagers, on parents because parents, themselves, perhaps experimented with drugs, and, therefore, they as parents are somewhat ambivalent as to what to say to their kids. Do you agree with that, Aaron, what about you?
AARON : No, not really, ‘cause, um, some of the parents never experimented with drugs or anything but, um, the kids get it from their friends that pressure ‘em into taking them, or they just want to try something new.
BRENDAN : I think it's drug education. Like a lot of--
BETTY ANN BOWSER: You mean drug education promotes it?
BRENDAN : Kind of. A lot of people are like learning more about drugs, and it used to be that you learned about drugs and you're like whoa, drugs are bad, but now it's like drugs, wow, that seems kind of interesting, maybe I should go try some of this.
SETH : I think that yeah, that's part of it. We're getting the information through, through all this stuff, and, but we're also getting outside information from our peers, uh, from older people, uh, even, and umm, all of it says that drugs might be okay.
FELIX : I tend to think that drug education classes tend to help, you know, help us out because, you know, we--then we know what to do and what not to do.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Brendan, do you ever see pot or any of the other drugs that kids in your peer group are using, do you ever see them as something that's dangerous, something that down the road could cause a problem for any of your friends?
BRENDAN: No, not really pot. I mean, it can sort of affect short-term memory and long-term memory, but, uh, I don't look at it as a dangerous drug.
ABBY : I disagree.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: You disagree?
ABBY : I disagree.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Abby, why do you disagree?
ABBY : Because, umm, people won't go to class, because they want to go smoke a joint; people will show up late to work, lose their job because they had to take one last hit, you know, or do whatever. I think pot distracts people from things that they need to do.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Alyssa, do you agree with her?
ALYSSA : I think it makes you sit around and make a great plan of what you're going to do with your life but four hours later, or however long, you're sober and you're still sitting there, doing nothing. And I think it's kind of--it's a lazy drug.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: How much danger do you see in this increase in drug use as potentially being an addiction problem for people your age down the road?
TRACYA: A lot of people don't understand the consequences. They think, wow, I'm going to get high today and it won't bother me tomorrow, and they won't see the effects until ten years later, they can't remember, or their lungs are all black. It's just that we don't--a lot of kids aren't educated. If they're going to show us about drugs, they have to have a creative, really input in our life about drugs because they're like, oh, don't do drugs, it's bad for you. So what?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Aaron, do you see any danger in the use of drugs?
AARON : Umm, some of them I do, like heroin and cocaine--I--it's just not what I would like to do because it just destroys everything.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: You're saying that kids can draw a line between where to stop and what not to do?
SETH : I mean, most of them don't want to die. I mean, they, they want to rebel, they want to have a good time doing it, but they don't want to die, and, um, I've heard of a lot of kids trying cocaine once and, um, a lot of them loved it, but it was kind of a reality check, you know, I'm not going to--I can't go past that point, I'm never going to do that again.
FELIX : I can't even take it to the extent of just going out and smoking some crack because I want to get high or no--I don't never want to get to the point to where I have to--where I can lose control of what I want to do with myself.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But how do you draw the line?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the person.
FELIX : Self-respect basically.
ABBY : The individual. What you see what you hear and what you know.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: What do you mean?
ABBY: I know I have a lot of friends who've been in and out of rehab through, umm, have had a lot of different problems with a lot of different drugs and from hearing their problems, it keeps me away from a lot of drugs, and--
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Like what?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Where do you draw the line?
ABBY : I draw the line at chemicals, like marijuana and shrooms, I don't consider chemicals.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Shrooms being mushrooms?
ABBY: Mushrooms, and everything other than that has a short of chemical in them which I think of as messing with your body a lot more because it's an unnatural chemical in your body.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Is there anything that you think any organization, whether it's government, church, any organization could do that would stop kids from doing drugs?
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Tracy, go ahead.
TRACY : Even if you took all the drugs away, people would still find a way to get high. That's just a part of being human, that you want to go somewhere else besides your regular mind. You want to escape from your realities. People are going to find--they're going to sniff Lysol or Drano or something--they're going to find a way, so it doesn't matter if you take the drugs away. People will spin around till they get sick so they have some kind of highs just so they escape reality.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: What do you think--what goes through your mind--what goes across your radar screen when you see all these anti-drug messages--
TRACY : Change the channel.
BRENDAN CONNOLLY: I laugh at the messages a lot--especially seeing the ones like, uh, that one on TV with that kid in his room and his dad comes in with his box of drugs and he says, well, where did you learn this son, and the kid says, I learned it by watching you, Dad.
FELIX : I think stuff like that is corny. It doesn't apply to me, man.
ABBY : It scares the little kids.
BRENDAN : But once they get older, they're just going to laugh at them too.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: What do you think can be done to make kids not want to do any drugs?
ALYSSA : Give them something to do. I know people that are going to do drugs anyway, regardless of what there is to do, but there's a lot of people out there, especially first users, that don't have anything better to do.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Is there any institution that you think effectively could get kids not to do drugs?
ABBY : Schools.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: You think schools could?
ABBY : If the kids, umm, were told about drugs, were talking to their teachers, you know, not just having a speaker come in and say this is what drugs do, if they were--if their teachers actually talked to ‘em because every kid has a relationship with their teachers, whether it's good or bad, and if your teachers talk to you like they actually care about you, you know, then I think that would have a bigger effect, it would keep kids in school. They might think about drugs a second time.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In the end is it, is it really come down to making choices, Amber?
AMBER : Of course. It always comes down to making the choice, the choice to do it or not to do it, and--
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Is that hard? Is that a hard choice to make?
AMBER : I think it depends on how well you're educated about drugs, umm, the consequences, your awareness, the accessibility. That all plays into it of whether it is easy or hard to say yes or no.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Okay. Thank you very much for being with us tonight.