Drugs education – Vocatic style

A few years ago in Spain, they had a series of large poster adverts in which different drugs were arranged like train tracks in vertical lines; underneath was the caption – drugs: there are some directions you better not take. The incredible thing was, that for the one with marijuana they’d got their hands on some incredible looking skunkweed, and for the cocaine one – some high quality crystal. I can’t speak for the rest of the population but the only effect it had on me was to think… fuck, that coke looks good.

What a terrible irony… I gave up drugs and smoking years ago and the first thing that made me fancy taking some again was.,. a poster against drugs. So imagine the dilemna of a recovering cocaine addict: he’s trying to build a new life and all round town he sees these adverts with big, fat lines of coke, remembering that chemical feeling as it hits the back of your nose, and drips down your throat with a beautiful numbness.

When I look over the history of drug education I frequently have to ask myself if the people who made the adverts were actually on drugs themselves. They seem to be so far away from reality. I mean really, think about Juan and Pedro down the discothèque on a Friday night. Juan pulls out his bag of ecstasy and coke and suggests they go to the toilets for a line. Can you imagine Pedro holding up his hand and saying… “no, Juan!”?

And Juan says… “Why not?”

And Pedro says… “Because there’s some directions not worth taking, Juan.”

And Juan says… “fuck me, you’re right Pedro…”

These adverts didn’t make clear to me the dangers of drugs, rather – the dangers of getting people who haven’t taken drugs to create such adverts. The only people that can explain why not to take drugs are those who know what they’re talking about, or those that have been taught by people who know what they’re talking about. So, as an ex-drug taker, I’d like to teach you the Vocatic method.

Rule number one is to not bother telling your children about health ramifications such as heart attacks, death, schizophrenia or any other extreme reaction, because they won’t know anybody who suffered this ramification, and will immediately put you in the camp of misinformed adults who just don’t know what they’re talking about. Teenagers are the ultimate empiricists, and if they haven’t seen on their best friends status on facebook, smoked some marijuana now suffering from schizophrenia, they won’t believe it; and anyway, they have access to the facts and they know what you should know: illegal drugs kill only a fraction of people compared to alcohol and cigarettes, and as far as long-term damage goes, kids can’t see past the 11:30 break time bell, let alone the future.

So, STEP 1: In an introductory chat, gain your child’s confidence by admitting what no drugs counselor or authority will ever admit; tell them the smack-bang-wollop no bullshit truth: that drugs make you feel good.

That will immediately get their attention, get their trust, and allow you to distance yourself from other authority figures who talk on the subject. Also, there are some contrary children who, as soon as you – the parent – say drugs make you feel good they will take the opposite view just so they aren’t in the unnatural teenage position of agreeing with their parents. Anyway, seriously, guys, tell them the truth, because later their friends will tell them drugs make them feel good or they’ll find out themselves, and you will have lost your authority. Once you’ve lost authority it’s unlikely you can influence them any more in matters of drugs. Your authority will come in when you can explain the other side of drugs… Drugs make you feel good…. But…

Anyway, STEP 2: Empower them and allow them to make the choice themselves to take drugs. Say, you really hope they don’t, and you will never accept drugs in your house, but acknowledge the facts – you can’t stop them, and if they really want to they will. (This is a bluff, though, if you do actually discover they took drugs after, you could change the strategy and go strong arm).

However, empowering them immediately takes any parent defying glamour out of taking drugs: they’re allowed to take drugs – what the hell is the fun in that? If they have the chance to make the decision themselves they are more likely to seriously consider the question. Their perception of the question is irrevocably altered. If the decision is made for them – mum and dad said I could never do it… this fucks with their choice making mechanism.

STEP 3: after gaining their trust, you then give them your own considered view on why drugs are bad. You tell them that the danger is nothing like what the authorities say it is. Drugs fuck you up on a far more subtle level, most notably they cause you to under-achieve, and that under-achievement will affect you for the rest of your life. That grass is the absolute death of motivation, and the worrying thing is – it’s not just while you’re smoking it, it leaks into your wider mental space and makes it very hard for you to get off your arse and actually do anything. Tell them that if they like material things – clothes, technology, cars then they better steer away from drugs because they’ll end up poor. Tell them that yes, although drugs make you feel good there’s a universal law that…what goes up must come down… the better they felt on drugs the worst they’ll feel after… with comedowns that are like flu combined with mental illness. And always speak calmly and authoritatively.

STEP 4: If none of the above works, and your child takes drugs, then you might just want to switch to a more traditional method: beat him with a stick, lock him in his room and send him to military school. At Vocatic we always believe in the multi-methodological approach. Anyway, the point is this: life is complex, children are complex, drugs… are simple – they fuck you up, and when it comes to educating your children about them, always have more than one strategy.

Train tracks: the strips of metal which the train moves on. Ferrovia.

Fancy: to want something. For example… I really fancy a beer. Apetecer.

Rather: más bien. ‘Rather’ has many uses but in this case it means ‘it would be better’.

Not bother: don’t waste your time.

Put you in the camp: something that would mark you as belonging to a specific team or side.

Empiricists: people who believe in the philosophy of empiricism: that you should only believe what can be proven and confirmed by the senses.

Kids: children.

Can’t see past the 11:30 break time bell: when you say in English that someone can’t see past something it means they have very limited vision (metaphorically).

Let alone: y mucho menos, menos aún. A word you use to emphasise something, usually when you feel indignant.

Smack-bang-wollop: a completely invented word which combines various words related to impact.

No bullshit: not a lie.

Trust: confianza. Something you can rely on. Faithful.

Irrevocably altered: it can never be changed.

Under-achieve: to never reach full potential. For example… he’s a great player but he’s always been an under achiever because he has to spend all his time looking after his sick mother.

Leaks: goteas. Something that leaks (water from a pipe for example) is something that comes out of or escapes that’s not supposed to. Wikileaks, for example, is the leaking of information.

They better steer away from drugs: to steer away from something is to avoid something and go in the opposite direction.

Comedowns: like ‘hangovers’ but caused by drugs. Una resaca a causa de las drogas.

Beat him with a stick, lock him in his room and send him to military school: pegale con un palo, encerrarle en su cuarto y mandarle a un internado military. This is the traditional north American punishment that you see in the movies (okay, maybe not to beat him with a stick.)

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