What is a drug?

silverswordOctober 29, 2008

Two days ago my daughter came home with a little red bracelet that said "Realtors say NO to Drugs". I asked her where she got it, she said they gave it to her at school. I asked her if she knew what a drug is. She said yes. Drugs are like beer and wine. Later she said, and cigarettes.

What!??! I told her that under that definition, drugs are anything that alter the bodies natural state of being. Drugs are sometimes helpful, like tylenol, and sometimes harmful, like sugar. But in moderation, sugar and tylenol are not harmful to a person.

She said, well my teacher told me that alcohol kills you. Ok, I agree, to a point. Alcohol CAN kill, esp. if you mix it with driving. But alcohol does not kill any more than guns kill. People overindulge, and they die. Same as with eating junk food. People eat too much junk, they get high cholesterol, they don't exercise, they get heart failure and die.

What do you think about them teaching 6 year olds that drugs are alcohol and cigarettes? I personally don't want my daughter to think I'm doing drugs because I drink a glass of red wine a few nights a week. I don't smoke, we eat mostly vegetarian/low fat with red meat in moderation, we rarely eat fast food, she eats whole wheat bread and organics, doesn't drink soda often... we exercise and talk about healthy living.

At this age I want her to know about healthy lifestyle choices and how eating poorly, smoking anything (including standing over anything burning), and drinking anything but water/milk in excess can be harmful. Not misinformation that wine/beer/cigarettes are drugs without defining drugs.

I'm all for anti-drug education. But it needs to be educational, and accurate, or the kids won't listen. When I was young they'd say that marijuana would make you crazy and just one toke would make people do crazy violent things. Well, in the area I lived, over half of the students had a family member who smoked. And we all knew that smoking marijuana was not going to make someone aggressive and violent. It would just put them to sleep. We all knew to fear the drinkers rather than the smokers. So, because they overdramatized the danger in a way that was not true the kids tuned out. Heck, the town was so small we all knew police officers who were doing it. Had they focused on the damage to brain cells, or the memory loss, or the sperm counts going down, I'd bet a lot more kids would have listened.

Same as with alcohol. Focus on the result, not the action.

Drink too much, damage your liver.

Smoke, damage your lungs.

Drink and drive, kill or injure someone else or yourself.

Eat too much fast food, clog your arteries.

Eat too much sugar, develop diabetes.

Take too many OTC pain drugs, become unable to use pain medications for major injury because of resistance.

My DH thinks I'm overreacting. Maybe I am. I have a tendancy to do that. Any thoughts?

By the way, last night we got home from DD's martial arts at 6:30pm, made dinner, ate dinner, did her bath, got ready for bed. I poured myself a half a glass of red wine. She looked at me cross eyed.

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She's not too young. She needs to know or someone may get to her on some playground with something you don't want her to have. Arm her. You're already doing it right: "At this age I want her to know about healthy lifestyle choices and how eating poorly, smoking anything (including standing over anything burning), and drinking anything but water/milk in excess can be harmful." Just add more to the conversation. Help her understand they made a blanket statement, but there is more to the puzzle. You can clear it up. She is very unlikely to get the nuances of moderation and which things are to be avoided like the plague, while others can be had sometimes. Then tell her, she has to be smart about her choices. Arm her and let her go. That's all you can do. Just keep an open line and she eventually she'll get it. But don't wait, someone else may tell her something worse than it's ok to have a glass of wine.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 12:59PM
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Rob, thank you for responding. I do talk with her about healthy lifestyles, but she's six, so I don't really want to bring up the cocaine, heroin, huffing, marijuana stuff yet. I don't see that as relevent to her age. She hasn't even really asked me about how babies are made, we've just talked about that she was in my tummy, but she doesn't even really inquire how she got there.

But if they're putting alcohol and tobacco on the short list, I need to counter with something and tell her about worse drugs because I feel it's unrealistic to expect kids to believe that alcohol is a drug when it's legal, and what is she to think when her favorite aunt is smoking. That she's "on drugs"?

Yeash... I appreciate you hearing me out. I feel kind of foggy about the whole thing.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 2:19PM
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You might talk to her about how driving is legal but not until you are a certain age. Drinking is legal but not until a certain age. You can't drive a car to fast or without following the law and you can't drink without following the law and taking care of yourself and others.

Let her know that just like it's okay for her to ride her bike on the sidewalk because it is the safe way for her to do it but if she goes in the street then she is being unsafe. The same with drugs/medicine that a doctor gives her or you give her.....if you follow the directions the drug is safe....if you don't it is dangerous.

Some drugs are never safe and she shouldn't accept anything from anyone that you have not okayed and so on.

It does get complicated.....I don't know if this helps or not....good luck.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 5:06PM
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What you tell her and follow up with action is what will stay with her. You sound like you are doing a fantastic job, with giving her all the right messages.

I heard a drug cousellor talking a while ago, and he said that the drug information, given to older children and teens, looses its impact when you give the message that abstinence is the only way to go. It seems that talking about the affects of the particular drug will let the child make informed decisions about what they want to do, and hopefully that is the right decision !!

Tonight on a science show, here in Sydney, they are going to do a story about how marijuana affects the brain. There has been a lot of talk about how it can cause psychotic episodes, and this show is going to show the scientific proof for that. So I will be watching that and getting my 16 year old to watch it too. I know a family where this did happen to their son. He is now very disabled, very sad.

As parents we have to be SO informed ourselves, about the drug scene, it's really difficult to keep up ! And difficult to know the persuasive words to use, to ensure our children end up being happy and healthy adults.

The absolute best thing you can do for your child, apart from being an exemplary role model, is to keep the communication open, with her. Always, every day talk to her. I know this sounds simple, but its so important to get into this habit, because when they hit the teen years, they clam up ! If you have put in a regular routine of talking to them, that will hopefully continue in the "clam up" stage, when you really need to know what they are thinking and what is going on.

What happens in the class room at school, can often be a catalyst for you to expand on the topic. Alcohol is a drug, sure, but you can then talk about responsible use of alcohol.

If anyone wants the link to the science show I mentioned above, let me know and I will post it. I think the show can be watched on line.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 6:23PM
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Before I start, I'll say something on the subject of what our kids tell us about school. DS#1's kindergarten teacher said to all the parents, "If you only believe half of what they say about school, I'll only believe half of what they say about home." Meaning, of course, that something of the intent is lost when kids repeat what they hear/see/do out of context. Six y/os are notoriously unreliable sources of information. ;o) Still, you need to clarify for your DD the lessons she learned at school. My point is just try not to read too much about the overall lesson into your DD's comments. I can't tell you the times one of my kids said something about school that made me say "WHAT?" only to later learn that they didn't get all the details right. But like I said, you still need to set it right in the kid's mind.

Sounds like her school is recognizing Red Ribbon Week for drug awareness. The motto is: No use of illegal drugs, no illegal use of legal drugs. Many schools across the US are participating with discussions and other activities this week, the last of October. At my kids' school Monday the ATF officers came with a drug dog for an assembly. You can see www.redribboncoalition.org for more about what the project is about. If how the info is presented interests you, you might enjoy participating in the planning for your school next year.

So, after the events in our school this week, my own DD came home and asked me "Mom, can alcohol kill you?" So I told her most people who drink alcohol do not die. But that there are times when it does kill b/c someone made bad choices when drinking. Driving, or drinking to excess, or damage to organs over years. That it is a drug, b/c of its effects on the mind/body, so it has to used responsibly. I did tell her that it kills brain cells and stops your blood from getting enough oxygen. I also told her that too much can kill a person, and that it wouldn't take much to kill a child/her or make a child very, very sick. THEN, I added that alcohol comes in things we use, like hand sanitizer or mouth wash and that a few children have become very sick because they ate/drank it. What she talked about at school started the discussion. Personally, I don't drink alcohol at all just b/c I cannot stand the taste or even the smell of any of it. So the question I just cannot answer for them is "Why do people like to drink?" (Which they have asked.) I just have to honestly say "I have no earthly idea" b/c it does nothing good for me! LOL! But the kids see others drink, and know it is socially acceptable just by living in our culture. So I can see that there would be confusion on the issue.

Even caffeine is considered a drug, b/c it has effects on the body. Those effects are why I tell my kids they cannot have cola often or energy drinks ever. Not good for any body, but especially harmful for a smaller body. Yet my kids know I have quite the caffeine habit so well that they suggest I get some coffee when I complain of a headache. ;o)

We could get into the connotative and denotative meaning of the work "drug." Lots of things people use every day, for medicine or sometimes for pleasure, are drugs. But they are not all dangerous when used responsibly.
"Drug" does not always have to mean "bad." Then there is the use of "drug" that does mean "trouble." It's tricky for kids to learn how we use the word in different contexts.

I did a google search on 'talking to kids about drugs' and found this site. It covers talking about a lot of other issues, too. But the search turned up a lot of resources worth looking at for guidance, good starting lines, and how to seize on a 'teachable moment.'

Here is a link that might be useful: Talking With Kids

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 9:39PM
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I totally agree with all that is here.

It hit me as I read over all this though, Silver, you really sound a little sad she's growing up. I too remember when I came to the realization I had to let go and let my little fella out of our little "bubble"; other people were going to say and do things I had no control over. For me, him going to school and hearing things that conflicted with what I'd taught was a feeling of loss of his childhood. This may be playing into what you are saying. But I have to tell you, after overcoming this hurdle (my own problem, not his!), I realized, it wasn't a loss of his childhood, it was a huge coming into his own. And it's part of growing up. High school will be a bigger test. My LF has shown that he is armed and he can make good decisions. Sure he falters, but he has a good base and he always knows who to come to when others infringe on his beliefs.

She is growing up. Just know, you're doing it right, so she's gonna be ok. She's about to start making you proud in different ways than she did before. And you're still her hero even if you drink a glass of wine. No worries! I hope I'm not totally offbase, but I don't think I am. I get you pretty well.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 8:55AM
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Hey Believer, you really broke it down. Thank you. That's exactly it. I don't want her to think alcohol is "good" or "bad", just want her to know what the consequences would be, same as riding a bike in the street, like you said. Thank you!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 1:00PM
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Popi, I'd love a link to that show, thank you.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 1:02PM
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Stephanie: "THEN, I added that alcohol comes in things we use, like hand sanitizer or mouth wash and that a few children have become very sick because they ate/drank it."

Wow... Good one. I didn't even think about the other ways alcohol is used.

"Lots of things people use every day, for medicine or sometimes for pleasure, are drugs. But they are not all dangerous when used responsibly. "Drug" does not always have to mean "bad." Then there is the use of "drug" that does mean "trouble." It's tricky for kids to learn how we use the word in different contexts."

I think that's what I'm having trouble with. I don't know how to communicate it, so I'm struggling with the way they're communicating!! LOL.

Thank you for your clarity.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 1:07PM
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Same thing happened to my boss many moons ago.

His 6 year old son told his teacher that his Dad did drugs. The teacher called the Dad (my boss) and told him about his son's comment. After some discussion, my boss had to explain to the teacher that he smoked cigarettes and since she told the kids that cigarettes were a drug that's the reason the boy said it. LOL

In some of the school here, several police officers will educate the kids about illegal drugs and alcohol. It's a "mini course" that takes a few weeks. After the course is done, the kids take a "test" to see what they've learned. After the course, they get a certificate. They also get to bring home a booklet with the names (including nicknames) and definitions of all the illegal drugs, also stories about how some people got into drinking and became alcoholics (some as young as 9 and 10 years old!). Myself, I found the booklet very, very interesting!

It's called the D.A.R.E. Program.

Here's a link to the program with more precise info.

Here is a link that might be useful: D.A.R.E.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 12:45PM
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My Sd also did this. Came for a visit saying her school had a talk to her about drugs and said drugs were alchohol, cigs and wine..etc..etc..I told her there is a difference between pharmeceutical drugs and illegal drugs like pot, cocaine, etc..etc...
I think 6 is way too young to really grasp the reality. my sd was 10 when she had this talk about school and even then she really didn't grasp it.
She was calling her dad an alcoholic as well cause she would see him or i drink a glass of beer. So this year, i sat her down to watch the program Intervention. She is now 13 and is in highschool and already soem of her classmates have been suspended for pot.
She saw what a true alcoholic is, what he does to himself, to his family and what her father is not. She was shocked and sadden that a human being can get this way. This man, came back from the irac war drinking. It has distroyed his life.
I spoke wiht her and told her, there are drugs, legal drugs, such as tylenol, cough medicine, antibiotics, etc..etc..that when used in the correct manner are there to help people. Anything in excess can hurt you. Wheterh its along term affect or short term. Drinking coca cola and eating mcdonalds everyday is not healthy and can hurt you...taking a tylenol when you have a fever is not bad. Havgin a glass of wine to relax every other week or so or during a get together is not bad.
Drinking and driving...is bad. Spending all your paycheck on booze, is bad. Doing illegal drugs, pot, cocoaine, is bad....even regular cigarettes inthe long run...is bad...
EIther way, she will learn in detail as she gets older what is good and bad. And dont assume what you learn in school is the bible. If you have questions, ask, ask yoru father, ask your aunt, ask your friend, ask yoru teacher....
She understood that bad was not indicative to everything. That some drugs have a good purpose and others do not.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 2:51PM
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Maria, thank you. I think 6 is too young too. I think they are starting a little too young for this, and it's not because I don't want her to grow up, it's because I don't think she's capable of understanding the difference.

I went through the DARE program. It was a joke. I believe in education, but I think this belongs in health class rather than drug education. And I think something should have been sent home rather than telling the kids "drugs are bad, drugs are cigarettes, beer and wine". Don't do drugs. What kind of message is that? And, even if a child doesn't bring the whole message home, that is indicative of the quality of instruction, not on the ability of the child to retain the information. My daughter knew what she had been told. I have never talked to her about drugs before, just about health and only putting good things in our bodies. (we do occasionally go out for fries and such, but she's clear that it's ok if it's once in a while and not all the time).

"Scientific evaluation studies have consistently shown that DARE is ineffective in reducing the use of alcohol and drugs and is sometimes even counterproductive -- worse than doing nothing. That's the conclusion of the U.S. General Accounting Office, 1 the U.S. Surgeon General, 2 the National Academy of Sciences, 3 and the U.S. Department of Education, 4 among many others. 5 "

Here's the URL for the Time article:http://www.time.com/time/education/article/0,8599,99564,00.html

Here is a link that might be useful: The Effectiveness of DARE

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 3:14PM
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Drugs are bad ... anything that alters you is bad.

Medication is good ... make that distinction soon because the next time you need to give her any type of medicine she is going to think its a "drug".

Remember that old commercial with the eggs in the pan ... this is your brain ...this is your brain on drugs as the egg fries... my daughter about 6 wouldn't eat eggs for the longest time well not fried eggs anyway. Thinking I was trying to give her drugs.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 1:58PM
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That's funny Pseudo!

I agree with making the distinction about good and bad drugs, but respectfully disagree that anything that alters you is bad.

The FDA states that anything that alters the body is a drug, including floride in toothpaste..."The FD&C Act defines drugs, in part, by their intended use, as "articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease" and "articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals" [FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)(1)]."

But, I come from a very uptight healthnut family where other things are always tried before using "drugs". This is probably where my struggle is coming in. Even "bad" drugs can have their place. Heroin/Morphine is great for pain, and it would be considered cruel not to give them to a cancer sufferer at the end of their life. For example, if someone had a headache we'd always have to drink a ton of water before we'd get a pain med. My mother's reasoning was that the brain sits in water, so if it's dry it will hurt. A similar chain reaction would be someone who drinks coffee (a drug?), then gets a headache because they didn't drink enough, and instead of quitting coffee or drinking water would pop a pain pill. So in my childhood we were pretty anti-drug (any drug, including sugar). When I grew up I pretty much thought it was a miracle to be able to buy cough syrup and have it work. My mom last year got a headache. I told her, take an asprin. She did, and said, you know, thank you for telling me to do that. It worked! Well, duh.

I want to make sure I'm giving her exact information so she knows I'm not lying to her later (for example, that cigarettes are a 'gateway' drug that cause people to start doing other drugs, like they taught when I was a kid, and no one believed them about anything else they said because we knew tons of people who smoked and never did any other kind of drug).

Since people abuse prescription and OTC drugs too I don't want her to think that all medication is good. A classmate of mine in school would cut up her ritilin (sp?) and snort it (yuck!) She would say that her doctor gave it to her, so it can't be bad for her.

I don't mind her thinking medicine is a drug because it is. I told her that Tylenol is a drug, but that it's a good drug if used properly.

Arrghh. Thank you for being patient with me as I try to sort this out in my own mind. I know people have different opinions on health, drugs and which time is appropriate to tell their children about these sorts of things. I just want to give her solid information that's not misleading that she can fall back on in the future.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 2:32PM
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Ok I'll alter my statement ....

"anything in excess could be bad"

drive fast
eat too much
take too many vitamins
snort too much ritalin

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 3:06PM
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Pseudo, again, you make me laugh... snort too much ritalin indeed. You have a really good sense of humor! Do people compliment you on that often? If not, they should!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 3:32PM
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Here is the link to the show I mentioned above, in my post.

Provides some interesting scientific explanation relating to marijuana and psychotic episodes.


Here is a link that might be useful: Marijuana Madness - TV show clip

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 9:54PM
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I used to smoke. DD used to tell me daily that they told her at school that smoking is very bad and in some story a bear died because he smoked etc. I quit (not because of her stories) but I'd rather kids know that alcoholol, smoking, drugs are very bad for you. I don't know if marijuana makes one crazy but it is illegal drug (at least here) and I'd rather kids know it is bad for you.

silverswood, your mother is correct. It is very helpful to drink water when you get headache. it helps a lot and it si better to try that prior to taking pills. dehydration causes headache more often than you think.

and it is never too early to teach about effects of alcohol, drugs, cigarettes. i work wiht children of alcoholics or light drinkers and some are drug abusers and all are smokers. Even light drinking here and there can cause a serious damage. Unfortunatelly many kids say things like: I know why I am this way: my mom drinks etc. What a sad sad thing to say about yourself, how sad is to know that you could be a consequence of stupid choices that your parents made. 6 is not too early to know.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 11:56PM
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Hi Popi, Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

Hi Finedreams,
Glad you quit smoking. :) I agree that telling kids that smoking is bad for you, and that it is illegal and that has a whole other set of issues associated with it.

That's what I was trying to say with the water and headaches. I know my mom is right, and she is very well versed in health matters as a public health nurse, it's just that we were so anti- (any) drug/unhealthy items growing up, including pain medication like asprin, and that killer of millions- sugar! that I have a hard time when drugs aren't clearly defined and want my daughter to get the right language so she doesn't feel deceived later. Simply coming home and saying "drugs are bad" (well, what are drugs?) "drugs are cigarettes and beer and wine" is not effective teaching to me. They aren't giving the whole story, and I feel this is a disservice to my child.

I disagree though, that "light drinking here and there can cause a serious damage" if the drinking is not associated with drugs or alcoholism. The Mayo Clinic, among other highly ranked establishments of health, validates that drinking red wine in moderation is good for the heart. In fact, in 1992 Harvard researchers included moderate alcohol consumption as one of the "eight proven ways to reduce coronary heart disease risk." http://www.ynhh.org/online/nutrition/advisor/red_wine.html

I'm not advocating people going out and getting drunk, but I have seen the effects of the blanket NO on Drugs war and in my NSHO it doesn't work.

A study by U.S. and New Zealand scientists has shown that about 3 million heart-disease-, stroke- and diabetes-related deaths are caused by high blood sugar levels each year world wide; one health author notes that the only way to raise blood sugar is by consuming sugars and refined carbohydrates. http://www.naturalnews.com/021037.html

What would you say if someone told you that alcoholism has its roots in sugar addiction? Problems with overconsumption of alcohol often begin with eating habits as children. Since all alcoholic drinks contain sugar, it is a wonder that this association is often overlooked.

Children are easily made to believe by their parents and other authority figures that various foods regularly eaten by the whole of society are actually good for them and contain substantive nutrition. Although sugar is not technically in the same category as alcohol or drugs, food with refined sugars and processed flour as well as candies and desserts represent the initial stepping stone to sugar consumption that can plateau out as alcohol abuse in adolescents and adults.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 9:41AM
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