Volume 93, Issue 44

Wednesday, November 17, 1999


Editorial Board 1999-2000

High time to bring about a change

Editorial cartoon

High time to bring about a change

It seems the age old saying, "Ignorance is bliss" has had it's time in the sun.

A recent survey from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has found the use of drug and alcohol by teenagers is on the rise, reaching a standard comparable to that of the '70s. This includes an increase in the use of cannabis, hallucinogens and medical barbiturates. Kids between the ages of 12 and 18 were the focus of the survey.

Although the statistics may seem shocking, when taken in the context of today's society, they should come as no surprise. Markets which were typically reserved for adults in the past, including lingerie, magazines and certain clothing lines have discovered a brand new target in teens – enter Cosmogirl!, Le Chateau Junior and La Senza Girl. Businesses have simply repackaged their products and marketed them for a younger crowd.

Although the scenario of a 12 year-old tossing back pills with tequila is a frightening one, it's typically written off as a change in the times. If you were a teen in the 1950s, your rights of passage included sock hops and drive-ins. Now, they include experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

However, a danger lies in passing off these kinds of trends as unavoidable situations.

In the 1960s, when the masses decided to make love, not war and the drug culture reached new heights, people acted without paying any attention to consequence. It's not because they were naive, but rather there weren't any real consequences to fear.

Unfortunately, the story is a little different now. We are aware of the danger which accompany drinking and drug use. We have discovered AIDS and other diseases which can cripple a person for life. Obtaining a gun has become easier than obtaining a driver's licence. The repercussions of actions which stem from substance abuse can be deadly. While the link between experimentation and teenagers may span generations, the context with which they exist in does not.

It is no longer all right to simply accept a teen culture in which drug and alcohol use is on the rise, with a simple, "They're just kids, they don't know any better." The generation which preceded them knows better. If we are to assume our children are old enough to handle a world filled with drugs, then they should be able to handle learning the potential consequences of their actions.

The rate of education concerning these issues should parallel the rate of consumption. More specifically, the severity of such education should equal the seriousness of the consequence. "Just say no" doesn't cut it anymore. Bring a junkie into a classroom to talk about how wonderful drugs have made his life. Take field trips to rehab centres and AIDS hospices. If we continue to sugar-coat reality, we'll be throwing away the future.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999