“You never can trust your baby sitters if you’re not alert about drugs.”





The following are excerpts from a talk given by Dr. Marsha Keith Schuchard, a parent and University of Texas Professor of English, on the topic of drug use in society, and particularly marijuana, and the need for parents to participate in the effort to keep drugs away from our children. Amazingly, Dr. Schuchard, one of the founders of the parent prevention movement, gave this talk in 1980.  Her comments and advice to parents are just as pertinent today as they were so many years ago.   Parents are the most influential people to help their children remain drug free.   Parents need to know as much as their children about drugs !


 For the next ten years, drug use declined dramatically, dropping nearly 50%.  However, in 1992, that downward trend did an abrupt turnaround when the media and entertainment industry, taking a lead from what appeared to be the new administration’s softer stand on drugs, once more began glamorizing drug use. 


Dr. Schuchard said “If they don’t (use drugs) in this day and time they will be in a shrinking minority – and quite often very lonely, left out of what seems to be the normal way of growing up, of having a social life in normal teenage situations” and she went on to talk about the “normalization of drug use in our culture.”  She began her talk saying: “A great many colleagues, graduate students, and student assistants are users.” 





“It started at the universities – it started among the brighter students at the universities, quite often among the more distinguished and intellectual faculty members – now unfortunately, that was a long time ago.  The world has totally changed – the representatives of that point of view still have a disproportionate point of view in the media, particularly through the many, many, young reporters and journalists who are marijuana or cocaine users themselves and have a very difficult time of dealing with how much the problem of usage has changed, because of the extent of it and the young children involved – and again, from the power within the very influential opinion makers in the university, the health agencies, the many psychiatric consultants who work for the federal government, etc.”


There is a “Tremendous responsibility of those in the academic world, those who are influential with the media, to wise up – to find out that the 1960’s are gone and we have a terrible mess on our hands with the effects of that decade.”


“The drug culture has been sold to the kids in the same way that blue jeans and tennis shoes have…The merchandising apparatus is the same mentality, utilizes the same expertise, and is just as effective as that that’s controlling your children’s fashion styles, their language, their slang, and the kind of movies and music they want to go see.”


“So its coming in every direction at your children in the form that, as they enter adolescence, is the most attractive to them – the fun world of music and dancing and parties – supported, as far as they can see, from very respectable elements in the media, in the professional life – they all know who in the White House smokes/snorts cocaine, or smokes pot.  They pick these up as endorsements from the Federal Government, even though it’s a situation that is very difficult, as I say, for both parties to deal with at this time.  They could certainly deal with it better since nobody’s staff is clean – I think as long as they have any staff workers who are in the age group of 20 to early 30’s because it ‘s so entrenched in that whole age group.”


“Knowing something about the biological process and effects of marijuana is a major weapon you have against the drug culture.  Because the children’s mythology, which has been sold to them, marketed to them that it’s harmless, is the thing that makes it hardest for parents to contend with – the initiation into a marijuana using lifestyle – the kids just laughing at a complete lack of awareness, first of all about the drug and what it SEEMS to do to them, and then about all the things they heard.”


“If you have not known about marijuana,  make clear why you’re concerned about it, why you don’t want your child to smoke, they may go to that first party completely unprepared to have the cute little boy sitting next to them say “Want a little hit? – It (the offer) comes in a form that is not scary to children – the person who introduces a child to marijuana is usually his friends, a worker, an older brother or sister, and increasingly, among younger parents, its a parent…Usually the parents have no idea themselves about the pharmacology of marijuana or particularly, the particular effect on their young child.


“There will be parents who will really differ from yourself on these issues but you can make a very reasonable argument for sticking together as far as juvenile behaviour goes, behaviour by minors…The bigger the city you live in, the more you live in say a professional or university neighbourhood, the more important this will be because you’ll have a lot of opposition where you don’t expect it.”


“The major thing that parents need is the gossip network to know what the kids are doing and where to be willing to share your suspicions or your worries, even if it embarrasses you or hurts you, to be willing to call a parent and say ‘I suspect that your child is dating a drug dealer’ – to be willing to call your best friend and let them know that her daughter has been sneaking around doing some things – to be willing to get those calls yourself.  It’s the hardest part of this whole business we’re talking about – because that’s the part where you have to act and you have to communicate with someone else.”


Dr. Schuchard talked about the formation of the group, FAMILIES INVOLVED TOGETHER, and the tactics they developed:


“One thing that is very important is that the testing ground was the parents sticking by the rules and enforcing them with their children.  This wasn’t thumbscrews and putting them on the medieval rack.  This was grounding them, cutting off TV privileges, being home – it meant maybe your husband had to take off work to be home – it meant for some people giving up jobs they had long wanted to hold – for a temporary period…the infection of any of the children with the drug culture puts all the children at risk.”


“It’s much better if you get support (from the schools) but the parents can do it whether they get anybody to help them or not.”


“Children from weaker families, parents who could not sustain the discipline, the time, the providing of alternative fun and things like that for their children, benefited from having other parents who had their lives more under control, enter into their lives and take care of it.  The burden fell quite often on stronger parents – on at-home mothers who are carrying many burdens in a world that’s given up volunteerism, to where the idea of being a volunteer has become a dirty word to the women’s movement.”


The thing that we really stressed was that you can protect your child all you want.  You can raise a perfect child who never touches drugs, never gets in trouble – and if you can’t help other children then your child grows up in a very diminished world.  There won’t be many boys out there for your daughter to date who aren’t into pot and drinking – there won’t be many friends for your child to have if there aren’t other kids who aren’t growing up in basically the same way so that, in a way, even if your child is drug free they are living in a world very much affected and diminished by the power of the drug culture all around them.”


“What I’m saying for all of you – as things are right now, is everybody is vulnerable right now.  And in many ways, the more all-American, cute, fun, involved, your kids are, the more vulnerable they are right now.


“You cannot underestimate the power of the other side’s arguments or how attractive the proponents of that argument are right now in the media, in the entertainment world, and in the government.  There’s a whole generation of young people in positions of influence, of great public exposure, who grew up and went to college during the late 60’s for whom the drug scene and the enjoyment and preoccupation of marijuana and now cocaine, is very much a part of the entire mentality they educated themselves into.  The great tragedy of this is, this is the age group who’s always given us our best journalists, muckrakers, investigators out trying to expose things – the young Turks of any business or anything else – those who are out there trying to dig up the dirt on anything.”


“This generation of journalists has been almost lost to us to deal with marijuana problems because of the denial process of anything being wrong with it involved, and from the wrenching intellectual process it takes to think ‘Maybe we were wrong,’ because maybe they were wrong about a lot of other things too.  Because it was so much fun to be FOR marijuana.  This is something parents can address.  You can talk to your local reporters – if they are users or defiant, you educate them – you make them read the studies…you can bring them around to doing the good kind of public education they need to do.”


You will run into opposition from very attractive, very intelligent, and very well educated people.  The major thing you have is to present a very credible biological presentation about marijuana as the touchstone of the drug culture – when we lose the argument on that we seem to lose it on everything else.  Focus on what we are learning now about marijuana, its implications for children, for females of reproductive age, and for heavy users even among the healthy.  Stick to the biological facts, i.e., that this is a subtle accumulative drug that will have long range effects on this generation and the next.”


“We’ve heard many awful things about drugs – your kids are going to see survivors of drugs all over the place – quarterbacks who smoke pot before games, cheerleaders who use cocaine to get them up for their yells, kids who make straight A’s and claim they smoke pot every day – you’re going to have to contend that there are a lot of people out there who seem to be doing all right.  What you have as a counter argument is that you’re dealing with a cumulative process of chemicals in which there will be a chemical bill to pay but it will come at different times for different people.  Also, that some people smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day and don’t get lung cancer – but cigarettes are still bad for your lungs – that some people drink a bottle of scotch a day and don’t become alcoholics – but most people have trouble if they drink like that.”


“The  first weapon is information – most people don’t know the facts about marijuana.”  The parents need to be able to talk factually) about marijuana.”


“The MOST important thing is to have some group of parents with some methodism who will begin the process of supporting the institution changes if the school is going to change some of its rules, if you want your pediatrician to begin talking to your children about drugs.  You have to make sure they’re educated first though because physicians do not get pharmacological education (about illegal drugs) as a standard part of their medical training.  If you want your reporters to do a better job it should be from a good core of parents who will hang in there, evaluate what they’re doing and support, quite often, the very painful changes they may have to go through.”


Excerpts from the 1980 Video “Parent Power” made by Dr. Keith Schuchard, a.k.a. Marsha Manatt, Ph.D., author of “PARENTS PEERS AND POT II”