David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

Old Fashioned Messaging

Many electrons have been spilled inveigling whether or not the dangers to our beloved children are unprecedented in this generation. Surely, some stumbling forward progress has been achieved. Half a century ago dial-up modems were the rage and hip replacements were science fiction. “When I was a kid” medicine, communication, and race relations sucked even worse than now. But safely was less of a concern. My parents felt confident that, on a given day, I would return home from school with my internal organs intact. There were fewer fences and police officers on campus. My teachers had no plans in place for an “active shooter.” At my high school 40-something years ago, there had never been an active shooter. Like “refrigerator,” “airplane,” and “Internet porn,” the words  “active shooter” did not exist. This year alone there have already been any number of  “active shooters.” We are so not in Kansas anymore. The world has changed. In many ways the world has changed in the direction of “bad,” “worse,” and “yuk.”

Marijuana has also changed. In my lifetime, marijuana has evolved in unpredictable, unprecedented, and unfortunate ways. Forty years ago when my roommate’s cousin’s sister-in-law‘s older brother smoked pot, he knew what to expect. Marijuana was maybe 2% THC; marijuana was grown on a hippy’s farm in Wisconsin; marijuana was bought and sold by inept college students with little business sense and less evil intent. True, marijuana was illegal. Being caught with an ounce of marijuana in Madison, Wisconsin in 1977 resulted in a ten dollar fine. An overtime parking ticket was eight dollars.

Much of the marijuana that children are smoking today contains 20% THC. Unless the pot is genetically modified in which case the levels of the active ingredient can top 70%, exponentially more potent. Marijuana bought on the street today can be laced with unknown and unwanted contaminants. My buddy who works with the DEA reports marijuana mixed with opium, PCP, horse tranquilizers, and other bizarre substances. One of my 15-year-old clients who swears he has done no drugs other than pot tested positive for methadone. Methadone! Woo. Methadone is bad for 15-year-olds.

Whether or not pot should be legal is a subject for another time and a smarter author. Would legalizing pot raise money for highways, schools, and hospitals? Would legalizing pot result in more traffic fatalities? Would legalized marijuana reduce crime? Would legalized marijuana increase usage? Reasonable people can disagree. But whether or not your adolescent children should be smoking pot is a simple straightforward conversation. How to communicate your determination that your children not smoke pot is staggeringly important.

In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe describes an F-15 pilot during an arial battle. The pilot is paying strict attention to his instruments, focusing on keeping the jet in the air at 1700 miles per hour. He is attending to pitch, roll, and yaw. He is concentrating on firing 9 mm machine gun bullets. He is attuned to the ever-changing positions of enemy planes in front of him and enemy planes behind him. He is aware of the location of the other jets in his squadron. All this information is in three-dimensions and in real time. In short, his brain is processing an overwhelming amount of intel. As a result of the cognitive overload, he does not hear his copilot screaming about incoming missiles. The flight recording is clear. The copilot is repeatedly shouting, “missiles! Six o’clock! Evasive action!” The pilot does not hear. He has too much going on, too many other stimuli, too much else to think about, too much else to do. The pilot is hightly trained and highly motivated. He is the the best of the best. But his brain is full. He cannot process any more info.

Could your child’s brain be similarly overloaded? Could the messages “do your homework,” “clean your room,” “avoid active shooters” be crowding out the other overwhelmingly cogent message you wish to convey? Could “don’t smoke pot” be getting lost just as “incoming missiles” went unheard and unprocessed by the highly trained F-15 pilot?

No one ever died from a C in algebra. The same cannot be said about pot laced with MDMA. Whether or not marijuana in 2018 is contaminated with the blood of an honest South American police officer and the tears of his widow is beyond this poor author’s limited insight. But I can make a recommendation: There is one memo your kids must not miss. The one unequivocal, non-negotiable message is “no pot.” Nothing else matters nearly as much. By limiting and prioritizing other messages, loving parents increase the likelihood that the most cogent message gets through.

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2 thoughts on “Old Fashioned Messaging

  1. Fred Peterson

    Educating your kids why smoking pot bought off street could be really bad is way more effective than “just say no” approach IMHO. Here in No. California the pot is probably local and unadulterated, so that isn’t big issue. Heroin (especially adulterated) is way bigger threat to life.
    BTW, the fighter jet pilot would most likely be firing .50 caliber machine gun
    (12.7mm) not 9mm (pistol/sun-machine gun round). Not sure how I got on your e-mail list but really appreciate your perspective and wisdom. Also glad my kids are adults (mostly) and on their own. Raising kids is even more challenging than ever.

    1. David Post author

      Glad you reached out, Joel.

      Excellent point about the bullets. I appreciate your knowledge!

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