T Anthony

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Can you think like a kid? How would you define / describe DRUGS to school kids? How might a kid interpret and use that definition of drugs?

What's the most basic definition of drugs that is universally understandable? Many programs are already in place, or accessible in DVD format. But I believe they need a foundation to work on: I assert that the foundation of drug education is the BASIC definition of DRUGS.
I'm working on creating a universally (in English right now) successful and effective model of drug prevention education which educates and empowers kids to think about drugs without media or cultural influences. Currently Drugs = 2nd largest industry in the world; It's a huge culture with massive financial incentive.
Primarily my thought is to use DVD to educate kids about drugs. Looking for simple, short to the point programs. Let me know if any fit.

  • Dec 21 2011: Alright, to provide the youth perspective: substances that alter the function of the mind for purposes of, I suppose, elements of enjoyment. This sort of escape from reality is often negative due to health risks and the avoidance of the opportunity and life out there to be had. As a freshman in high school, that seems realistic.
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      Dec 21 2011: Nicolo,
      1st I want to point out you're the first person to just answer my question. That says a LOT!!
      your answer:
      Drugs: substances that alter the function of the mind for purposes of, I suppose, elements of enjoyment. This sort of escape from reality is often negative due to health risks and the avoidance of the opportunity and life out there to be had.

      The reason for my longer answer and questioning is that this is how I learn and teach: I ask questions. There are no right and wrong answers, I want to know how students are thinking about these questions 1st.

      Would high school students be easily able to think with that definition? Would you modify it for grade 8s or 7s or 6s?

      I'm interested in your answer primarily as you're in high school and secondly as I've heard this answer from many students, yet I dismissed it because I may be sitting in a classroom where 1/2 the class is on some mind altering drug prescribed by their doctor. Yet your definition is still true, yet many argue that they gain more benefit than harm therefore it's medicine (a good drug). A) I don't distinguish between 'good' drugs and 'bad' drugs. B) do you think I should talk about them differently? Would you suggest I talk about 'recreational' or experimental drugs separately from Rx drugs? Problem here, Rx drugs are abused more than street drugs, even through faulty prescription by doctors.

      Some argue that sugar is a drug as it tends to change how one feels or behaves. I'm not on either side of that debate: in looking at your full definition, I think we'd be pretty safe to answer the 'sugar' defense with the second part of your definition.

      I'm curious how you would describe 'opportunity' to a high school student. Some believe getting 'blotto / high / chill, etc' is an opportunity. Please tell me how a high school student looks at opportunity today.

      Feel free to answer or leave unanswered any question / comment. I appreciate your input
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    Dec 22 2011: We've had some wonderful discussions with this question: How would you define drugs and how would you explain that definition to a young person / kid?

    Please read through and / or provide insight here, especially desired is insight from those in the field. Experience is a great validator of truth: I'm defining truth as what works and gives the greatest good to the greatest number.

    We've got a day left, look forward to some final contributors to weigh in before closing this discussion.
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    Dec 21 2011: I have found this line of thought to be consistently helpful in reducing/eliminating drug use:

    The problem with drugs is that they work (Actually they work most of the time - sometimes drugs overwhelm you with fear, make you psychotic, or kill you). But most of the time drugs make you feel really good right away. Problems disappear. Everything around you is wonderful and beautiful. Even a doorknob becomes fascinating when you are high. You stare at it and say “Wow!... that’s really cool.” The problem is: it’s a doorknob! There is nothing cool about it. You lose your ability to distinguish between things that really are beautiful and things like doorknobs that are ordinary and uninteresting.

    It’s important to understand how drugs work. Basically, you are borrowing energy and pleasure from tomorrow - at high interest. If I offer to give you $500, you’d likely say “sure.” If I then say you need to pay me back $1000 tomorrow, you’d say “forget it.” That’s how drugs work. They over-stimulate receptors in the brain. These receptors adapt and then it takes more chemicals to stimulate them. Everyday beauty and pleasure don’t generate enough concentration to get much effect. You need more and more drugs to maintain the same feeling. Each time you use, you are using up more of your capacity for pleasure and borrowing more from tomorrow.

    Look at anyone who has been a heavy user for a long time. They have no life except when they are high. They also tend to be self-centered and have trouble maintaining healthy relationships. They don’t do much that is interesting or satisfying except use more drugs.

    Instant pleasure sounds and feels great. But you have to question if it’s worth it to borrow from everything that is meaningful in life to get it. Drugs can make you feel great for a few hours, but you are borrowing from tomorrow each time you use. People who use regularly eventually don’t care about tomorrow. Their lives become empty and meaningless.
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      Dec 21 2011: Bob,

      so we are going with the 'bank account' analogy along with distortion or exaggeration of benefit; ok.
      One thing I've really observed a great deal is that addiction has 1 common theme: instant gratification or relief. It's interesting that criminality works the same way: why work when I can get that for 'free' or steeling from someone else's efforts. The example you've given focuses on the individual as stealing from themselves.

      You've given lots of usable examples, thanks!

      Now for the BIG question: Can you define drugs simply which may embrace your idea?
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        Dec 21 2011: T Anthony wrote: "Can you define drugs simply which may embrace your idea?"

        Drugs are chemicals that provide intense short-term pleasure and relief at the expense of long-term health and quality of life.

        Re: "so we are going with the 'bank account' analogy"

        I don't think of it as a "bank account" analogy but more of a trade between brief short-term relief/pleasure and long term negative consequences. The 2 components that seem to be part of successful treatment of addiction in my experience, are developing the capacity to tolerate pain and discomfort and to establish long-term values and goals that are more important than temporary relief/pleasure.

        My experience with criminality indicates that it is quite different than addiction but that's a different topic.
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          Dec 21 2011: Bob,
          well put. I'll begin to think with this more.
          If you have any teens or younger to test this idea out on, please do so and report back with results. The acid test is: can a kid think with it easily and readily?
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        Dec 21 2011: T wrote: "If you have any teens or younger to test this idea out on, please do so and report back with results. The acid test is: can a kid think with it easily and readily? "

        I do general counseling at a rural medical clinic serving primarily low income residents. I have found this approach to be consistently effective with the few dozen young people I have worked with there over the past 11 years. Kids 10 and over seem to "get it" pretty easily. I don't really talk about drugs much with kids younger than that.
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          Dec 22 2011: Bob,

          thanks. The key you're providing here is that kids get it and can think with it. ie, there are costs / benefits and I will have some costs to pay here. I can think with this and I believe kids know it too. I can supply lots of examples that describe costs medically and on perception.
          I appreciate your input, good fortune with your work :)
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        Dec 22 2011: Hi T,

        You wrote, "The key you're providing here is that kids get it and can think with it. ie, there are costs / benefits and I will have some costs to pay here"

        I need to mention that I also strongly emphasize restoring balance in body/mind in my work with most all clients. I have found that stress and tension increase impulsiveness and decrease one's ability to think through decisions that have long term impact. Also drug use can easily be justified as a relief from stress and tension. This may have a lot to do with kids being able to use this concept to choose not to use drugs. I have given some presentations on this and made videos for my students. You can access them at http://bobvanoosterhout.com/id113.html and http://bobvanoosterhout.com/id116.html
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          Dec 22 2011: Bob,

          re: I also strongly emphasize restoring balance in body/mind in my work with most all clients. I have found that stress and tension increase impulsiveness and decrease one's ability to think through decisions that have long term impact. Also drug use can easily be justified as a relief from stress and tension.

          thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience with me, this is what the TED community is about - Ideas Worth Sharing, appreciate it.
          I'll look at your videos soon.
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      Dec 22 2011: Bob,

      While I understand the point you are trying to make about how drugs can make something mundane seem interesting, I think that a doorknob is not a very good example. This may be because you are not of the mindset to see a doorknob as interesting, but please don't assume that what is disinteresting to you is similarly disinteresting to others. Allow me to elaborate, with a concept of which you may not be aware.


      This is an idea relating to several fields. In brief, think about what a doorknob represents in terms of the engineering processes that went into designing, producing, and installing it; and think about how the doorknob represents a way for people to interact with their environment. A door itself is a passageway, and the knob is a device via which one may interact with that passage, which is a process in itself, and one that is not isolated to human perception and interaction.

      I'd also like to take brief issue with what I take to be an implication that long-time drug users are unilaterally unproductive members of society. Many individuals who use drugs regularly and heavily go on to lead very productive, successful, interesting lives that may or may not have any direct relationship with their drug use. As you noted, "the problem with drugs is that they work." If in fact they do work, then I would posit that the problem is not with the drugs themselves, but with the preexisting physical and psychological state of the person using the drugs.

      Finally, I would like to make mention of the fact that many medicines have side effects which render them undesirable for use as a medicine (some anti-malarial drugs, for example). A person who sees this relationship but does not consider it may also run into problems when attempting to describe to children why they should not use, for example, marijuana. Yes, there may be some health benefits, but are those benefits useful when contrasted with the negatives?
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        Dec 22 2011: Hi Joseph, I appreciate your feedback.

        You wrote "Many individuals who use drugs regularly and heavily go on to lead very productive, successful, interesting lives that may or may not have any direct relationship with their drug use."

        A number of people have cited examples of people who seem to function well with regular drug use but I am highly doubtful they function at full capacity. One person who was described as doing very well in his work and relationships later came into counseling with me (I work in a small, rural community) and it became clear that drug use had significantly impaired his judgment in a number of areas even though it wasn't evident to others. It took a while for all this to catch up to him and a while longer for him to seek counseling.
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          Dec 22 2011: Hi Bob, hope this finds you well.

          I am not arguing in favor of or against drug use, I am only hoping to ensure that you are amply considering all aspects. Your work as a counselor is no doubt beneficial to others; I hope that you are excising the root of problems and not just the leaves.

          For example, if a person is suffering from depression, they might turn to illicit drug use as a way to self-medicate. Then at some point, they stop using that drug, but years later have problems stemming from the drug use, or misidentify the root of their problem as being the drug use -- having forgotten or never realized why they were using the drug in the first place. You may very well be right in thinking that the drug use has reduced their functional capacity, but if you only treat the drug use, the underlying problem of the depression may still remain.

          It is only something to consider. I hope you do not make the mistake of assuming that correlation implies causality, and that you use the full breadth of your intellect when making an assessment.

          Best wishes,

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        Dec 23 2011: Hi Joseph, I appreciate your comment. You wrote "I hope that you are excising the root of problems and not just the leaves."

        My approach to counseling involves working with the whole person in the context of their relationships and overall situation. It becomes pretty clear when someone is dealing with both depression and addiction and both are addressed as obstacles to one's full development along with other comment factors such as stress, relationship issues, a tendency to resist pain etc. My impression is that the medical model does not fit counseling very well and I find that focusing on the "cause" of problems is only helpful to the extent that it involves an ongoing process.
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    Dec 21 2011: An interesting question.

    Attempting to describe to a child who is eight years old a concept like chemical alteration of mental and/or physical processes may be like throwing them in an ocean when they have only just learned how to swim in a placid and relatively shallow swimming pool.

    Therefore, I would suggest using an analogy to which they can relate. I am only considering this topic for the first time, so what follows as an example is a mere potential, and not to be construed as wholly definitive or absolute.

    School. The child has been going to school for 3-4 years now, about half of his or her life, so should probably be something to which an identifiable relationship can be construed. School isn't just studying. There's a whole process involved, and a child probably knows that you come to school, start out with some studying, then have a recess, then study some more, then have lunch, then study some more, then another recess, then more study, then finally they get to go home -- but there may yet still be some studying they have to do at home, in order to be prepared for the next day.

    Drugs can be similar to this process. You (the drug) go to school (your body). You study (the drug interacts with your body). You take recess (the drug begins to wear off). You study some more (the drug still interacts with your body, but not as efficiently, since the energy levels are lower). Finally, you are worn out (the drug has worn off), so you eat lunch (ingest more drugs). [(repeat for post-lunch process)]. Once you go home (still your body, but not having to deal with studying in a school setting) you might have to study some more (this could be either the after-effect of the drug you used all day -- studying -- or another ingestion of that drug).

    Well, I can see this isn't a perfect analogy. One obvious drawback is the potential of creating a false correlation that drugs can help you study. But I think the essential premise is one which is still evident.
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      Dec 21 2011: Joseph, Interesting analogy. These responses are starting to open up my ideas of how to approach this differently than traditional methods have employed.
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    Dec 21 2011: My point of view regarding what kids see, think and wonder as far as drugs has to do with the perception the kids have about it. The media have a lot of power over the kids, so your idea about the DVD is something that they are familiar with, and could be more effective than a speech or any print advertisement. My experience working with prevention has been very mixed, so I think that any message has to be aggressive, clean, persistent, and where the kids somehow feel some kind of relation with the message, specially regarding drugs.
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      Dec 21 2011: Maria,

      agreed. What would you consider an 'aggressive' message is? I'm looking for real examples, see Nicolo's response below.
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        Dec 22 2011: T,
        Aggressive message is the one that has a strong concept, such as the one you already have "DRUGS" and a smart strategic application. Talking from the Target stand point has to be connected with the parents or any person who is in direct contact with the child, reason is, even though the message is for the kids the parent or people around the kid are what in advertising call " the messenger" I know may sound confusing, but to give you an example a suicide prevention campaign for my state got the best results because even though was for teenagers we target the "messenger" and still after 4 years a great success. I am very happy about that. You can check it out on the state of Colorado website. Great question and I hope you got some useful information.
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          Dec 23 2011: Maria,

          I get it. The target and the messenger is the parent / teacher etc. This is the one who will influence this person. How about going after the kids friends since kids tend to listen other kids?
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    Dec 20 2011: Still looking for some direct answers to the question above. I'm hoping for some more involvement (that means answers to the question please) , especially from those who are closer to the age of 'kids' than the rest of us 'advanced' TEDsters.
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      Dec 20 2011: was my suggestion too broad? i am 22, prob one of the youngest youll get to post here.
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        Dec 21 2011: Tim,

        you failed to answer the question. Please reread it.

        A day ago you gave a resource. I suggest you read the meanings of endorsement, promotion, recommendation and testimonial and you'll discover the source you suggested promotes and endorses drug use more than most drug dealers and former drugs dealers at least ones I've known. If I were looking for someone to tell me how to get stoned using any / every product imaginable, I'd go to your source.
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    Dec 19 2011: simply answere any question honestly, back up with facts and sources. EROWID.ORG is a good one stop source for non biased drug information.
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      Dec 18 2011: Mary,

      Simple question, this seems to be stumping all who reply. I'm posting the idea that in reality a thing is a thing and it has a definition.
      That definition is the BASIS of further teaching. The truth to a 8 year old should relate to an 80 year old as well.
      Providing that words do have meaning and that meanings should give the essence of a thing and even can shape ideas, where would YOU start with a meaning and example of DRUG for someone to understand?

      A curriculum can work with a glossary. Where would you start with a definition for Drug and how would you modify it? I would hope you agree that the primary definition must align with the College definition, although obviously it would be worded differently. Right now I'm NOT looking for all the advanced definitions: I'm looking for the BASIC definition of Drug. That's where I hope you and others would start.
      The question stands as I've worded it.
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          Dec 19 2011: Mary,
          your Definition provided:
          any substance other than food that changes how the mind or body functions. That substance is a poison if it's harmful and a medicine if it's helpful.

          yes, I'm very familiar with this definition. I've had some issues using this amongst young people. Grade 8: So weeds medicine because I feel good when I do it, people use it as medicine so it's OK. Or, I don't think it harms me, so it's fine.
          Just 2 days ago another parent reported to me that their son went psychotic / delusional while smoking weed and he (the weed smoker) still argues it's not a drug because he likes it. He's been admitted 2 x to a psych ward directly related to flipping out while smoking weed.

          Drugs are often pain killers: they kill emotional, mental and sometimes physical pain. Drugs distort the perception of reality. The damage may not be felt for days, weeks or years later - especially in the case of benzodiazepine dependency.

          Let's say we use the definition you found, ok: now, How might a kid interpret and use that definition of drugs? I've given a couple examples. Can you think like a kid? How would you now interpret that definition and think with it?
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          Dec 19 2011: Mary,
          I'm looking at this endeavor as a good will activity that enhances the culture, community and people's lives
          I guess you're new to the community of TED = ideas worth sharing. Like TED I've been primarily responsible for funding most of my non profit initiatives or finding others to cover those costs.
          I work with all the above.
          I'm looking for input from the TED community, in my mind the smartest and coolest community I've ever been a part of.

          I'm looking to get this question answered - simple enough, or so I thought.

          Please info others, ie kids or those people who can think like a kid, how they would define drugs and how they or others like them would interpret that definition.

          In the TED community, I would think there are people who have thought about this question, tried it out on kids and have some input to share.

          Thanks for your input Mary,
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          Dec 19 2011: Mary,

          there's an idea. It appears this question may need to be a broader survey, interesting point.

          I know about the parenting rebuttal. Yet, a good curriculum would support parenting initiatives.

          I appreciate your contributions, they are worthwhile.
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    Dec 18 2011: Zdenek, you're quite correct - there are lots of ideas out there, but none posted to the TED community yet. Remember, the definition must align with the experts convoluted ideas while at the same time communicate to kids. We want the kids to wake up not fall asleep when they hear the meaning and ex. of what a drug is that applies to ALL drugs, not only alcohol or speed, etc.

    The analogy to rotten food is good, especially when considering alcohol - one has to cook or let 'rot' or ferment food to make alcohol; but it doesn't translate over to other drugs, ie fumes from glue, aspirin, opiates, coke, adderall, etc.
    So it's an excellent 1st start for a definition, but lets 'boil it down' a bit and see if we can find something more basic than that. On a note: are all drugs 'dead' or non living? I know that some bacteria and other organisms produce drugs, ie spiders, etc. But are the drugs themselves dead? I believe, however, that track of thinking may go nowhere as a weed smoker simply will argue, it grows, is alive, is natural therefore 'weeds not a drug' which is patently incorrect.
    Still need more input, "What's a Drug?" lets get right down to basics.

    Still looking for more input from this community of TED.
  • Dec 18 2011: This is a great topic. I would look for inspiration online as I am sure that some people have good ideas on how to explain such topic. There are even sites dedicated to education kids. Why to re-invent the wheel?

    I am also not sure what age are you referring to as school kids? Are these kids in primary school or in high school? They would be explained using different level of vocabulary and sentence structure. Very young kids might not even heard about drugs but you want them to know something about it.

    For the youngest kids one way to explain drugs is with analogy of food? Let them imagine food that is rotten but at first it looks and taste good. However every time you eat it you like it at the beginning but then you get really sick from stomach, get fewer and your body suffers a lot. Not sure if this make sense. cheers
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    Dec 18 2011: ED, Hilarious! Let's assume I've been down that road 100 times and spoken to 10,000 young people about ALL drugs . . I'm still looking forward to your answer(s) Ed. Hope you and others can contribute some answers. I'm a straight forward kind of guy, past the rhetoric, just need to hear from others - What is a good definition of drug to communicate to young people.

    Note: if a kid can't easily understand it, young adults and adults will have trouble with it too. So my question stays, unedited. I expect something simple that translates to young and old.