I have had kids in class who were over medicated, I have had kids who were under-medicated and many who were unfortunately self-medicated. Luckily for me most of the self medicated kind were hooked on caffeine rather than something harder. We have perception that our children have turned into a drug using culture. I am not sure that more drugs are being used as opposed to different drugs being used and the fact that we hear of every single occurrence nation wide. It used to be alcohol, tobacco, and occasionally marijuana that students abused now in a case of “Future Shock” the field of choice is so large that and more powerful ( marijuana for example which is now on average 6 times more powerful than it was in the 60’s) that the results tend to be longer lasting and seen more often in school, Drugs are not really a school problem they are a problem that has come out of the home and society and been foisted on the schools. Like sex education, obesity,and character which used to be taught and controlled by the home it is now more comfortable to expect our schools to control these things including drug education and usage and then blame the schools instead of the parents when that message fails.
I am not making light of the drug problem our society faces but when our national adult psyche in general believes that everything can be solved by the right medicine it should not unexpected that our children will believe the same and follow that plan as well . This problem has been around for a long time. It used to be considered an issue of personal responsibility now it seems it is safer for the public to believe that is caused by our institutions or laws than the weaknesses of the person involved. Teen-agers have not changed that much over the years I have been teaching. I believe that it is our lowered expectations for our teenagers which have created the culture of avoidance and failure without penalty that is leading to this problem of teen drug use. We even find now that binge drinking is a problem at colleges… golly I went to college….. Perhaps I drank so much that my memories have faded but it seems to me that binge drinking in college isn’t exactly “new,” news.
Even in the 1970’s we occasionally had a non alcohol/tobacco related drug problem in middle school. We often knew who was selling we knew because the kids told us because the kids were taught more strongly that it was wrong and dangerous not a part of growing up. Many times after fruitless locker searches and watchfulness the miscreants moved on to the high school un-caught, un-stopped and in reality completely unwound with drug addled eyes that reminded me most closely of glazed doughnuts.
We did have one overdose I remember back in the 70’s a student took an entire bottle of Excedrin while at school. He overdosed on Excedrin, I don’t know what the acetaminophen did for him but the caffeine in the pills made him just bit jittery before they took him away to have his stomach pumped.
Now we have kids who are legally high or low on various types of drugs. Many vacillate between the two because of refusal to take their pills or parents who desperately want their children to be normal. . I have had lots of kids who probably should have been medicated and lots who were probably medicated that did not need to be. I have seen very positive results with some students on behavior altering drugs and I have seen students who were so loaded that they were not really there most of the time.
Until you have seen a child appear totally normal and engaged on medication in your classroom and then seen the same child off meds running around the room for an entire day uncontrollably chanting ‘two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun,” you may not understand the value of properly prescribed drugs. Until you have seen a kid sit listlessly and stare at the wall for 8 hours you may not understand the dangers of those same treatments. This is another one of those arguments like abortion and gun control that is currently being presented in only blacks and whites when in reality the crux of the problem is found almost entirely in the shades of gray. Vigilance and acceptance are required of today’s teachers when it comes to both prescribed and unprescribed drug use but in reality they have little or no control over either.
There is one thing I do know, now that drug use has become so widely applied to our school children, If I should ever become an addict I’m not breaking into a pharmacy to feed my habit, because knocking over a middle school nurse would be a much easier target and in many schools would gain me a wider selection and bigger inventory of psychotropic drugs than many drug stores.