How to talk about drugs without scaring kids

Published 11:10 pm Sunday, July 3, 2011

Column: Maryanne Law, Families First

Question: I want effective ways to tell my kids the truth about drugs without using scare tactics. Any ideas?

Answer: Scare tactics are exaggerations. Here are truthful activities and information you can share with your kids that should lead to some useful conversations:

Maryanne Law

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• A common result of tobacco addiction is emphysema, a disease of the lungs, which makes breathing extremely difficult. Try breathing through a stir straw, which has a very narrow opening, while holding your nose for two minutes. You will probably want to quit after one minute. People with emphysema can’t quit. They are fighting for air minute after minute. Tobacco robs people of their lung power.

• Marijuana steals your short-term memory. Play some memory games, like repeating number sequences that get longer with each try, or repeating everyone’s middle name at a family gathering. Somebody on marijuana wouldn’t be able to do it. Grades drop when kids start using pot because you need your short-term memory to function well in school.

• Crack a raw egg into a clear glass. Add three tablespoons of alcohol. The egg will cook in front of your eyes. Alcohol can have the same effect on an unborn baby when the mother drinks, causing birth defects. The alcohol is drying the liquid out of the egg, dehydrating it. Alcohol has the same dehydrating effect on the cells in the body, causing damage. It’s the reason people get hangovers from drinking alcohol and the reason internal organs, like the liver, are destroyed.

• It’s a fact that sitting in a smoky room for two hours causes the same lung damage as smoking four cigarettes.

• It’s a fact that one joint of marijuana is 10 times more cancer-producing than one cigarette.

• It’s a fact that alcohol is hard for the body to break down and get rid of (metabolize), especially if you are under 25 years of age. If you pass out on your back and vomit, you will probably choke to death, because you will be too intoxicated to turn your head.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-0528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out

Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.