St Bede #4

I spent Monday at St Bede’s. Here is what we talked about:

4th Grade – A Different Slant on Tobacco

joe dimaggio ad_camels_420405_halfI spoke with the 4th graders about the difference between facts and opinions, and the difference between reporting and advertising. We read a couple of stories together as a class; the first was about a fictional report about a new advertising campaign from a tobacco company, and the second was a fictional report from doctors about the negative consequences of using chewing tobacco. We talked about why its important to be able to value opinions differently; is an advertisement telling us the whole truth or just saying the “good stuff”? Why should we value a doctors opinion on health over the opinions of a tobacco advertisement?

Also, as entertainment, advertising and news seem to be merging more and more every year, its important that our kids learn to decipher facts from opinions in all the media they are taking in. Why should we value an experts opinion more than a blog entry? What should hold more weight: the recommendation of your family doctor, or the entry you just read on WebMD? Its great to be informed, but an article we read on the internet probably shouldn’t trump the expertise of someone that has spent years studying the issue in question.

5th Grade – Keep Off the Grass


After asking the kids what they already knew about marijuana (they had all heard of it, but there were a lot of misconceptions about what it actually is: a plant that contains the drug THC), we watched some clips from a video called “The Marijuana Files”. The video discusses the ongoing studies into the permanent negative effects of THC on the brains of kids. The show follows two teenage hosts that travel across the country to interview researchers. While we watched the video, the kids filled in a handout that points out the effects of THC on the heart, lungs and brain.

I think its important to talk to the kids about marijuana in depth at least once a year, and each presentation builds on the material from the previous year. I emphasized to the kids that no matter what the laws are for adults (they are continually changing), drugs like THC, alcohol and nicotine have been and always will be against the rules for kids. But every kid knows they are not allowed to have it, so I want to spend the time I have in class talking to them about how using these drugs at a young age can not only be dangerous in the present but also damage their future. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

6th Grade – THC Part 2

This time in the 6th grade, we finished our discussion about THC. :

  • Marijuana is not a vitamin or a health food.
  • Marijuana is a plant that contains the hallucinogenic drug THC.
  • THC makes your heart beat faster and disrupts balance, vision, coordination and reaction time.
  • THC makes it hard to recall information and negatively impacts learning.
  • Kids that use THC may permanently lower their intelligence.
  • THC can be just as addictive as any of the other recreational drug.
  • Abusing THC can trigger mental illness.
  • Smoking/vaping marijuana is just as bad for your lungs as smoking/vaping anything else.

A lot of the kids had questions about drugs in general and things that they had heard from the news and their peers recently, so I spent the last part of the class just answering questions. I always go back to one basic principle: drugs are not good or bad. Drugs are just inanimate chemicals that affect our minds and bodies in a variety of ways. The good or bad comes from why a person chooses to use a drug. The laws and attitudes surrounding drugs are constantly changing, but every time a person uses a drug for any reason there is a risk involved. Especially for kids that are still growing and developing, the only time they should be using a drug is with the approval of their parents and/or under the care of a doctor. Any drug use outside of that is something they should not be doing.

As I wrote in the last entry, I think its important to talk to the kids about marijuana in depth at least once a year, and you can see how each presentation builds on the material from the previous year.If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at

7th Grade – Rx Drugs

Evernote Camera Roll 20141104 093816
These are prescription drugs confiscated in the arrest of a drug dealer in Malibu, CA.

During my visit with the 7th grade, I talked about prescription drugs and prescription drug abuse. We live in a culture where all sorts of pills are available to any person that asks for them, and many of our homes are filled with all sorts of medications that could be dangerous if used improperly.

Its important that kids understand that improperly using prescription drugs is every bit as dangerous as using any of the illegal street drugs out there. The difference between prescription painkillers (opiates like Oxycontin, Fentanyl and Vicodin) and illegal drugs like heroin is very slight. People that abuse prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are not dissimilar to someone abusing methamphetamine.
Our discussion takes place around a video that addresses prescription drug abuse. Here are some topics addressed in the video:
  • Medical experts identify the dangers of taking any medicines not specifically prescribed for you. They compare the abuse level to that of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, and note that this new addiction has evolved quite rapidly.
  • Prescription drugs are defined as drugs manufactured to treat an illness or pain that are prescribed by a doctor and used by a patient under a doctor’s care. The most commonly abused prescription drugs come from these categories:
    • Opiates (e.g., Vicodin®, Percocet®) are time-released drugs that block pain receptors in the brain. When crushed, they are as potent as heroin.
    • Benzodiazepines (e.g., sleep aids and anti-anxiety pills like Xanax® and Valium®): “The kids use it for any excuse… ‘I broke up with my boyfriend, I flunked a test… I think I’ll take a Xanax®,’” Narcotics Educator Thomas Janette says of the many reasons these drugs are taken and abused by teens. These drugs are dangerous enough abused on their own, and are downright deadly when combined with other drugs.
    • CNS Stimulants (e.g., Ritalin®) are used to combat narcolepsy and ADHD by stimulating the central nervous system (CNS), but can be abused in the same manner as methamphetamine and other illegal stimulants.
  • We discuss drug tolerance or how the sensation of the drug gradually weakens the more the drug is used. If they are addicted or abusing the drug (trying to get high), they need to increase the amount of the drug they use to get the feeling they want. As the amount increases, so does the danger of an overdose.
  • We discuss drug withdrawal, and how all drugs that people use to get high may potentially make them feel sick and/or depressed when they stop using the drug. The withdrawal discourages the drug user from quitting and motivates continued use.
  • We also talk about the danger of mixing drugs of any kind and how drug mixing can exponentially increase the danger of using drugs. We also talk about recent news stories about drug abuse.
  • I also talk to the kids about my experiences involving drug abuse during my time on patrol in Malibu, Calabasas, Agoura and Westlake Village.
During the discussion I repeatedly emphasize to the kids that drugs aren’t good or bad. Drugs are just inanimate chemicals that people use for a variety of reasons; the good and the bad of drugs comes from how and why the person is using them. Many of the prescription drugs out there today help heal and prolong lives, but if they are misused or abused they can destroy lives.
Click HERE for information about the video that we watched.

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