It’s past midnight–do you know what drugs your kids are doing? | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022


That was one Sunday two weeks ago when I wished we had something else to talk about over family dinner. But no, it had to be drugs.

As we were about to go to late afternoon Mass, I read in our Inquirer WhatsApp and on Facebook that five concert-goers had died that day, and an FB post admonished parents to check on their children, who were at the #ForeverSummer concert, for any abnormal body signs, such as shortness of breath.

I had to ask my elder son, who covered the event with To Be You correspondents, if he was okay. “Yeah, Ma,” he said, “I got my own bottled water from 7-11 and you know I don’t drink.” (My two sons don’t even drink soft drinks, unlike the mom.)

When I told my younger son what happened in the concert, he said right away, “That could only be a mix of drugs, alcohol and this abnormal heat. You get dehydrated.”

Then he added, with some forcefulness, “Many of today’s kids can’t party without drugs.”

Why does my younger son call them “kids”? That’s because he’s already in his late 20s, and my older one in his early 30s— young adults who feel they have the right to call today’s kids “kids,” and who believe that they have somehow passed high school/college/late teen-hood, without having gone through drugs. The credit goes to the Blessed Virgin and prayers, not only to us, their parents.

My younger son’s job takes him to the urban night life and so he sees the landscape. His work entails that he knows alcohol consumption.

That Sunday dinner, the two couldn’t stop talking about drugs—to me, as if I was their ward who might go wayward.
One of the rewards of parenting is that moment when your children repeat to you the lessons and teachings you taught them—as if these were their own and as if you were hearing these for the first time. They now sound like their (occasional) nagging mom.


“You know what ecstasy does to you?” the younger son was asking me, as if I was about to take it myself. “It makes your heart palpitate faster, and in this heat, that could be fatal. Plus, drugs go well with electronic dance music (EDM)—its sounds and all.”

I must admit I didn’t know the latter information. Then they talked about how today’s kids have access to all kinds of party drugs.

Then why do they use pacifiers or chew gum, I asked. “To stop their teeth from gritting,” older son replied.

“You know what this generation lives by?” younger son asked, not really expecting a reply from mother. “Yolo!”

“Yo what?” I asked.

“You Only Live Once,” he said. “So they must try everything at least once, and they have the money for that.”

So that’s what the hashtag, that I’ve been seeing, means.

Then they talked about the incidence of drug use in this or that school, and began rating schools, according to students’ drug use, based on what they hear from friends.

And—younger son pointed out, that unlike in “your friends’ time” (referring to some of their tito), “today’s drugs are so synthetic, very bad chemicals they could kill  animals. In Tito xxxx (they named one of my friends), the drugs were obviously of better quality.”

It was my turn to steer the talk to what I’ve been meaning to ask, and which I believe other parents might be interested in—so why do you think you didn’t use drugs, I asked them.

Older son just uttered, “Ugh,” which I expected— nerdy and bullied, he really didn’t hang out in school with the “cool” guys who could have used drugs. And since he became a gym rat in his 20s, he’s grown up to be health- and diet-conscious. (Perhaps it helped that when he was a kid, I never introduced him to soft drinks or junk food.)

“Remember you had me drug-tested in high school, after you found a stash of weed on my table,” younger son reminded me. I did? In fact, I had almost forgotten about that, because he tested negative (“jutes,” what did you expect?). But  what I do remember is the look of hurt in his eyes then as I dragged him to the medic for testing, as if to say, I didn’t trust him; I didn’t.

Every parent’s nightmare

So how come they didn’t use drugs? “It fries your brain,”  younger son said. “Ma, you and your friends would tell us that nonstop, even when we were in Grade 1. And you would point out to us your friends  with facial defects because of drugs and it scared us to death. But I did alcohol with friends.”

(That’s also true—I used a few friends as poster boys for bad drugs. Sometimes I made up scary stories. May those friends forgive me.)

Every parent’s nightmare is to lose a child to drugs—an addiction that seems harmless and controllable at first. When my sons  were kids, I knew that words could do only so much. Kids don’t necessarily do what they’re told.

“And sports, don’t forget,”  younger son said.

Hmm, they’ve discovered our formula. Even before my kids could finish preschool, we introduced them to sports— swimming, until the older one became a varsity swimmer in college. (My one regret to this day is that I was too busy to bring him to competitions or to push him further even as his coach, Anthony Lozada, said he was a good competitive swimmer.)

What parents couldn’t teach with words (because they won’t listen anyway), sports can. Sports taught my sons discipline—an internal check and balance—so that they could face the rigors of competition.

My older son learned how to be up before 5 in the morning, every day, so he could  train. To this day, he doesn’t oversleep.

Since their growing up years, they’ve followed a very strict gym regimen—they go even during holidays and listen more to their gym instructors than to their mom, obviously.

But I’m good with that—at least they’re exposed to or are influenced by people who aren’t only health-conscious and disciplined, but who also show utmost respect for one’s body.

My younger son competes in mixed-martial arts, or used to (I wish, past tense), and that requires stringent self-regulatory measures.

Allow me to suggest what parents can do to steer their kids away from drugs:

  • Sports. Sign them up for at least one type of sports. It teaches your kid what you as parents can only do so much with words. The sense of competition pushes kids to develop standards for themselves. It makes them know, respect and nurture their body and mind. This is apart from academics. It keeps them busy.
  • Right people. Sports usually exposes kids to people who are driven, with a sense of purpose and discipline, and have goals and standards to meet. At whatever age, children should have the right company.
  • Learn to say “No!” Partying is fun, but remind your kid that fun must have its limits. I’m sure some drug-use fatalities just wanted to have more fun. These days, parties and drugs go together. Drug use, to these kids, isn’t really addiction; it’s just blending with the scene. And everyone wants to blend with the scene.
  • It’s okay not to blend with the scene. Just tell your kid: It’s ok not to blend. Life later on will be much more interesting. But in the meantime, just say, “No!”
  • Respect your body. It’s the only one you’ve got. Tell your kid so he/she will not allow anyone to mess with it.
  • Should you try drugs or alcohol with them, so that at least they’re under your wing, and they won’t die of curiosity? I know a father or two who believes so. Wine or beer, yes, you can initiate them. But I believe one must draw the line with drugs. Drug use is nonnegotiable. Curious? Nobody dies of curiosity, but people die of drugs.
  • Be there always. I wish there was another way to parent, but really, there’s none.

Follow the author on Twitter @ThelmaSSanJuan and Instagram @thelmasiosonsanjuan

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