Parents, be Wary of “Innocent” Drug Experimentation


Young people test the waters. It’s part of learning about the world. However, just like we don’t allow a baby to put just anything in its mouth, there are dangers to trying drugs that young people need to be aware of.  The world of illicit substance use is harsh and unforgiving. One of the current dangers, especially for young and inexperienced drug users, is that kids are often sold something that is not what they asked for. Marijuana might be laced with some undesired substance and very often, Ecstasy or LSD are not what was promised at all. These misrepresented drugs are taken innocently, with often disastrous results.


Take the case of Sam Motsay, recently highlighted by CNN in conjunction with his mother’s non-profit, Sam’s Watch. Sam, 16, was a junior in high school and all around well-liked and respected member of his community in Greenwood, Indiana. He and two of his friends decided to try what they thought was LSD, a drug they were told would not show up on the drug tests they randomly received as members of their school’s basketball team. They were young people looking for a new experience. But in reality the drug they received was an imitation of LSD, and the dose the three teens took was enough to kill Sam and injure his two friends.


This is not the first time a young person has died from taking a substance that was misrepresented. Sadly, every time someone purchases an illicit substance of any kind, they’re taking someone else’s word for exactly what is in the substance they’re about to ingest. With imitations flooding the streets and head shops, it is just a matter of time until more kids die.


How do we prevent these tragedies?


  1. We must think outside of the box and pioneer new, creative ways to educate tweens, teens, and young adults about the dangers of drug experimentation while being real about their desire to try new things and have new experiences.


  1. Promoting the message of “just say no” may feel like a safe option for parents and educators, but it is disingenuous to suggest that getting high doesn’t feel great. We have to be honest and upfront about the real risks and rewards of experimenting with drugs and alcohol.


  1. Sharing personal stories from the friends and family members of young people who died from taking misrepresented substances is an excellent way to humanize the stories of death and injury by substance abuse.


  1. Remember that kids are terrified of losing privileges, such as being able to play sports or get a college scholarship, and that pushes young people into choosing some of the most dangerous substances that “won’t show up on a drug test.”


  1. Provide alternative experiences. If young people are getting a kick out of rock climbing or saving up for a new car, they are less likely to make choices with what are to them, unforeseen consequences.


  1. Most important, be a person young people can talk to. If we don’t judge and are honest and open, we might be able to have important conversations and guide the young people in our lives into making positive choices.