On the Grade 8 trip to Quebec, I’ve never seen so much focus on the consumption of sugar and power drinks. Many kids were deliberately ingesting large amounts of both, plus coffee, in order either get hyper or to stay awake. Ya, OK, kids have always been able to abuse sugar, but the effort this time around seemed to be rather deliberate and, in many cases, extreme. combine that with the effects of easy access to highly caffeinated energy drinks like Monster or Red Bull and you had a group of self medicated teenagers deliberately taking substances in order to produce specific results in their bodies or behaviors. It’s the intent that concerned me.
Self medication of older teenagers tends to shift to nicotine, alcohol and possibly other drugs. Any kind of self medication, but especially in teenagers, interferes with learning self control or self regulation. Again, it’s the immediate gratification problem. “If I want to feel a certain way, I just have to ingest a certain substance.” Sugar, coffee, power drinks, tobacco, alcohol, grass…
I know that the slippery slope argument is a little thin, but in this case I think that it applies. Adolescents are in the process of learning how to manage their behavior and their bodies. Having access to easy self medication is not going to encourage that learning and healthy adjustment.
And it is access which is in question here. Once again, I’m not blaming the kids. They are surrounded by these substances and are victims of the media campaigns. Once again, temptation is hard for anyone to deal with, but especially for teenagers. Instant gratification, whether it be with self medication or sex or communication or feelings of success (in carefully crafted video games), is hard to resist. And it is an inevitable and quickly emerging quality in our modern society. I’ve seen cases of good kids who have been placed in situations of untenable temptation, usually with disastrous results.
Having spent a life time as a teacher and youth group leader, I’ve seen a lot of kids. The changes I’ve seen in the past half decade or so are significant. And I’m not sure that they are all that positive. You can blame that on the “grumpy old man”, but people who know me well will probably say that I don’t really fit into that category.