Gaming High

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 10, 2009

Filed under: Rants 83 comments

I don’t mind anti-drug messages in theory, although for the bulk of my life the anti-drug messages aimed at teens have been mostly incompetent and occasionally offensive. The awful 80’s and 90’s cartoons where Saturday morning characters would gather to warn kids that drugs were a great big monster was the most clumsy and obvious form of propaganda. Even in my early teens I could see that these spots were designed to scare, not inform. (Although I’m sure I wouldn’t have described it that way.) They were so bad that I wouldn’t be surprised if they made the problem worse.

Portraying drugs as a giant slobbering monster trying to eat the Ninja Turtles (yes there was really a special along those lines) doesn’t really give a kid any sort of knowledge or context they can use when the moment comes. When their chance to say no to drugs rolls around, it won’t be a huge flesh-eating monster. It won’t be Satan beckoning from an alley, or even a strange kid offering friendship in exchange for you doing some of his drugs. (Hint: People don’t go around offering their expensive and illegal drugs to strangers.) These images were far more illustrative of how adults viewed the world of teenage drugs. Which is to say: At a great distance and with not much clarity. No, when a teenager is offered drugs it’s usually by a perfectly normal friend. He’s there. He’s your friend and you’ve known him for years. He helped you out that one time someone swiped your pants out of your locker in gym class. He looks like he’s having a good time, and he wants you to have a good time too. If those cartoons were so far off about what drugs looked like, then maybe they were also wrong about drugs being bad for you in the first place. He’s not turned into a mindless flesh-eating zombie like the cartoon said he would be, anyway.

But the big problem with teenagers is that they have terrible long-term risk assessment, and to them anything further than a month away is “long term”. I agree that it’s really important to equip kids so that they can make wise decisions, but you can’t teach with lies, even if they’re well-intentioned lies aimed at keeping kids out of danger. Part of the problem is the way anti-drug ads talk about smoking weed, but then point towards the effects of (say) heroin. I understand the concept of gateway drugs, but the chain of bad decisions that leads from lowering your inhibitions via smoke or alcohol to trying and becoming addicted to hard drugs to a life of ruin is a little too complicated for a twenty-second spot, and shortening it to, “Weed will turn you into a crackwhore” is obviously false in a way that will cause the audience to tune you out.

But the recent Above the Influence ads are taking a different approach: They warn kids that smoking pot will make them terrible gamers. These really bugged me when I first saw them, although for different reasons than those awful 80’s anti-drug cartoons which, now that I think of it, are probably really funny to watch when you’re high.

For context: I’ve never been high in my life. I’ve known several people who smoked weed. Some short-term. Some did it for years. One kid I grew up with (let’s call him “Mark”) is the classic burnout. He was energetic and a bit intense at 15, and now at 35 he’s an addled, stammering loser who lives alone and maintains the bare minimum of a job to sustain his habit. Years of smoke have given him the permanent stoner face – that squinty-eyed befuddlement of someone who just woke up and can’t remember what day it is. Drugs did not ruin his life – he ruined his life with drugs. I’ve known of other people that smoked for years and managed to live a more or less norm[a]l life. As with alcohol, it’s a risk that’s hard for the fifteen year old to evaluate.

A screenshot from the ad. This is how all gamers drink:  I stare piercingly into the bottom of my undersized can as it floats in my open hand, and then I pour it down the front of my ninja mask.
A screenshot from the ad. This is how all gamers drink: I stare piercingly into the bottom of my undersized can as it floats in my open hand, and then I pour it down the front of my ninja mask.
But getting back to the the Above the Influence ad. I don’t like it for several reasons:

  1. It makes it sound like these kids only like their friend because of his (now impaired) skill at videogames. They’re not concerned that their friend is putting himself in danger. They’re upset that he’s not pulling his weight on their raid into Karazhan or whatever. What the hell kind of friends are these? I don’t want my kid doing drugs. I also wouldn’t want my kid making friends with these idiots. Smoking weed aside – this sells the notion that people aren’t good playmates unless they’re awesome at playing. One character says, “I used to have a good time playing with Lyle. We made a good team.” So… you don’t have fun with people that don’t meet your skill prerequisites? I think you’re gaming for the wrong reasons.
  2. Like my examples above, it’s likely to ring false for many gamers. You run into baked players all the time online. Not in high-speed twitch games, but in the slower-paced stuff. MMO games in particular seem to have more than their share of players named “Megatoker” and “Captain420”. I’ve played with people that were high. They might not have brought their a-game, but they weren’t a massive liability, either. Playing while high is probably not unlike playing while making dinner and settling fights between the kids, performance-wise. Once again, teenagers are not stupid. They will see that you were wrong about weed making you suck at videogames, and will file the rest of your advice under “stupid crap adults said to me when they didn’t know what they were talking about.” And it’s really important they not do that, because they need that knowledge before they do something dangerous.
  3. What is up with those visuals? If you’re going after the teenage gamer crowd, then using footage that looks like (bad) mid-90’s prerendered jRPG cutscenes is not the way to go. These kids were in diapers when that stuff came out.
  4. It’s so obviously fake. If you want to talk to these kids, then log the crap in for an evening and figure out what they’re doing before you pretend you have some insight on the subject. These characters do not talk like gamers. If you talk about headshots, or rushing, or DPS, or grinding, or something that conveys a basic familiarity with gamer culture it will go a long way to getting them to listen. Before you start writing dialog, ask yourself if you would survive an eight second conversation with one of the people you’re trying to talk to:

    sup. LFG?

    Hello. I enjoy this game. I have been playing a long time. I'm good at it because I don't do drugs.

    O rly? What's your fav class?

    Um. Shooting?

    Your fav character class is shooting?



Just so nobody accuses me of – I dunno – being “pro teenage drug use” or something insane, I offer my own anti-drug message that I’d aim at young gamers if I thought they were interested in what I have to say:

I’m sure being high is lots of fun. Plenty of people have said so. But playing WoW is also fun. So is Quake World. It’s also cheaper and less of a threat to your lifestyle in the future. It’s easy to say no, and there’s nothing to lose. It might not feel like it, but stuff you do now can still have an impact – for good or for ill – on your life twenty years from now.

Nobody has ever looked back on their teenage years and thought, “Oh, if only I’d tried drugs as a teenager!” I certainly haven’t. My friend Mark – assuming he’s still capable of introspection – has something to regret every single day he wakes up alone and poor. Not everyone winds up like Mark, but some people do. It’s not worth the risk, the expense, or the hassle. You won’t miss it.

I don’t know if that message would do any better at influencing kids, but it doesn’t look like the intro to a Playstation One game that failed quality control and it doesn’t portray the “cool gamers” as vapid skillbots with no concept of fun or friendship.

And most importantly, it’s the truth.


From The Archives:

83 thoughts on “Gaming High

  1. Eric says:

    I saw this ad a couple of days ago and went WOW!!!! They are just a bunch of fear mongerers.

  2. chabuhi says:

    I don’t advocate drug use, but neither can I preach from a spotless pulpit.

    That said: you should check out Spiderman vs. The Weed.

    Your state of mind whilst viewing said episode is entirely your own choice and responsibility.

    Just Say No … not right now … maybe later. Oh, shit! Was that the garage door?? Dude – you gotta take this shit and bail over the fence. But don’t go more than three houses – there’s a Rottweiler at the fourth house … or maybe it is the third.

  3. Mike says:

    I’m afraid I don’t have anything particularly constructive to add to this, but I would like to say “Well said.”

  4. wererogue says:

    I almost missed the same point I think you missed in those ads: I’m pretty sure the characters are supposed to be MMO player characters. That’s why they’re injured and pissed off, because their player suddenly got crap.

    It’s a better campaign than a lot of anti-drug campaigns, because it’s actually based on a pseudo-reasonable point. It’s still not actually good though, and does come off as pretty out-of-touch.

  5. Sven says:

    I agree that drugs don’t ruin people’s lives, people ruin their lives with drugs. Very well put.

    I feel the same can be said about any relationship between violent video games and real life violence. People are quick to blame Grand Theft Auto, but I believe that kids who are going to act out violently are prone to that no matter what they find to inspire them. If it wasn’t video games it would have been something else, but no matter what they are going to find a way to act out.

    I’ve been known to engage in the occasional recreational herb and alcohol myself. I’ve also educated myself and maintain a career in a challenging field. Based on my own perspective I believe it is possible to responsibly use certain chemicals in moderation. Irresponsible people are going to have a hard time with drugs and alcohol, but irresponsible people are going to have a hard time with life no matter what excuse they find to screw it up.

    And I, for one, really suck at video games when I’m under the influence of any mind altering substance. I can still play the drums in Rock Band pretty good, though.

  6. Yan Bao Qin says:

    So say we all.

  7. Karizma says:

    Yes. Yes yes yes.

    Teens have poor judgment (backed by the fact that the part of the brain devoted to decision-making is not fully developed until the 20s, according to my psychologist). They don’t need to be tricked into drug aversion, but explained why it’s important.

    As you said, when I was asked to smoke pot, it was from a friend. He wanted to smoke pot with me because he thought we’d have a good time. I said no on the following basis: 1) It’s illegal (So is pirating that one Rock Band song stuck in my head, but when there’s a screen blocking you and reality, laws in the real-world mean little) 2) It would disappoint my parents.

    Anti-Drug campaigns are pretty poorly designed, similarly to the policy on sexual education (I wrote up a paragraph ranting about how shitty it is in Texas, but I decided to stay relatively on topic). Fear works up until someone decides to be brave. You don’t make a single Fear check on Intelligence or Wisdom, last I recall. But if you equip kids with the knowledge, the smart ones can use it to rationalize out.

  8. Benjamin O says:


    The real problem is that these things are ALWAYS written not by gamers but by marketers then SANITIZED by some corporate puke who doesn’t know ANYTHING about games then run by lawyers for stuff that will get them in legal trouble. By the time they are done it could have started with an awesome looking and respectable script that is right on target, and ends up being very screwy just to get out to the public.

    You want my take? Make the entire thing actual footage from a raid in WOW or wherever, get permission from Blizzard, and then let one clan get absolutely plastered while they are doing the raid. Show how their performance degrades. Make it real. Show the kids.

    Then present some facts: kids respond well to facts–better than most adults think. They just need to have them wrapped up in a story so that they remember them, and they can’t think that the entire thing is socially backwards. You have to make it more cool to avoid drugs than to take drugs.

    Which is where the entire series in question is pushing. Their facts and such may be a little off, but the real message is that if you take drugs you won’t be as socially acceptable to your friends, even if it seems like it at first. Of course, I’m not convinced that the WAY they are going about this is the best way, but I understand the goal–and it is the right way to reduce drug use. You have to change teenage culture and attitudes regarding drug use, and that starts with making them think that using drugs is going to result in social rejection as opposed to social acceptance.

  9. Oleyo says:

    I don’t think that these are supposed to be his gaming buddies. I think they are supposed to be various Game Characters controlled by the Teen-in-Question. They are all battered for being poorly handled by the gamer, rather than his actual gaming buddy’s toons lamenting his failures. At least that how It appeared to me.

    You’re point is still valid though. I find the no-smoking commercials particularly offensive in their embarrassing portrayal of ‘hip teens’ being all ‘whacky and outlandish’ like the ‘young folk are these days’

    I agree with you, teens have probably the most specific and fast moving target for fashionable behavior of any culture group. Don’t even try to be ‘in’, since if (when) you fail it just drives your audience away. No teen would want to be associated with the ones portrayed in most PS ads.

    You’re better off just presenting the facts.

  10. ima420r says:

    I must agree with you fully. Some smokers can lead good, productive lives and some just don’t. It’s not the drugs, it’s the choices made in life. Most anti-drug propaganda is pretty bad and probably does more harm than good.

  11. Dys says:

    Never been tempted myself. Not by weed at least. But I know people who smoke heavily, and have for a long time. They haven’t screwed up their lives any worse than I have. I suspect the correlation is closer to ‘people who screw up their lives take drugs’ than the other way around.

    The gateway drug myth is exactly that. Again, there may be some truth that anyone who caves to pressure with weed is likely to do the same with anything else, but there’s no reason to believe one leads to the other.

    The effects are always misstated as well, if there are sufficient medical benefits for weed to be a prescription drug why are none of those ever mentioned?

    The final truth is that it’s a personal decision for everyone, and scaring people away is a deeply flawed way to convince anyone that recreational drugs are not for them.

    Informed decision making ftw.

  12. chuko says:

    I'm sure playing WoW is lots of fun. Plenty of people have said so. But getting high is also fun, and it’s cheaper and potentially less of a time sink. It's easy to say no to WoW, and there's nothing to lose. It might not feel like it, but stuff you do now can still have an impact – for good or for ill – on your life twenty years from now.

    Nobody has ever looked back on their teenage years and thought, “Oh, if only I'd spent more time playing MMORPGs as a teenager!” I certainly haven't. My friend Doug has something to regret every single day he wakes up alone and poor. Not everyone winds up a total loser like Doug, but some people do. It's not worth the risk, the expense, or the time. You won't miss WoW.

  13. MuonDecay says:

    This is a really very important discussion for adults to be having about drug education. It’s also horribly complicated. You could build a PhD on this subject alone.

    First, I will preface it by saying that if you’re going to criticise the tactics used by AboveTheInfluence, you’re wasting your breath. They’re not going to change tactics. Their MO is set and they’re committed to sticking to it.

    That being out of the way, I really do believe you’re right, and I’m young enough (21) to have been targeted by this generation of anti-drug PSAs and education when I was still in high school, so I would know.

    The problems you see are pretty much precisely right. The education effort fails on several important levels. The most serious level is that in numerous instances, the people who were claiming to teach us about drugs were deliberately and knowingly lying about the facts. They were circulating materials based upon scientific studies which were retracted due to grievous errors in process, or asserting claims without justification which outright sounded absurd. To me this particular point is the most damaging and the most incompetent. If people figure out that you’re lying to them to keep them away from drugs, you poison every word you say to them whether it was useful information or not.

    Beyond that, even the honest instructors did not provide what felt like an education. By the time I was in middle-school and received the second of three rounds of formal in-class drug education I was mentally mature enough to be aware that in all my other classes I was being educated, and in my drug-oriented lessons I was being subjected to propaganda. This breeds curiosity and distrust in equal measure.

    With me, it caused curiosity. I wasn’t satisfied with what I was told, and soon I had friends with experience with drugs to confer with to learn a little more, and soon after that I discovered that there are actually several academically respectable places on the internet to give yourself a real education about drugs. So I talked with people, and I researched, and I ignored the ill-educated mouthpieces who spouted rhetoric at me and whom, before long, had less of an education about drugs to speak from than I did.

    That was a critical turning point. At some point it became clear that with my curiosity and a modest amount of research I had superceded the education my instructors possessed on the subject. 1 out of 3 things they said was wrong and I knew precisely why as well as what the actual fact was. By this point, a student is beyond all hope. They aren’t going to even attempt to listen to you. They feel superior because they know more than you do. They may not have the real-world experiences to put their factual knowledge into context, but because of the approach of the program that no longer matters and your experience should you have it is no longer possible to impress on them.

    Myself, I went on to dabble in several drugs, and I did it responsibly. I smoked pot on the weekends occasionally when I was alone and didn’t have homework. I drank at parties in moderation. I learned how to manufacture and cautiously experiment in psychedelics. I remembered to place a low priority on experiencing these things, and a high priority on making sure they didn’t interfere with adult responsibilities. I avoided the pitfalls of drug use because I rejected the standard education and, in contrast to what the majority of those who reject it do, I went on to thoroughly educate myself and make the right decisions.

    I am an exception, here. Most people who wind up rejecting this education end up saying “fuck it, I’m gonna have fun”, and they slip up a lot while they’re messing around with drugs and drinking. They don’t always end up badly, many don’t, but almost all of them make mistakes that get them into bad situations that they regret.

    Because this education is so heavily oriented around manipulating people whom educators fail to understand and assume intellectual superiority to, many of them are directly pushed TOWARDS drug abuse. I cannot emphasize this enough. This approach to drug education is holding the goddamned gun backwards. It pushes people into making bad decisions.

    In grade school, you know, I would go ahead and be simplistic about it and just caution kids that they need to avoid drug use because it can lead to health problems, or mess up their lives… but once kids are out of grade school you need to teach them like you teach an adult. Treat them with respect and give them facts about drugs, make them feel like you’re helping them understand the reality of the matter. Temper the understanding of drugs with explanations of how you can go wrong with them, anecdotes of people who made bad choices and got burned. Make them feel like you respect them and want to help them, instead of making them feel like you’re lecturing them and manipulating them to force them to avoid a societal taboo.

    And one last thing. AboveTheInfluence folks… you know, kids in my generation grew up surrounded by role models, PSAs, and DRUG EDUCATION MATERIALS telling us to stand up to peer pressure and not let our opinions be swayed by what other people think. The last thing you poor sods should be doing is attempting to become the biggest hypocrites young people have ever seen by trying to exploit peer pressure to push people away from drugs. Your colleagues spent years doing what essentially amounts to -teaching kids to ignore the methods you are relying upon-.

  14. chuko says:

    Just kidding, Shamus. Actually, I pretty much agree with you. Disinformation and scaremongering never help anybody.

  15. LexIcon says:

    I’ve tried recreational substances, and then quit them. Then, six months later, managed to get myself fired for unrelated reasons and rack up a bunch of debt and emotional baggage.

    Drugs have very little to do with screwing up your life, trust me.

    Now as for gaming high, I’ve not done much but I can definitely say no substance made me noticeably worse at gaming than I already am. Perhaps if I were one of the professional gamers it would have made an impact, but the average person isn’t going to see a notable drop in his kill/death ratio or anything.

    In this economy, perhaps the best anti-drug ad would focus on how expensive even a pack of cigarettes can be these days, not to mention illegal substances. Habits like that add up really fast, and I’d rather have the money I spent back then in hand then vague memories of being high.

    Just my 2cents.

  16. mithmurr says:

    Just show the kids a video of Leeroy Jenkins, and say that that is what drugs will do to you.

  17. K says:

    Nobody has ever looked back on their teenage years and thought, “Oh, if only I'd tried drugs as a teenager!”

    Now that looks like a good sentence to me.

  18. Sydney says:

    Drugs did not ruin his life – he ruined his life with drugs.

    Fantastic. I’ve been trying for three years to find a way to phrase this exact sentiment.

  19. radio_babylon says:

    im not sure where i stand on this. its really hard for me to say that all the anti-drug stuff is even necessary. personally, i did drugs like crazy in my youth. i mean, all of them (including drinking heavily, but not barbituates, those had pretty well vanished from the drug landscape at the time though id almost certainly have done those too if theyd been available). i also graduated from high school with lots of AP credits, and received a college degree. all while being almost constantly chemically f’ed up in one way or another. then at 22 i decided, ok, its time to get on with my life, and i never touched another drug (barring the occasional joint, maybe 5 in the last 15 years). got married, bought a house, done ok. so its really hard for me to get on board with the “OMG DRUGS ARE HORRIBLE AND WILL DESTROY YOUR LIFE FOREVER!!” message, because it just isnt true. it MAY or MAY NOT be true for any given person, and considering that, i dont think its the drugs that are the problem; the PERSON has problems. and odds are, the people who WOULD be destroyed by drugs will probably destroy themselves in some other way even if they never touch drugs or alcohol, because of whatever it is in them that makes them the kind of person who cant keep their shit together when using.

    in short, if you are holding down a job (or doing well in classes or whatever) and keeping things on a mostly even keel, then i dont care what drugs youre doing or how much or how often… you DO NOT have a drug problem. a habit, maybe, but not a problem. and not every drug user by a long shot has a problem.

    although ill agree that anti-drug propaganda to date has been at best hilariously wrong and at worst absolutely insulting to anyone with two brain cells to rub together.

  20. briatx says:

    You want my take? Make the entire thing actual footage from a raid in WOW or wherever, get permission from Blizzard, and then let one clan get absolutely plastered while they are doing the raid. Show how their performance degrades. Make it real. Show the kids.

    The problem with that is that the drunk / high guild that is progressing slowly will still probably be having a great time. Now if you’re the one stoned person in a group of sober, hardcore raiders, you’re going to have (and be) a problem. But you’ll also be frustrated if you’re the one sober person in an inebriated group that just wants to mess around.

    If people want to keep kids from smoking weed they should focus on the actual risks involved.

    1) Smoking of any kind carries negative health consequences that are exacerbated by starting young.

    2) For better or worse, marijuana is illegal and a conviction for possession will follow you in a truly obnoxious way.

    Any pitch that starts with the assumption that kids can’t make a decision based on the real costs and benefits involved will fail. They can tell that you’re trying to manipulate them.

    And I don’t think teens are incapable of understanding the long term consequences of drug use, it’s just that the real consequences (employment drug tests, possible criminal record affecting college financial aid, increased risk of asthma ) are never emphasized. Instead, “educators” act like smoking a joint will make you never want to leave the house or will drive you to do heroin. Kids aren’t idiots, they’re just being treated like idiots.

  21. mc says:

    Nobody has ever looked back on their teenage years and thought, “Oh, if only I'd tried drugs as a teenager!”

    I have, essentially. I missed out on most of the high school experience. What’s high school without bad pot and shallow, clingy relationships?

  22. CobraCmdr says:

    As Shamus said, I think that for most teens the dangers involved in doing drugs are less about them becoming addicts and more about the potential long term consequences that they fail to understand, like potentially getting arrested or not being able to pass a background check required for certain careers. I don’t think using drugs will single handidly ruin your life, but they certainly don’t help.

    Teen drugs use is similar to teen’s having sex. Being promiscuous won’t necesarily ruin your life, but it can have long term consequences that most young (and some older) people don’t think about and aren’t respondsible enough to handle.

    Instead of simply telling teens not to do “bad” things, it’s better to emphasize respondsibility and how making bad decisions can get in the way of your dreams.

  23. Jimmy says:

    @Sven I mostly agree with you, but I feel the need to chip in.

    You said, “Irresponsible people are going to have a hard time with drugs and alcohol, but irresponsible people are going to have a hard time with life no matter what excuse they find to screw it up.”

    This is mostly true. The difference with drugs and alcohol is that, once you’re addicted it becomes a lot harder to put your life back together. I’m 28 years old and I was a pretty irresponsible person myself up until a few years ago. I used to be an unemployed slacker, but now I’m a responsible person who makes an good living. If I used drugs (even alcohol or pot) habitually it would be a very different story.

    In summary, irresponsible people can learn to be responsible. But irresponsible people who take drugs are far more likely to get addicted and that makes it much harder for them to turn their lives around.

  24. Picador says:

    Nobody has ever looked back on their teenage years and thought, “Oh, if only I'd tried drugs as a teenager!”

    I can guarantee you that this is not true. I’ve heard slight variations on that sentiment expressed to me more times than I can remember, usually by young or middle-aged professionals who regret not “partying more”, “having more fun”, “being more irresponsible”, “trying more stupid stuff”, “getting laid more”, and so on as a teenager. For people who are in positions of authority or responsibility by their late 20s, the window of opportunity for experimentation like this is gone, and almost all of them regret not having indulged more when they had a chance.

    The fact is that being a nerd who turns into a tool is not significantly less tragic than being a burnout, at least not unambiguously so. Lots of people use drugs and enjoy them, in spite of the risks. Personally, I don’t even smoke marijuana anymore (my past use was highly infrequent, and I’m extremely risk-averse), but I know lots of people who use it and other drugs and seem to be doing just fine. I also know people who have used drugs (especially alcohol) to, as Shamus says, mess up their lives.

    Sorry, just needed to inject a little perspective into the conversation, which seem to be shaping up to be a polite, tolerant, more reasonable rewording of the anti-drug propaganda we’ve all been swimming in since 1980.

  25. Scourge says:

    Years of smoke have given him the permanent stoner face – that squinty-eyed befuddlement of someone who just woke up and can't remember what day it is.

    I got the look too.. and I am not even doing any drugs. Shame on me.

    Top the topic: Why do I imagine the gears of war characters and some anti steroid commercial?

    The only time I did drugs , this really sounds bad so let me rephrase that. There was only one time I was drunk and played a game, it was a shooter and everything seemed sort of slow, like slow motion. It was fun, but grew boring and the colours that were flashing about hurt, so I stopped.

    And seriously, what sort of ad is that? Quite innefective I say, even if I would feel compelled to listen to this crap would I not hold it for anything valid.
    That reminds me though, playing Immortal Defense and smoking weed sure must give some weird images and make people freak out.

  26. There is some real cognitive dissonance (dare I say – hypocracy?) going on in our culture regarding drug usage.

    I can’t turn on the television without seeing an advertisement for my restless legs, clogged arteries, or enlarged prostate, and how the latest and greatest pill will cure everything that ails me. All I need to do is ask my doctor.

    (And don’t get me started on those ‘male enhancement’ drugs. Men over 40 get drugs to improve their sex life, while women over 40 continue to die every day of breast cancer.)

    How can we explain to children that they should refrain from recreational drug use when they see adults popping pills like they’re candy?


  27. nilus says:

    Are those avatars suppose to be friends that play with the pot heads or the pot heads characters. Because if the anti-pot nazis are trying to tell kids that if they smoke pot there characters will get hurt and hate them. Well then the kids that listen have more problems then smoking up.

    I never understood the all out attack on pot. I always here its a gateway drug and other crap but aren’t cigarettes and booze. If you have an addictive personality you are gonna find your drug of choice, its just human nature. I’ve smoked pot a few times and found the sensation interesting but never became a pot head, just like a lot of people. Really all the money going to fight Pot could be better spent stopping Meth labs and crack distributors.

  28. Maldeus says:

    Presumably you get the adults to stop popping pills to help their sex life. My take on this has always been that if you want to rewrite society, rewrite it all, cigarettes, alcohol, and other unfriendly chemicals included. If you want to ban weed, ban everything that isn’t medicinal.

  29. I think you missed the point of the abovetheinfluence videos completely! Those are *characters* speaking, not *players*. That’s why the are in casts. They are complaining about how their players started getting high, and the impaired performance resulted in their injury.

    As far as your anti-drug message, I wouldn’t be so quick to say WoW is worse than pot. Plenty of people use both, and plenty of people abuse both. A WoW addict wastes just as much time as a total stoner, but less money. But a light WoW user actually spends more money than a light marijuana user, since WoW has a minimum cost over time and pot doesn’t. If you only smoke a couple times a week and buy by the eighth ounce, for example, you can easily get by for well under $10/mo, with the added benefit that you spend most of your time completely lucid.

    So I would say that the ideal message is not even necessarily to avoid pot, because you can’t go through life simply not trying anything that you might get hooked on. The important thing to teach is moderation and self-control. Somebody who learns those lessons can toke the ganja on occasion and still be better off than a straight-shooter who never messed around with illegal substances and then got addicted to WoW. While this isn’t a recommendation or anything, I have to say, I don’t think there’s any reason to encourage people not to try things.

    This doesn’t go for all drugs, though. Plenty of them are physically addictive, which means self-control won’t necessarily help you. Steer clear!

    By the way, I can confirm that those videos are incredibly entertaining while high.

  30. Lupis42 says:

    An interesting juxtaposition occurs to me: In public school, I encountered two kinds of drug related messages: anecdotes, and propoganda. The propaganda engendered curiousity, and rebelliousness, because obviously (to my teenage mind) if I was smart enough to spot the propaganda, than I was smarter than they were and the things they said didn’t apply to me. The only thing that prevented me from trying drugs is an analogy my father had presented me with much earlier. It goes like this “Drugs are a scam. You get some, and it feels really good, and you like it, and it doesn’t take much. Next time, it takes a little more, costs a little more, and doesn’t feel quite as good, but you still like it, so you try again, and your dealer makes a little more money. After a while, you’re having to use a ton of the stuff, it costs a fortune, and you’re barely getting anything out of it. That’s how they get you.” It appealed to the same sense of teenage superiority that the propaganda did, but in the opposite way, not “You’re too dumb to understand, do what we say”, but “You’re too smart to want to fall for something that is so obviously for suckers”. It didn’t work for ever, but I at least did my experimenting at an older age, with more information available, and a much better grasp of what was and was not safe/worth the risk. I’m pretty sure I haven’t fucked up my life, though that’s always been a matter of perspective. Still, the “Don’t be stupid” message is also helpful because it applies to so many more things than just drugs…

  31. ydant says:

    Regarding your anti-drug message, I have equal number of anecdotes (one each) of friends stagnating their lives from drug use and from World of Warcraft (MMO) use.

    They didn’t call it “Evercrack” for nothing.

  32. Lupis42 says:

    *Disclaimer* I’m not addicted to anything, and while I smoked for a little while, I had no trouble quitting. The method I used was the “I’m not going to smoke anymore” method. Most other people I know who smoke go nuts trying to process this, but the basic principal is as follows “You know how you sometimes want a cigarette? Don’t have one.” It is only through observation of these people that I can comprehend the idea of a real addiction. *Disclaimer*
    That said, we don’t really know enough about the process of addiction to really know what is or isn’t addictive. All of Marijuana, Heroin, and WoW cause chemical reactions in the brain. Just because WoW attempts to do it using the existing senses and hormonally produced chemicals, rather than ingested/inhaled/injected chemicals doesn’t mean that WoW addiction isn’t caused by a chemical reaction in the brain to a repeated stimulus. I won’t say that WoW is as bad for you as heroin, only that there’s no reason to assume that addiction to WoW is functionally different from addiction to anything else. (We don’t know it’s similar either. “We don’t know” “Probably/Probably Not”). We do know that WoW is cheaper, and Blizzard is less criminal than most Heroin dealers, and less apt to perform violence upon you. (EA, on the other hand… well, who knows). But this whole comparison is an area that bears some investigating. And ultimately, even if WoW is as addictive as heroin, I don’t accept prohibition as a solution, for games or drugs. Prohibition is a stopgap, and like alcohol prohibition, it attempts to reduce the scope of the problem, but increases the severity. (A discussion for another time). Education, and information, not prohibition and propaganda, are the best tools for influencing people.

    1. Shamus says:

      A lot of people drawing parallels between drugs and WoW. I know I’d MUCH rather my kid tried WoW than drugs. If my kid played WoW, that would be fine with me as long as school and chores were done. On the other hand:

      “Make sure the dishes are done and you can have a blunt.”

      Uh. No. Not this dad.

  33. briatx says:


    I agree, but that’s because I think the problems with marijuana have nothing to do with the fact that some people become “addicted” and let it overwhelm their lives. Obviously both can be used in moderation.

  34. Magnus says:

    We give people in general a completely mixed message about drugs.

    Alcohol is fine, everyone drinks when socialising, smoking used to be cool, but now its getting a bit of a backlash, and yet weed is criminal… I would rate these things as equals, and I have known people to have experienced problems from all of these, and watched someone die from long-term alcohol abuse.

    If a celebrity gets caught using drugs, nothing happens. Some celebrities are well known for their drug taking, and yet are never punished, or receive the bare minimun in punishment for repeat offences.

    In the UK, I read that a lot of bank notes in London were tainted with cocaine ( )

    We also have an international war on drugs that cannot stop raw opium being smuggled from a country that we have thousands of troops in.

    What are teenagers supposed to think?

  35. Lupis42 says:


    I don’t mean to say that I see them as equals, but I do see them as both subcategories of “Things that people develop addictive relationships with, and use to ruin their lives”. Gambling is probably the strongest of the behavioral addictions people develop, and I’m certain it’s more expensive and more destructive than Weed or WoW, probably somewhere up there with heroin. That said, Shamus, if you don’t mind a slightly personal hypothetical, would you be okay with older kids trying these under controlled circumstances?
    Gambling (nickel a-hand poker maybe)
    Alcohol (You can have a beer on Saturday night if your chores are done)
    If you are, is the difference you see that these are intrinsically less harmful, or just that these are legal? W

  36. Shamus says:


    Well, I only speak for *my* kids, but I’ve already explained the dangers of gambling. (I agree that gambling probably wrecks more lives than weed. It’s an insidious behavior that can manifest itself in all sorts of destructive ways beyond simple casino-level financial ruination.) I’ve also talked to them about the dangers of alcohol – A close family member ruined himself with the stuff. We haven’t talked about weed or harder drugs specifically yet, although we’ve glanced on the subject while talking about other things. (You never know where the conversation is going to go when kids are asking questions.)

    They’re 7, 9, and 11 years old right now. We’ll see what kind of challenges they face as they get older. I’m not so full of myself to imagine that talking about it once or twice will forever inoculate them against temptation.

    To answer the question: I’d prefer they avoided all of those forms of entertainment.

  37. Lupis42 says:


    In general, celebrities just don’t get the same penalties that other people, who are less able to use the press to their advantage, (not to mention less able to employ a stable of flesh-eating lawyers).

    As for the war on drugs, well, as long as there is a demand, there will be those who attempt to supply it. Since drugs are easy to produce, and straightforward to conceal, there’s really not much chance of that ever working. You can reduce production, try to drive down demand, but at the end of the day, if people really want it, other people will find ways to sell it to them.
    Besides, what would be a victory for those thousands of troops? Cutting a country’s output by 90%? Cutting it to less than one ton exported per year? Less than ten? Zero? It’s like the War on Terror, or the War on Poverty, victory is nebulous thing, and what it means depends a great deal on who defines it.

  38. Bogan the Mighty says:

    Ok so this reminded me of a Star Trek: the next generation episode that I just happened to be watching last night. They were dealing with this one group of people who were selling drugs to another group that was addicted to it and thought they were dying without it. Anyway right in the middle of the episode Wesley says he doesn’t understand what’s going on while some helpful crew members do a horrible job telling him drugs are bad. He just never was able to understand how people get addicted. It just seemed like an odd anti drug dialogue tossed in there that made me laugh rather hard.

  39. LintMan says:

    I had a friend “Mark” back in high school, also. He was really smart and creative and aspired to be a writer. He had a rough family life, but with his smarts, talent and background, he’d probably have been able to get a full scholarship to a good college after he finished high school. He was also a prototypical-looking ‘geek’, and coming from the rough part of town, had taken a lot of flak for it through the years.

    He had just started smoking (tobacco) when I met him, which I think in large part was an attempt to fit in with a cooler group. But that didn’t really happen, and soon he was smoking pot. From there, he grew more experimental and tried all sorts of stuff – mushrooms, cocaine, acid. “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test” was the coolest book ever, in his opinion.

    And the whole time, I could feel him thinking “Hey, I’m cool – look at all the cool stuff I do!”, while at the same time it seemed to me that nobody seemed to be giving him any more genuine acceptance or respect than he had gotten when he was just a geek. I wasn’t into any of that stuff, so we drifted apart.

    Just as senior year was starting, he had a “bad trip” that resulted in a hospital visit and a newspaper article. He was fine, but my school kicked him out. He was sent to a rehab, but really had no interest in kicking the drugs.

    I mostly lost track of him after that, and always hoped he got his act together. Another friend, though, has spotted him hanging around town a few times over the years. The most recent time, he talked to Mark, and Mark asked him “Hey, wanna do some blow?”.

    What a shame.

  40. radio_babylon says:

    A lot of people drawing parallels between drugs and WoW. I know I'd MUCH rather my kid tried WoW than drugs. If my kid played WoW, that would be fine with me as long as school and chores were done. On the other hand:

    “Make sure the dishes are done and you can have a blunt.”

    Uh. No. Not this dad.

    this is my point exactly: if school and chores (and job and family and whatever) are being taken care of, then whatever else it is you do in your down-time, be it WoW or weed or crack (or chronic masturbation or underwater basketweaving, whatEVER) is NOT a problem. you have a problem (a WoW problem, or drug problem, etc) when those things ARENT being taken care of.

    what needs to be taught is not “dont do drugs” or “dont play WoW” but instead “keep your shit together, and if whatever youre doing is preventing you from keeping it together, you need to make some changes”… the message should be one of personal responsibility, personal evaluation, and informed decisionmaking… not a mindless obedience to arbitrary decrees. that way lies sheeple-raising. which is fine if youre looking to raise sheeple, i guess.

  41. Kerin says:

    Personally, I grind my teeth and regret never getting high as a teenager on a monthly basis. I’m not kidding. There’s a lot of stuff I should have done before I got married and settled down, and most of it’s relatively seedy.

  42. Shamus says:

    Several people have pointed out that these characters are supposed to be Lyle’s AVATARS, not his gaming buddies. Okay, I see that, although I don’t think that makes the ad any more useful.

    I think they should interview Nico Bellic and see what he thinks of my playing ability. I’ve launched the guy out of windshields ON PURPOSE, just because his screams amused me. Repeatedly. While sober.

    “Thees Shamus guy, he is crazy. Look at my legs. He tried to keel me because is funny to heem. I think maybe he should smoke the pot and mellow out.”

  43. Nick C says:

    I’ve only ever smoked pot 4 times in my youth, and that was 15 years ago. That being said, i believe pot and most “naturally occuring drugs” should be legal. They should be legal, and taxed just like booze and cigs. Why? Because they are equally harmful, and it is hypocritical to allow one and not the other, and it costs money to advertise anti-drug messages, and it also costs money to arrest and convict people in possession or dealing drugs. Plus, taxing pot alone would likely balance the budget by itself. The country is (was?) run by old white men who inhereted generations of misinformation and backed it with psuedo christian ideologies.

    Pot doesn’t kill people. People make stupid choices, and some of the stupid choices may include pot, or some other mind altering alternative. Teenagers definitely need facts more than fiction. They are going to smoke or drink no matter what we tell them, so we should at least make sure that it’s the truth going in one ear and out the other, and not lies.

  44. Lupis42 says:

    Actually, the guy from Vice City would be a great anti-drug avatar, albeit for some slightly twisted reasons.

    “Look at all these rich white idiots buying my coke. These guys should be putting their kids through college, but instead, their paying for my new Ferraris. Watch, as I repay them by driving them off this office building, and into their swimming pools.”
    Now remember kids, when you buy drugs, you’re paying for someone else to get a new Ferarri, and because that someone is a crazy cokeheadtotal lunatic, the Ferarri is going to waste.

  45. qrter says:

    I’m on the same page as a lot of people here – when someone breaks down, drugs are generally the catalyst, not the cause. That doesn’t make it any prettier for the family and friends of that person ofcourse, but the drugs will be just one of many problems that need to be dealt with.

    Nobody has ever looked back on their teenage years and thought, “Oh, if only I'd tried drugs as a teenager!”

    I know several people who think exactly that and I think it’s a pretty logical thing, too – people regret not doing ‘crazy stuff’ at a time when they had no or very few responsibilities.

  46. Nathan says:

    “‘Nobody has ever looked back on their teenage years and thought, “Oh, if only I'd tried drugs as a teenager!'”

    That’s the takeaway line for me. If I had kids (and I don’t), that’s the line I would use.

    By the way Shamus, thanks again for your (and your community’s) advice on games for A-stan.

  47. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Where can I watch this commercial?

  48. vdgmprgrmr says:

    Woot, another controversial entry, it seems. Me likey, Shamus.

    Anyway, apparently my experience is much different from the norm. The first time I was offered drugs really was essentially from some random kid out of an alley way (it was actually more of a small alcove in a school hallway). And I really do sort of regret not trying to set something up.

    Of course, he only offered me the substance because he thought I already used the substance (if you saw a picture of me and knew my average school behavior, you probably would too). I hadn’t, but still, long shaggy hair, extremely laid back, all the evidence leads to drugs, you know. And I sort of regret it because, well, I’d never tried anything like it before. I mean, I chose not to then because I wasn’t sure if it would be possible to hide it. I wasn’t sure of what my mental processes would undergo while under the influence of some foreign chemical, which lead to me thinking, “Even if I try to plan such an event out in such a way as to not be caught, I may not be able to follow through with said plan due to the mental effects of such a chemical. Not worth the risk.” Not being in total control of my active mental processes without being held in check (and even if I were held in check) terrifies me.

    I have decided clearly in my mind, however, that if I ever get a chance, I will ingest some foreign chemical in the presence of a trusted, sober friend to keep my actions in check so that I can experience it, and that I can remain under logical control.

  49. David W. says:

    @Leslee’s point “(And don't get me started on those “˜male enhancement' drugs. Men over 40 get drugs to improve their sex life, while women over 40 continue to die every day of breast cancer.)”

    You might not know that those were originally developed for blood pressure treatment (and didn’t work so well at that), and weren’t sold for their current purpose until the ‘side effects’ were reported. They were trying to keep people from dying of heart disease, and failed, but figured ‘hey, maybe the money we’ve already spent won’t be a complete waste if we can sell it for the side effects instead’.

    The real reason the pharmaceutical companies don’t do better is that they don’t know how to. There really isn’t some conspiracy to treat men but not women.

    I wish it were as simple as keeping them from wasting money on frivolous stuff until they had cancer and heart disease and Alzheimer’s and all the other big ones figured out, but the real problem is that no one knows what to do. They keep trying random things according to their best guesses, and sometimes one of them works, most often they have no idea why. And since they don’t know, they have all the problems with side effects, which is why the studies are set up so carefully.

    That’s also why the FDA rules are so strict about making the drugs the same way every time: because no one really knows what’s important. If they get something to work, the best thing they can do is do it exactly the same way, even the stuff they thought didn’t matter, just in case they’re wrong.

    If we’re fortunate, in our lifetimes they’ll get to the point where they do understand how things work, and if they do, we’ll be amazed at how pathetic today’s doctors look in hindsight, just like we can pity the people a couple hundred years ago who thought leeches cured pneumonia. If we’re not lucky, they’ll still be working by guess and things’ll look like they do now, only with a few more lucky guesses that cure things.

  50. Lupis42 says:

    On a related note, trying to hearken back to the question of giving kids information, vs. telling kids what to do, I was thinking about the whole question, and remembered this(link at top). I sometimes wonder if the people who do anti-drug education have heard the name, and misunderstood the way the process works. It’s a very unfortunate name for a highly useful process of education through stripping away layers of previously “good enough” abstractions. Something like:
    5yrs old: Drugs = Bad.
    10yrs old: Drugs, like alcohol, will make you feel really weird. Some people like it, and they may offer you some. It’s not a good idea, they can make you really sick. If you want to know more, ask me.
    15yrs old: I don’t want you smoking pot, but I’d rather find out you smoked pot because you told me than because I caught you at it. Hint, hint. Be doubly wary of people who pressure you into taking it, because they may do really underhanded things like cut it with something addictive. Worse, they may be DEA moles trying to drive up their arrest count for the month. If you want to know more, there are some good places online.
    Once they leave the house, you just have to trust that they won’t do anything too stupid, like sign up for a credit card. (Which one got me into trouble, since I thought my college job was more reliable than it proved to be).

  51. Kevonovitch says:

    good points, and good call on that…..thing? im not sure what to even call the website that you linked in there, i took a couple of minutes before my brain hurt from even LOOKING at it.

    but…i have to admit, im games suck as “Left 4 Dead” i know people that play better stoned than not, and who knows, maybe that add was to make gamers look bad, and the drugs were just a distraction? propoganda knows no bounds you know. and hell, id rather have my kids addicted to WoW than drugs/alchohol, atleast addictions to technology and video games, i find, from my own experience, and several of my friends, its easily beatable, we just dont care to, and besides, real life imposes on that addiction VERY qucikly, so, you dont have much of a choice when you have no job, or no food, or no real life friends.

    not that addictions are good, but its not like they are avoidable completely either. we all have our vices, its really just a matter of choosing what it/they are.

    i was addicted to technology, and video games, especially as a teen, and i almost flunked highschool due to that, but, i got my ass into gear, and into work, and now im doing good, even with my video games, but all in moderation.
    life first, games….when life gives you a couple hours free :D

    i am also an ex-alchoholic, it nearly killed my marrage, and it did kill alot of friendships i had, even some of my wifes friends left her.

    as a last point: i dont think anything BESIDES actually stumbling and falling down the paths n potholes of the problems, or stories from friens/watching a friend fall flat on his face will effect ANYBODY at all to the point were they either stop, or will not do w/e substance that caused this.

  52. Face says:

    I work in the addiction industry, and unlike many in the field I am not an addict. There is some addiction in my family and I have some borderline tendencies, but I’ve been lucky. I refuse to play MMOs specifically because I fear I would become addicted. As it is, if I could play HackMaster (my preferred RPG) 7 days a week I would.

    A big part of the problem is that people would rather spend money on huge lame-assed advertising campaigns instead of talking to their kids about drugs or….*gasp*…spend it on treatment.

    You can point fingers on this every which way, but I’d prefer to think it’s because a lot of people still don’t believe addiction exists as a disease. Until recently addiction didn’t quite fit the medical model and people chalked it up to a problem of willpower.

    Plenty of people used/use drugs and have no problem. Some may never use drugs and still develop a process addiction (gambling, internet, porn, etc.) Until we as a nation decide to spend our money more wisely combating drug abuse, we’ll always have a bunch of lame commercials that basically boils down to “just say no”.

  53. Gregorus Prime says:

    What really strikes me about these ads as being incredibly ineffective is the overall strategy they’re attempting to use. “Above the Influence.” Don’t do what your friends are pressuring you into doing, just be yourself! (This message telling you what to do paid for a bunch of adults who don’t know you and will never meet you but still think they know what’s best for you.) Am I the only one who sees the conflict here?

    I’m also in support of the total legalization of marijuana because compared to tobacco and alcohol it’s nowhere near as destructive. It’s not physiologically addictive, there are almost no bad effects on health associated with it–none, really, if you ingest the THC instead of inhaling smoke laced with it (unless you count weight gain from all those brownies). The only reason it’s illegal is because of yellow journalism anyway. Cocaine’s illegal because white folk were made to think that THEM CRAZY NEGROES were starting riots while they were high on it. William Randolph Hearst felt his lumber and paper holdings were threatened by cheaper hemp alternatives so he cooked up all sorts of scaremongering stories about the deadly effects of WHACKY TOBACCY. It’s steeped in bullshit and we’re afraid to re-examine it as a country.

    Oh, and as for that breast cancer concern: Did you know that just as many cases of prostate cancer pop up every year as cases of breast cancer? And that the death rate for prostate cancer is only slightly lower? Can you guess which cancer gets twice as much research funding from the government? (HINT: When was the last time you saw a prostate cancer research fundraiser?)

  54. WILL says:

    Sorry Shamus, your campaign didn’t work either. I guess I’m part of their target audience, being 16.

    If it makes you feel any better, I don’t actually plan on taking drugs. :)

  55. mark says:

    way to guilt trip a guy with a spliff in his hand! Of all the random names!

    edit: fraking perfect random wavatar… :D

  56. neminem says:

    I would like to state, for the record, that this is one of the most ironic essays I have ever read. There is, after all, a reason EverCrack got its name. I agree with everything you said, except your final message: pot isn’t physically addictive, only psychologically. It is, I’ll grant you, reasonably powerful… but so is WoW. In my world, I’ve met many more people addicted to the latter than the former. I’ve even known people who dropped out of college because of WoW; never met any pot smokers who dropped out because of that (I’m sure they exist, I just don’t know any).

    In other news, a couple weeks ago I was grinding in WoW while reasonably intoxicated (I had some leftover booze I wanted to get rid of), and got an invite to go play Violet Hold roulette. I’m well aware heroic Violet Hold is not exactly challenging, but still. I can’t imagine being unable to hold my own dps’ing Naxx drunk, either. I only wouldn’t do it for fear of potential embarrassment saying stupid things on vent.

    Oh, and for the record: one of the best Halo players I knew (he was #20-ranked in something or other back in the beginning of Halo 2) said he got better at sniping while drunk – and could prove it!

  57. Telas says:

    Wow, nice risk you took there, Shamus!

    Point one: “I agree that it's really important to equip kids so that they can make wise decisions, but you can't teach with lies, even if they're well-intentioned lies aimed at keeping kids out of danger.” You have kids; are you going to tell me that you tell them the entire truth every single time? We simplify things so that simple minds (lacking that judgment thing we get around 25 or so) can understand them. Sometimes these simplifications are outright lies.

    Point two: I’m 42; I’ve dallied with things, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Most anti-drug ads are indeed ridiculous, but the “talk to your kids” and “just say no” ones actually work. Parents do need to know what their kids are doing. Kids need to know that “no, thanks” is a valid response; “just say no” gives them that option.

    The most effective anti-pot ad I’ve seen was the one where the guys were talking about how “pot never did me any harm”, but one of them is still living in his parents’ house at 35. Having lived in a ski town for much of my 20s (all ski towns are pot towns), I can attest to the truth of that ad. There are a lot of college-educated, smart, and capable stoners out there, getting by on entry-level retail and restaurant work because they’ve smoked their motivation.

    Point three: Speaking of weed, I don’t think too many people would get their panties in a bunch if it were legalized. I don’t subscribe to all of the High Times talking points (see Gregorius Prime @ 54 for those), but it is not physically addictive (the way cocaine and opiates are). As a parent, I do not want to see addictive drugs legalized, period.

    That said, if I were to hire someone, I’d want to be able to discriminate based on drug use. “Wake-and-bake” stoners will fail you at some point, just as hard drinkers will.

    Anyway, feel free to disagree. This is what I’ve seen, and this is how I feel about it.

    1. Shamus says:

      Telas: I tell the kids the truth every time, as much as they are able to understand. Yes, I’m one of those dull “no Santa” parents. I know that gets on people’s nerves, but I think it’s important.

      I saw that same commercial, and I very nearly mentioned it in my post. I agree: That is the best Just Say No ad ever, because it was the truth. Even at the end, they said something like, “Smoke pot, and nothing might happen to you too”. “Might”. Most ads act as if disaster is 100% certain, and kids can tell that’s not the case.

  58. MuonDecay says:

    WoW may be potentially addictive (and be designed to be, at that), but if you get addicted to WoW you don’t get violently ill, lose control of your bowels, and shiver like you’re dying if you go too long without.

    Physiological dependence is a very severe medical condition with several commonly abused substances. Several of them are actually prescription medicines. Withdrawals from benzodiazepines (the class of drugs of which Valium and Xanax are examples) can cause sudden death in the worse cases, and opiates cause the symptoms I listed in the above paragraph.

    I’ve never experienced this before, but I know people who have. It redefines your understanding of the word “addicted”. By comparison, a WoW addiction looks like a mild craving for ice cream in the back of your mind.

  59. B.J. says:

    No matter where you go; any society, any race, any country, any culture, and any religion; teaching children The Truth is always a capital crime.

  60. JB says:

    Drugs lead to procrastination.

    It’s so much easier doing drugs than actually doing something that earns you experience points. I think that is the biggest risk with soft drugs.

    And so I won’t get misunderstood, some people manage to both be active, face challenges in life and do drugs in the off time. Others do not, they use drugs to escape from life. Because it is so much easier.

  61. Kayvan says:

    I’d just like to support the view that teens can recognize the propaganda for what it is. I’m 18, and I can’t say any of the advertisements or drug education have really convinced me about drugs.

    That kind of thing is really an indivdual matter. I don’t do drugs, not because I’ll game worse, but because I simply don’t want to. I know the risks, I have some idea of the rewards, and it isn’t worth it.

    That kind of decision is much easier to make right information, whatever your decision may be.

  62. Avilan the Grey says:

    I have never been tempted to try drugs (as in Narcotics; like 99% of Swedes I enjoy my booze…), I really don’t know why. Not that it bothers me, but I never had the urge to experiment. I agree though that especially the “say no to drugs” ads were stupid. Not as stupid as in the US, I think, but still stupid. With a lot of people quitting smoking when I grew up (my mom, and most of the people on her side of the family) I kind of automatically got the idea that smoking was bad. Besides, I figured out on my own that filling your lungs with poison and tar probably is bad for you.

    Speaking of WoW-addiction though: I have a very easy time getting sucked into computer games, that’s why I have not even tried online gaming since DII.
    The earliest form of WoW adddiction / Evercrack I know of was a friend of my sister’s when she went to college: He was so completely sucked into Civ 2 that he missed two tests in a row and most classes in between. I don’t know how things worked out for him but he basically sat in front of the computer non stop for 2 weeks…

  63. Ross says:

    Is there nothing you cannot bend your awesome intellect and sound reasoning to? This is so refreshingly straight-forward that I have sent the link to a colleague who has what I am going to refer to as ‘a problem child’. Thanks as ever Shamus.

    Your kids are going to turn out just awesome.

  64. Gregorus Prime says:

    @Telas: Those High Times talking points are still valid points. Nobody has ever died from a THC overdose and its use as a painkiller is well-documented. The only counter-argument I ever hear is that we would suffer on a moral level and I just don’t buy into that bullshit. Here in California we have cannabis clubs all over the place and amazingly we haven’t collapsed into an orgy of baby-murdering and communism.

    As I pointed out, though, alcohol and nicotine are definitely addictive and we seem to have no problem with having those legal. Legalization does not mean a lack of regulation. The exact same rules and penalties should apply, and that includes not selling it to stupid kids who are more at risk of actually suffering ill effects from it.

  65. JB says:

    @Gregorus Prime

    There are plenty of those who’d like to make alcohol and nicotine more regulated or even illegal. But there are many more political concerns than just how dangerous they are. Just comparing lethality is grossly oversimplifying the problem.

    Also, I’ve never heard the danger of overdosing put forward as an argument against legalising THC based and other soft drugs. The real danger lies in increased exposure to kids, fear of increased number of people driving under influence and increased cost for society in general.

  66. Lupis42 says:


    The real danger lies in increased exposure to kids, fear of increased number of people driving under influence and increased cost for society in general.

    I really don’t understand this. There’s probably more exposure to THC for kids now than there is underage drinking, and they’re certainly more able to manufacture their own supply. As for driving under the influence, well, anyone who’s driving and can’t pass a sobriety test (the oldschool kind, that checks to see if you’re functional, rather than testing your breath) doesn’t need to drive anymore for a while. It makes no difference whether it’s alcohol or THC or the stuff your dentist put you out with to pull your wisdom teeth, and we already have laws about it, and police who could be handling this sort of thing. (If they weren’t so busy giving tickets to people doing 32 in a 30).

    As far as advertising goes, though, the “Might” add is one of the very few that got the right idea. The problem with propaganda probably comes in no small part from the inexperience of the people making the adds. These people probably either haven’t done drugs, or been offered drugs, so they really don’t know why people say yes. If you don’t try to understand why people say yes, you’ll never convince them to say no.

  67. JB says:

    When I was a kid, I never had access to drugs. Alcohol on the other hand was in every home.

    I do believe if more drugs were legal, more homes would have them. I do know that one reason some people stay away from drugs is tatht they are illegal. So I am quite certain that legal status affects the amount of exposure.

    Comparing with other stuff, like alcohol is meaningless, because there are so many other factors that may influence the result.

    When it comes to driving, I do know that THC slows your reaction time, and that that effects lasts longer than the feeling of being affected. This means that people who think they are sober, who think they drive responsibly, actually drive with reduced capacity.

    You say that “anyone who's driving and can't pass a sobriety test doesn't need to drive anymore for a while.” As far as I know, there is no way you can check everyone who gets behind the drivers seat. Maybe there will be some technological solution in the future, but for now there is none.

  68. Lee says:

    Incidentally, the reason the graphics look like bad CGI is because they’re actually machinima from Second Life. There’s several telltale signs if you’re familiar with the little details and quirks in SL. The seams on her left arm are a prime example.

  69. Lupis42 says:


    I’m sure legality affects use. I wonder how many people would stop if it was no longer and act of rebellion, an act of “sticking it to the man”. My guess is that that number is less than the number of people who would try it because it became legal, but those people would tail off pretty quickly, in ten years, it would probably be similar to smoking. Alcohol may be in every home, but how easy was it to get? When I was in college (I didn’t care enough when I was in high-school, so I don’t know), it was almost exactly as easy to get booze as to get weed. You just talk to the right people.

    Comparing with other stuff, like alcohol is meaningless, because there are so many other factors that may influence the result.

    I don’t see how this comparison is meaningless just because there are other factors. We have a gigantic range of chemical drugs available to us if we go to a pharmacy. If we have a note from a doctor, that range can include some really potent stuff. We have Alcohol and tobacco, and other psychoactive substances like nutmeg easily accessible through a variety of retail outlets. But we’ve decided that THC is not acceptable, and MDMA is not acceptable, and LSD is not acceptable, with relatively little research into their effects. What makes these chemicals special? Is it just because these chemicals are fun?

    You don’t need a magic test when you get in your car. Traffic cops are supposed to drive around looking for people driving badly, and to pull those people over, so that people don’t drive badly. I don’t care why someone is driving badly, the results should be similar. If a guy is driving along out of his mind on prescription morphine, and he gets caught, his license should be suspended. In most US states right now, it will be. How you got impaired doesn’t affect your choice to drive while impaired, and it’s not a reason to ban a substance.

    Right now we allow people to drive if they can pass a driving test. I could probably pass this test with a BAC well over the legal limit. I choose not to drive when I’ve had drinks, but if I did drive, I would probably be fine, and my reaction time, awareness, and judgement would probably still be above the bottom 10% of drivers not under the influence, because my reflexes, vision, and spatial reasoning are normally very high. (This doesn’t make me a good driver, merely good at the things that alcohol impairs).

  70. Lupis42 says:

    Something pithy that just occurred to me:
    I’d have much less of a problem with anti-drug education if drugs were legal.

    I’m not entirely sure of the why here, but in general I think my way of thinking goes the same was as Cory Doctorow’s comment on EULA’s. (I can’t find the link at the moment).

  71. Gasoline says:

    I made my dope experiences, enjoyed those years and I don’t have the feeling that my weed-years had a negative impact on my life.

    I am totally aware that there are people who really have a drug problem and I do agree that drugs – doesn’t matter which one – are nothing for kids.

    But in my opinion, it is kinda hypocrisy to tell people that smoking weed is the first step towards hard drugs and you will end fucked-up and drugs will take control of you and your life if you smoke a joint.
    The same people who try to sell you this “wisdom” enjoy their glass(es) of alcohol each evening and probably would have a problem to resign for a week.

    Living in Germany, it is funny to be told by politicians and other people that smoking a joint is dangerous and the beginning of a hard-drug-addict-carreer, but on the other side we have comercials for alcohol and cigarettes.

    To refer to statistics, that most of drug-addicts started with dope is nonsense. Interesting would be, how many people who smoke(d) joints did not become addicts. I am sure that most of the addicts did drink alcohol, ate noodles and watched the Sesame Street on TV. Wrong correlation, I would say.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that taking drugs is cool and harmless. Taking drugs (including alcohol or even caffeine!) should always go hand-in hand with reason and responsibility. Forbidding drugs in general and telling people how dangerous they are does not work. People like to do what the old ones forbid (especially kids!). And in fact: not all drugs are generally dangerous.

    Information is needed.

    I suppose most of you like to have a drink and most of you have learned a reasonable handling of having a drink. So, is drinking alcohol less dangerous than smoking grass?

    Lots of people have a massive drinking problem. In fact, more people die from alcohol than from dope…

    So, let’s be consequent and forbid ALL drugs.
    No nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate…
    And what’s about gambling addiction? And then computer games? What about the discussion that FPS are the reason that some loonies run amok and kill people in the streets? And Heavy Metal being satanic? Shit, because of those endorphines we should forbid sports and sex!(maybe I am starting to become a bit polemic right now…)

    Just because the society fails to prevent people from feeling the need to abuse drugs and being susceptible to search for shelter from their life in what-kind-ever drug (or to feel the urge to kill somebody or everybody) we are told that there are “good drugs” and “bad drugs” (or “good games” and “bad games” or “good music” and “bad music”…).

    You cannot forbid drugs and make them disappear – they always will be there and available.
    So, don’t fight the drugs, start fighting the reason why people take and abuse drugs. Fight the reasons for the need to get high and not to see an feel the real life.

    I don’t think that happy people abuse drugs.
    But I belive that happy people can use drugs in a reasonable way.

    Think about it and discuss it with your friends while drinking your beer ;)

  72. smIsle says:

    That first link to ‘Straight Up’ was terrifying :-) I’m glad that one was before my time.

    I think if you want to give kids anti-drug entertainment, it either needs a character who has done drugs, is a loser, and now sucks even more. Or perhaps the person who was okay before, and drugs pushed them over the edge. Don’t make the show ABOUT that, just slip it in every once in a while.

    OR, the story should never mention drugs at all, but have the same effects and reactions in the show’s world. Buffy the vampire slayer did this with Willow – she was a main character, and got sucked into something that consumed her. It did start as something “cool” and lots of people are able to stop there … Not that everyone would directly realize the correspondence, but things you watch as a kid get stuck somewhere important in your brain, affecting your decisions later in life.

  73. Lupis42 says:


    That Buffy thing was actually hugely annoying, as though it was pulled from the farthest nether regions of some idiotic executive. Not the subtext itself, that actually read quite well, but the sudden shift in portrayal of something that had existed in the show in a different context for a while. As if James Bond, who has never been shown to be *affected* by the consumption of alcohol, was suddenly shown to have a drinking problem. It really felt to me like someone wanted an anti-drug message, so they looked at all the things people did and chose one at random, made it a drug, and then when the next season came, and the plot was resolved, the addict was fine again, and could go back to doing the thing they were addicted to as if nothing had happened. Think about the kind of message that sends.

    That said, if they hadn’t dropped it in out of nowhere, and then abandoned it again so quickly, it would have had substantial impact.

  74. Jeysie says:

    I’ve been mostly (recreational) drug-free my whole life… I don’t smoke, don’t take illegal drugs, and very very rarely drink alcohol. Don’t regret the fact one bit. Always found it kind of a sad statement if someone really can’t think of a way to have fun without imparing/altering their thinking in some way.

    I agree that most drug-warning ads directed at kids are silly. What turned me off from drugs was seeing the effects they had on other people. I had four of my family members and one of my friends’ parents die from smoking related lung diseases. I’ve seen the IMHO repulsive way people act when drunk or high… ranging on the spectrum from idiotic to violent. I decided that one, I didn’t want to die in the same awful way my family members did, and two, I had too much self-respect to be caught acting in the ridiculous ways I’d observed in other people.

    Doesn’t hurt either, in terms of not getting drunk at least, that I find the taste of alcohol unpalatable unless heavily masked and I don’t like the flushed/woozy way even a single “dose” makes me feel.

  75. Bizarre says:

    It was a bit nicer and more diplomatic than this, but my parents education to me about drugs essentially boiled down to “It’s for idiots, and we didn’t raise an idiot.”

    It was never presented as something untouchable and evil and mysterious. On the contrary – I knew lots of people took drugs. It was simply presented as “Yes, you can. Why the hell would you want to?”

    They did the same with alcohol, too. I don’t think it would have worked for everyone but it worked for me.

  76. Maldeus says:

    Here’s an idea for a drug ad. Show a bunch of people playing a metaphorical roulette game with drugs. First two guys go in, and win the jackpot; they stay on top of school, get their chores done, have friends, and get to get high on the weekend. Third guy walks up and gets one of the “horrible addiction” slots. He asks if he can bet again to get it back. Attendants ask him sarcastically if he’s got a spare lifetime to bet against the one he just lost.

  77. Captain 420 says:

    I think that cannabis is actually a gateway drug BECAUSE of anti-drug propaganda. My reasoning is as follows:

    1. Kid gets told in DARE that marijuana or pot (they never call it by its actual name) will destroy his brain and in the long run it really isn’t any better than heroin or crack.

    2. Kid believes authority figures.

    3. Kid finds out in high school, or maybe college, that there are plenty of smart, successful people who toke occasionally.

    4. Kid tries cannabis, likes it, it doesn’t destroy his life.

    5. Kid realizes that adults were lying about cannabis and wonders if they were lying about other drugs, too.

    6. Kid ODs on a speedball.

    I know people like your friend Mark, who have ruined their lives with drugs. I know people, too, who have ruined their lives with things other than drugs: sex, vandalism, fast cars, debt, self-harm, religion. Some people just fuck their lives up, and the things they use to fuck their lives up are no more than incidental to the occurrence.

  78. Captain 420 says:

    Oh, and Telas: people with kids will fail you sooner or later too. But discrimination on the basis of family status is illegal as well.

  79. silver Harloe says:

    What amazes me how little people learn from history. Actually, that doesn’t amaze me too much, because I tend to have a disparaging view of people, but let’s say it amazes me because it makes a good introduction to my point. Which is that history can teach us something about illegal drugs.

    When was mafia at its peak power? (During Prohibition)

    What services did the mafia provide that made it powerful? (Alcohol during Prohibition. But also: Prostitution, Gambling, No-Credit Loans, and Illegal Drugs. Though it turns out they were less apt at distribution of Illegal Drugs, probably because they were based on a society that had some principles, and thus they eventually declined and were replaced by “drug lords” mostly outside of our borders).

    To me, the biggest argument for legalization of drugs has nothing to do with drugs themselves, but with taking some measure of power back into our country, along with a metric boat load of our money. Learn the lesson of Prohibition: making something everybody wants illegal does nothing to do stop people from doing it, but gives power to dangerous people.

    That said, no one will ever buy this pragmatic argument because they’re full of (usually erroneous) moral counter-arguments.

    Personally, I’ve never taken any drugs, but I’ve been around them all my life. My parents did them – my teenage rebellion consisted my blaming all their “strict rules” and “stupidity” on drugs, and that carried me through the time I was most likely to try drugs, and after that I just couldn’t be bothered. I had things I was more addicted to, like computer games. (Naturally, in my adult life, I came to realize my parents were actually lenient, maybe too lenient, and basically good parents concerned for my safety and well-being, and not at all stupid).

    But all my college friends did drugs. My post-college roommates all did drugs. I went to clubs full of people doing drugs. Many of my co-workers did drugs (at the last the ones that I considered worth hanging out with). At least until I turned 35 and stopped associating with people.

    I’ve seen people doing them wrong, and I’ve seen people doing them right. One my strangest memories was getting my posterior completely handed to me in pool by a friend who was, at the time, under the influence of multiple tabs of LSD.

    Like many of the above commentators, I’ve seen the “doing it wrong, doing it right” pattern also applied to alcohol, sex, credit cards, computer games, porn, Magic: the Gathering, comic books, and other pursuits (haven’t knowingly known any serious gamblers, though).

    I’ve had problems with credit in the past (now I live debt free – if I can’t buy it with money on hand, I don’t want it), and also with spending way too much time and money on computer games, alcohol, comic books, and MtG (I still have the computer game problem, but no comics or MtG for me, and I only drink occasionally). In retrospect, I will often say, “I’m glad I didn’t try drugs because I would have probably liked them too much.” On the other hand, because all my friends were into drugs, but I wasn’t – they’d let me into the parties, but not the inner circles, and my sex life suffered for it. Of course, my sex life also suffered from my being a total nerd, but even my nerdy friends were doing each other while toking or doing ecstasy – doing everyone but me, that is. Sometimes I wish I had been more into drugs back when I young enough to plausibly be with an attractive person. (Now, of course, all my old friends — in fact, everyone in my age range — have paired up and started making babies, and I have no new friends, and have resigned myself to being neither hetero, homo, nor bi, but autosexual. I can’t see myself hitting on the hot chick in the average bar because I’m 15 years older than her).

    Anyway. Not sure I have a point. Just some more data to add to this old thread (my new hobby: discovering cool blogs “too late” to respond to all the threads until they’re months old). Oh. Except: legalize drugs and tax them, and cut out all the bad things they’re cut with. The law is NOT preventing people from doing drugs, even a few people. The law is only making sure that the people who DO do drugs are giving all their money to psychopaths in other countries. Plus, it’ll be easier to be honest about drugs when you take away all the “cool illicit activity sticking it to the man!” flavor from them. Also, I have no data to back this up, just a gut feeling, but I suspect if you traced the money and influence used to oppose the legalization of drugs, you’d find the ‘drug lords’ providing a not insignificant percentage of it. They don’t want us giving our cocaine money to Phillip Morris – they want it for themselves.

  80. The Rocketeer says:

    There is no stronger anti-drug message than seeing someone you love pulled into a morass of abuse and self-sabotage. Every conversation you have with them, every time you see them, every time you ask them how things are going, are never the same once you come to see them as a family member AND an addict.

    You will never, ever have any doubt about what drugs can do to people once you are held in close quarters with it. When they wake up every morning to mix a cup of coke and increasingly cheaper bourbon. When they bitch and moan tirelessly about not being able to score a cigarette until tomorrow. When they stay up til 3 on a work night calling friends on the off chance they have a bowl they can share, and always need just a few dollars before every payday.

    When you allow your every thought and action to be defined and colored by your addictions, then everyone around you will in turn have their thoughts and feelings about you colored by your addictions, too, because you wouldn’t be who you are without that part of your life and it is unfair and arrogant to expect people to see you as a person you are not- as person who doesn’t allow shallow pleasure seeking and cheap thrills that haven’t satisfied in years to bear influence on every aspect of your life, including your job and your relationship with your family.

    A hollow defense of addicts is that you can’t understand if you haven’t experienced drugs for yourself. I can honestly say that, without ever picking up a cigarette or a bottle or a bong, I have: drugs have destroyed the life of my closest friend and family, and NOTHING can return that to me. I can’t help but think that if I was in their situation I would just shoot myself in the head.

    That is MY experience with drugs: Tobacco, alcohol, weed, hash, cocaine, acid, K, X, mescaline, and any kind of painkillers. I know what all of these things smell and look like and all the many and diverse ways they can claim ownership of your soul and I have never once used a single one of them myself. No one can with any validity claim that I do not have extensive and personal experience with drugs.

    I will never stop loving him. But the brother I loved is dead. And that’s all the caution I need. The road of a principled life is not narrow, nor is it unclear. But it is as long as all the years of your life. If you strayed from that path and wallowed in vice to the detriment of yourself and to the torment of those who cared about you, then that’s your own failing, and however you seek to justify it to yourself is your own contemptible business. But I have a memory with me that will keep me set down that road until the day I die and for better or for worse I will never, ever be rid of it.

  81. adamsky21 says:

    For me, pot has always helped immersion in games, which more than offset any negative hits on my coordination or reflexes (yes, even in CS or driving games). So maybe -10% on performance, but +50% or more on the gaming experience (fun). Is that wrong?

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