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February 2, 2005 - The Jupiter Courier (FL)

Editorial: Is It Any Wonder Kids Are Confused About Drugs?

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A disturbing new report indicates that at least one of every four children in foster care in Florida, many 5 years old and younger, are taking powerful, mood-altering drugs.

In the 2002 fiscal year, 5,137 foster children were prescribed psychotropic drugs, including 550 children age 5 and younger.

Those findings were based solely on Medicaid records and not from HMOs or private insurers, so the actual total could be higher.

At the same time, no one really knows how many youngsters not in foster care are being sent off to school each day with their brain synapse humming with powerful mood altering drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac.

When they come home from school, they turn on the television, and they are assaulted with 60-second slices of video utopian suggesting that they -- that everyone -- should "Ask your doctor for our latest feel-good pill."

If they flip on a sporting event they surely will be deluged with commercials for erectile dysfunction medications. (Talk about mind altering!)

That's not even to mention the ubiquitous beer commercials hawking the most widespread and most destructive drug in our society -- alcohol.

All of that brings us back to the undercover drug string that took place in several Palm Beach County Schools last week.

The five-month long operation -- dubbed Old Schoolhouse -- netted some minor student-drug dealers on charges of selling mostly small amounts of marijuana to undercover officers posing as students.

But if the State Attorney's Office does as officials there have said they will do, and prosecute those teenagers as adults, some could be looking at 15 years of hard time.

All could have the words "convicted felon" to carry the rest of their lives.

Again, we are not condoning selling illegal drugs to minors. If convicted, the teenagers should be punished.

But before we judge too harshly, maybe during this weekend's Super Bowl extravaganza, we should count how many commercials we see for "feel-good drugs," or ads that make drinking beer look like the coolest, greatest, most fun thing a human can do.

And we should ask ourselves: Is it any wonder our kids have trouble distinguishing one "feel-good drug" from another.

Or maybe we shouldn't. Maybe we should just take some sleeping pills and go to bed early.

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