Kids and Their Drug Questions

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, February 19, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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In the "Unresolved Problem" Segment, most American parents don't want their children to have anything to do with drugs.  What parent in their right mind would encourage a child to become intoxicated?  If you do that, you are a child abuser.

But kids have plenty of questions about drugs, and the likelihood is that they will ask you if you've used them, especially marijuana.  How do you handle it?

Joining us now from our New York studios is Dr. Mark Hillman, a psychotherapist and author of the book "My Therapist Is Making Me Nuts: A Guide to Life's Obstacles" -- Dr. Hillman is an expert on the baby-boom generation, which, of course, is the first generation to embrace marijuana -- and Dr. Peter Provet, the president of Odyssey House, a drug-rehab facility.

Dr. Provet, the federal government feels so strongly about this, it spent millions of dollars taking full-page advertisements out -- I want to show that advertisement right now -- saying to parents don't be cowardly, all right, don't be afraid to tell your child that he or she should not use  marijuana, but a lot of parents are afraid because they don't want to say what they did.  How do you handle it, sir?

PETER PROVET, PH.D., ODYSSEY HOUSE: Well, the critical issue is for parents to open up a dialogue with their children from a very early age with a message that drugs are bad, drugs are harmful, drug leads you nowhere that is useful.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: All right. Let me stop you right there. There are millions of American adult who do not believe marijuana use is bad. Out here in California, off the chart, OK.

So are you saying that they should mislead their children, if they sincerely believe getting high is helpful to their lives? I think that's insane, but I know a lot of people believe that marijuana is fine.

PROVET: Well, you're absolutely right. There is a degree of public perception that marijuana is not a problem. I can tell you that drug- treatment agencies across the country, as well as at Odyssey House, virtually all adolescents who are in serious, serious drug trouble come into our programs with marijuana as the primary drug of abuse, so...

O'REILLY: Sure. I mean all the stats say that, that marijuana is just cutting a swathe through the nation's youth that is injuring them for life. We know that.

But you know how many irresponsible adults there are, and they rationalize it by saying, well, look at -- they're drinking beer, why can't I smoke pot? See, all of this is going on in the selfish parent's mind, and then they're afraid to confront their child with the situation.

PROVET: Well, that's right, and what we advise parents to do is be open with their children about what drugs can do to them today. Whether they used drugs or not, we don't believe that's really the critical issue to communicate.

What is critical is to communicate the dangers of drugs and where drugs can lead their children.

O'REILLY: All right. Now, Dr. Hillman, I'm sure you get this all the time, being a baby-boomer expert.


O'REILLY: I mean are you supposed to lie to your kids about your past? What are you supposed?

HILLMAN: Well, I think the issue is -- and no one's addressed this -- first of all, whether -- good or bad, right or wrong, the reality is that drugs are illegal, whether it's marijuana, whether it's ecstasy, whatever it is. So you're putting yourself, one, at risk there.

Secondly, any conversation that you have with your children should be very direct and open, obviously age appropriate. But for all the clients that I have had and have worked with numerous, numerous facilities, like Dr. Provet, parents have said to me over and over and over again do not tell your children you used drugs. Why? Because then there's a double standard, and they associate it with, well, if you do did it, why can't I?

O'REILLY: All right. Now -- so you're -- are you advising parents to lie?

HILLMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. 100 percent.


HILLMAN: Conceal the truth. It -- when your children are young, they look at you as a healthy role model, as you are the omnipotent role model in their life.

O'REILLY: What would be wrong with saying, look, I made some mistakes when I was a kid I don't want you to make, I used marijuana a few times, and it specifically hurt me in this way. Is that not as effective as a lie?

HILLMAN: I don't -- in my practice what I have seen -- and personally -- I don't think that's the approach. I think you conceal the truth. You could give a lecture all you want. The kids are going to be under peer pressure, and any sort of wiggle room that you create I don't think is an effective approach.

O'REILLY: Fascinating, fascinating. Do you agree with that, Dr. Provet.

PROVET: No, I really don't subscribe to this point of view of outright lying to children. I think the parent should not focus on him or herself. The issue is not what the parent did.

O'REILLY: Yes, but you've got to answer the questions, Doctor. I mean you're -- you're a theoretician, but the kid's going to come up there and say what did you do, Mommy or Daddy, all right, and you can't go, well, the issue is -- you know, you've got to say this, that, and the other thing, or the kid's going to think that you're him.

PROVET: I think -- given there's a constructive communication for certain parents and certain families, I think it can be OK for a parent to communicate that they have used marijuana in the past and, as you were saying earlier, to talk about that experience, to talk about hopefully that their perception would be it wasn't useful and to be very straightforward and honest about it. I don't think getting into the details of their own life, their own issues, what drugs were like is particularly useful.

O'REILLY: No, I wouldn't do that either, but...

PROVET: But you tell them as much as you need to.

O'REILLY: All right. Now -- you know, it's really interesting, and I want everybody watching, millions of people watching right now, to give me your opinion in the e-mail segment after the program, to e-mail us with whether you think Dr. Provet is right or Dr. Hillman is wright.

Now, Dr. Hillman, you basically have a lot of selfish parents, and my generation, the baby boomers, are perhaps the most selfish generation the country has ever seen. We want immediate gratification, and, you know, the rest is secondary.

But we don't want our kids to do what we did. See, we don't want our kids to be up in Woodstock naked, jumping on six other people, smoking pot, but we thought we had a great time. Don't you see the confliction there?

HILLMAN: I see the confliction there, but we're talking about what is the responsibility of you as a parent. We're not talking about going back and reliving Woodstock. We've tried that with Woodstock 2.

O'REILLY: Yes, but it's a hypocrisy factor. They don't want to be hypocrites, you know.

HILLMAN: Right. But you know what? We can deal with the whole thing about guilt, lying to your children, misrepresenting your children, but I think the larger factor that I have seen in my clinical practice is that you are the responsible parent, and I think sometimes concealing the truth for a larger cause in terms of being a role model is the appropriate thing to do.

O'REILLY: All right. Last question. You both would agree that using pot, getting drunk on alcohol in front of your children would be child abuse, correct?

HILLMAN: Correct.

PROVET: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: All right.

Gentlemen, thanks very much. We appreciate it. Very interesting discussion.

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