Despite its disastrous effects, the use of cocaine is skyrocketing.

Youngsters with loving, caring parents, who live in nice homes in wonderful neighborhoods, are almost as likely to become involved in drug use as those from deprived backgrounds.

Dr. Thomas Gleaton, director of a drug-abuse resource group

A new popularity is fast making cocaine the nightmare of the ’80s, one from which Christian parents are not exempt. A 1970 study of the students at Arizona State University showed that only 2.5 percent had tried cocaine. Yet a 1984 nationwide study found that among high school graduates aged 22 to 26, the percentage had jumped to 33. Five thousand new users are now entering the market for cocaine daily, and that number is increasing with terrifying speed.

Is cocaine a harmless (if illegal) drug occasionally sniffed by high society over the punch bowl? Not anymore. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that there are 22 million cocaine users in the U.S.

The effect? The Benjamin Rush Center, a hospital in Syracuse, New York, with a drug addiction program, reported almost no admissions for cocaine treatment during the 1970s. Today 40 percent of its beds are taken by addicts.

Addicts? To cocaine? We know of addiction to alcohol, and to heroin. Yet most experts believe cocaine is more addictive than even heroin.

On occasion, the immediate results of cocaine are remarkable. Some users describe the result in early stages of its use as the most pleasurable and exciting experience they have ever known. One said it was equivalent to a thousand orgasms. Some who have poor social relationships suddenly feel everyone loves them. Students fearing academic demands find release. And a psychopharmacologist at UCLA’s School of Medicine, Ronald K. Siegel, notes that cocaine often attracts highly motivated, very goal-oriented students. If in the ’60s hallucinogens were associated with countercultural dropouts, today some students are using cocaine to help them succeed in their studies.

Unfortunately, that is only step one.

From 1976 to 1981, cocaine addicts seeking admission to government clinics rose 600 percent. Psychologist Mark Gold of Fair Oaks Hospital in Summit, New Jersey, estimates that fully one-quarter of those who experiment with cocaine eventually become addicts.

The slide downward has a physical side. Those who “snort” cocaine may find the cartilage of the nose destroyed. Those who inhale it find it destroys the elasticity of the lung passages, and produces sores. It can produce loss of appetite and arrhythmic heartbeat. Crystals of cocaine can form under the skin. Death is often the result of the continued use, since cocaine overstimulates the nervous system, and, taken with alcohol or other drugs, can be especially dangerous. The Drug Abuse Warning Network reports that from 1981 through 1985, cocaine deaths increased by 324 percent.

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Psychological effects may involve wild mood swings and extreme paranoia. The cocaine depression after the high leads many to more and more frequent use.

Price is one reason for the sudden interest in cocaine. High tech procedures for producing the crystalline form (“rock”), combined with highly organized operations for smuggling a drug far less conspicuous than bales of marijuana, have cut the price to about $10 a fix (dosage). Instead of spending $20 on a movie, soft drinks, popcorn, and candy, a couple may “do two lines of coke.” A high school student with a part-time job can make enough money to get started. Yet in time, expenses of $ 1,000 per day are not unusual. This drives many to become dealers, selling the drug to others.

The rapid rise in the use of cocaine, and the disastrous results, mean a problem of monumental proportions is developing.

If a father called you or me for help because his son was in the midst of an epileptic-like cocaine seizure, what would we do? Of course, we would call a doctor and seek assistance from a drug-abuse program. And since the use of cocaine often arises from poor personal relationships or a sense of failure, we can assure the son that we do not cut him off for his actions.

We can link him up with young people, perhaps Christian, who have overcome the habit and can aid him in a support group. Many say such groups are the most valuable tool they have found. A realistic Bible study group can help here, too.

When the disciples were confronted by the child who, possessed by a demon, threw himself into the fire, they despaired of helping; but Christ said, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29). We, too, can pray (and fast) for the deliverance of those we love.

Very likely the father, and perhaps we too, feel overwhelmed, seeing our prayer life as insufficient to provide much help at such a time. But as we pray, we can believe that, although we do not know how to pray as we ought, the Holy Spirit intercedes with groans too deep for words (Rom. 8:26).

Further, we can make sure that members of our church know the consequences of cocaine. This drug carries the image of being a safe and satisfactory part of high-society life. We need to debunk such a frightful misunderstanding. Accurate information is available from such sources as 1–800-COCAINE, a national information and referral service, and from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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Also, the appeal of cocaine to some well-motivated high school and college students suggests that we must have a clear view of our own values. We may find that we strive to succeed for reasons that will not hold up before Christ’s scrutiny.

Do our children and those we teach and influence see us engaging in business practices and in personal schedules that suggest a succeed-at-any-cost philosophy? Motives are more caught than taught, and we can never turn off our influence. A look inward may be in order.

As Christians we are committed to a realistic view of life. Goals are obtainable. Life at times will be gruelling, but victory is worth the risk. We must share love with our children and all whom we wish to protect. We must provide examples of recreational “escapes” from reality that will leave us not debilitated, but better able than ever to carry on our work.

Such homely Christian virtues are our best antidote against involvement with all destructive drugs—including cocaine.


Texbooks Flunk Exam

Are public school textbooks biased? Are they censored?

The answer to both questions is yes, and the nature of the bias is clear: Religion and traditional family values have been excluded.

This is the conclusion several colleagues and I reached after a recent careful examination of 60 representative social studies textbooks, in a project funded by a grant from the National Institute of Education.

In grades one through four, the texts introduced the child to U.S. society—to family life, community activities, ordinary economic transactions, and some history. None contained one word referring to any religious activity in contemporary American life. For example, not one word referred to any child or adult who prayed, or who went to church or temple.

The family was often mentioned, but the idea that marriage is the foundation of the family was never presented. The words “marriage,” “wedding,” “husband,” “wife,” did not occur once. Nowhere was it suggested that being a mother or homemaker was a worthy and important role for a woman.

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The fifth-grade U.S. history texts included modest coverage of religion in colonial America and at the early Southwest missions; however, the treatment of the past 100 years was so devoid of reference to religion as to give the impression that it has ceased to exist in America. The sixth-grade books dealt with world history or world culture, and they neglected, to the point of serious distortion, Jewish and Christian contributions.

High school books covering U.S. history were also studied, and none came close to adequately presenting the major religious events of the past 100 years. For example, there was not one reference to a prominent preacher such as Billy Graham or Norman Vincent Peale. Most disturbing was the constant omission of references to the large role that religion has always played in America.

Taken together, these results make it clear that public school textbooks commonly exclude the history, heritage, beliefs, and values of millions of Americans. This is a serious injustice. More serious, the minds of many children are being coerced against the will of their parents.

What should be done? Obviously our textbooks must be changed to present a more truthful picture of America’s past and present. In part, this change can be accomplished by parents, PTA’s, and others challenging the inadequate books now being used. Equally important, however, is the need for publishers to respond with better textbooks. It even seems appropriate to challenge Christian publishers to produce such books, and not only for Christian schools, but for public schools as well. The country has a long-term need for new textbooks that more accurately reflect the true content of our country’s history and values.

Nevertheless, even with such texts, in the public schools as they are now constituted, a fair presentation of all traditions important in American life is possible only at a shallow level. So parents should have greater freedom to choose their child’s school. This would not only help create new and more competitive schools—it would also support new publishers and more varied textbooks. We must finally recognize that the very pluralism of American life requires pluralism in American schools.


Dr. Vitz is a professor of psychology at New York University

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