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Say 'Cheese,' But Don't Buy It

Drug dealers have devised some new tactics to entice kids to buy drugs -- they mix them into over-the-counter medicines or even candy and call them non-drug names.

For instance, "Cheese" is a blend of black tar heroin and Tylenol PM, reports the Associated Press. And meth mixed into strawberry-flavored powder is called "Strawberry Quick." Another popular enticement: candy laced with marijuana.

"It becomes much more appealing to younger kids because it doesn't have the stigma, they're not as afraid to get started," Dr. Collin Goto of the Children's Medical Center in Dallas told the AP.

Between this and the growing use of prescription drugs by teens, what's a parent to do? Talk to your kids, say the drug experts. "Two-thirds of teens say that losing their parents' respect and pride is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana or use other drugs," writes the Anti-Drug Campaign.

Had you heard of these drugs before this story? How have you started conversations about drugs with your kids?

Today's Talkers: Kids' Dental Health Not Improving ... Boy Charged With Tampering School Lunches ... Take the Family Fitness Challenge

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 10, 2007; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Teens , Tweens
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When I was in middle school, our health teacher had a case of drugs (at the time, of course, we thought the drugs were real). He'd pull it out, show us all of the different drugs and tell us what they could do to you. Nothing like hearing the story of the girl who hallucinated that she was an orange and peeled herself to keep someone away from LSD for life. He had similarly awful horror stories about heroin and cocaine.

As I've grown older, I've started to wonder exactly how much of what that health teacher said was true. But boy, that lesson had a huge impact. There was no chance I was trying any hard drugs.

Posted by: NewSAHM | May 10, 2007 8:14 AM | Report abuse

There have always been code names for drugs. No different that weed, pot, X, special K, or other code works. My guess is this is less about trying to "entice" kids as it is using code names to hide it from authority figures.

Posted by: RT | May 10, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I had a similar educational experience with drugs as NewSAHM. It was in the 3rd grade, and the whole class spent a week or more on the types of drugs, effects (all bad) and what they looked like. At the end we had to write a story about someone who took drugs; mine ended with him taking cocaine and trying to fly off a multistory building.

Needless to say, the training 'stuck' with me and I never tried any drugs. However, the class didn't cover the legal drugs, just the illegal ones; there was nothing about the dangers of overdosing on OTC medicines, misuse of things like glue or hairspray, etc. Don't know if they weren't on the radar screen back then or what.

Posted by: John L | May 10, 2007 8:22 AM | Report abuse

are you kidding me? check your facts. these stories don't even deserve the term 'urban legend'. they've been circulating with minor variations as long as I can remember (at least the early 70's), and have never been substanciated.

how exactly do you go about mixing tylenolPM with 'black tar' heroine? utter nonsense.

Posted by: osull1va | May 10, 2007 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Never heard of it. Kind of scary.

Posted by: foamgnome | May 10, 2007 8:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm of the generation of kids who came home one day to Mom freaking out and telling us stories about strangers who would come up to us on the playground offering Mickey Mouse stickers with "bad stuff" on them...this was back when you had to lick stickers and stamps.

I doubt there was a large number of incidents of adults offering LSD to five year olds then, and I doubt most drug dealers are aiming at five year olds now.

After all, they don't have a lot of money to buy later, which is the whole point of the business.

We'd rather believe that kids are introduced to drugs by random malicious weirdos on the street, than from friends and peers. We'd rather believe that child predators are strangers hiding in the bushes, while most of them are relatives or friends of the family.

We'd rather believe in a spooky evil force "out there" and get worked up about how scary the world is.

Posted by: di | May 10, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

The phrase "urban myth" always makes open up (a pretty fun site about urban mythology/rumors).

It would appear, at least that the Strawberry Quick story has at least some veracity (unlike, say, the drugs in stickers myth).


Posted by: David S | May 10, 2007 8:54 AM | Report abuse

does anyone have suggestions that avoid the lies and fear mongering of the 70's?

i also was told horror stories of what would happen to you if you took drugs - pot makes you brain dead and LSD makes you jump off buildings.

it worked. i didn't try any drugs until college. But surely there are kids who defied the warnings and tried drugs at to young of an age - and guess what - they didn't die. Did that just prove to their peers that the teachers were just full of it?

i would think that an honest discussion about honor, respect and the real dangers of drugs would be more appropriate. Do any parents have any applicable experience?

Posted by: realist | May 10, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I was warned off hard drugs by my father, who was given PCP as a painkiller while at Massachusetts General recovering from open heart surgery back in the early '60s. He said that the worst parts were forgetting how to write - the mechanics of holding a pen and forming letters into words on a piece of paper - and looking out at an elevated stretch of road and seeing cars going by, but no road.

Hadn't heard about mixing meth with strawberry powder. Everything about that drug scares me, from the toxic manufacturing process that can be carried out in the home, to its highly addictive properties, to the damage it does to the body. Have you ever seen photos of meth mouth? Horrific stuff.

As for the individual asking about how to mix Tylenol PM and heroin, I would imagine a mortar and pestle would do the trick. Tylenol PM and heroine is even easier; I generally prefer to swallow my pills with water.

Posted by: BxNY | May 10, 2007 9:34 AM | Report abuse

In any honest discussion of drugs, I think you need to include some thoughts on why people take them. Any bright kid is going to know that there must be some appeal; if it was all negative and misery only, no one would take them. I would mention that some drugs give you a TEMPORARY good feeling or feeling of power at first, but then this turns negative over time. And then discuss why some people feel they need this, and how to get this through other means (sports, music, academic achievement, volunteering and helping others, etc.).

Posted by: CJB | May 10, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Well, I recently had an accident, and broke a bunch of stuff. My daughter had to deal with me on percocet for 2 weeks, and vicadin for another week after that. She was so tired of having the same conversations over and over - I didn't remember them. And, how I couldn't make a decision, and I couldn't drive. It was up close and real. We now joke about it in our house - how completely stupid you are when you're on even prescribed Rx drugs. Seeing it up close and personal, while not the recommended way of doing things, made an impression on her.

Posted by: Teenagers Mom | May 10, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Give your preteens/teens "Go Ask Alice." Still as cautionary a tale 30 years later as it was back then.

Posted by: blah blah | May 10, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Look, I certainly don't want my kid using drugs, and I am open to suggestions that will help me in my parenting efforts to prevent that. But the assertions made in this article that drug dealers are intentionally targeting youth by mixing drugs and candy is simply absurd and so far "off message" that it seemed almost comic. When I read this quote --
"Two-thirds of teens say that losing their parents' respect and pride is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana or use other drugs" -- I decided it MUST be a joke. You might try vetting out your facts and proofreading your quotes before posting such hysterical stories in the future. Shame on you, WaPo!

Posted by: RJH | May 10, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

A fine example of ace reporting by the Post. Let me see if I understand this: your Stacey Garfinkle reads some laughable story on the AP wire, paraphrases it, and the Post publishes the story and pays her for it? Good job.
And what exactly is the mode of ingestion for "Cheese" by the way? Are we to imagine that smoking Tylenol PM is supposed to be a selling point?
How does one "lace" candy with marijuana? I'm guessing that somewhere, sometime, somebody caught some school kid with a pot brownie, and now (Christ save the Children!) we are all supposed to believe that the pushers have figured out a way to infuse THC with M & M's?
I'm curious, are your reporters encouraged to do actual research, or can they just write whatever bone-headed crap they wish? If it is the latter, can you give me a job? Because I could come up with some fantastic stories...

Posted by: Floyd | May 10, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

there is positively no evidence, even much evidence to the contrary that these products are aimed at children instead of at teens and adults. Calling marijuana Tea in the 1940s is no different than creating a heroin mixture and calling it cheese. It's a brand name like in the 1960s there were two competing "brands" of LSD, Orange Sunshine and Blue Cheer, but remember, don't take the brown acid from the Woodstock movie. See? that's where the branding comes from and it's 50 years old. This story has nothing to do with parenting.

Posted by: DCer | May 10, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Gives new meaning to the phrase "cut the cheese"....

Posted by: 22046 | May 10, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

to Floyd - Stacey's not exactly the brightest star in the galaxy... usually every other day or so she offers up some treasure like this one.

Posted by: jj | May 10, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Stacey, pull this or post a "mea culpa." As others have noted, this has been hanging around for some time, like the LSD-laced tattoos.

Posted by: cab91 | May 10, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse


"to Floyd - Stacey's not exactly the brightest star in the galaxy... usually every other day or so she offers up some treasure like this one."

Righto. The thumbsucker kid who plays with his private parts 24/7 pretty much says it all for Stacey.

How did she ever get this blog? What are they smoking at the Washington Post?

Posted by: Jake | May 10, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Just a question -- related to the drugs, I guess. My husband and i were watching some tv show and they were talking about those rubber bracelets that the high school kids wear, and how each one meant that they were willing to perform (or had performed) some particular sexual act. Is that really true?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

By Anonymous @ 11:54 am:

"My husband and i were watching some tv show and they were talking about those rubber bracelets that the high school kids wear, and how each one meant that they were willing to perform (or had performed) some particular sexual act. Is that really true?"

By virtue (again) of (not very original today I'm afraid):

In short: "We would happily shift this from the "Undetermined" category squarely into the "False" column save for a small handful of e-mails from youngsters who claim the rumor is on the up-and-up and that they know someone who did it. Quite possibly, those notes amount to nothing more than "I heard the story from someone I trust, so I want to believe it," but we feel we can't dismiss them out of hand. If, however, there have been some actual instances of sex obligated by bracelet-snap, they have been rare."

So most likely false.

Posted by: David S | May 10, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

About the rubber bracelets: No, it's not true.

Posted by: cab91 | May 10, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if that particular story of bracelets is true, but I know it's fairly common to use symbols to show one's prowess and experience.

So the drugs thing- just like the sex thing, just like the money thing, just like the driving thing.

Teach your kids your values, teach them reality, teach them how to make good judgements, teach them as best you can by example what a mature stable responsible adult is.

Extremism on either end is no good, fear never works in the long term and usually does more damage, and YOU have to educate yourself before expecting your kid to know what the deal is.

I personally think the whole "Cigarettes and alcohol is perfectly fine, but marijuana is evil" is completely ridiculous. As is setting different age limits for what "acceptable" drugs can be legally obtained.

Teach your kids what actions will lead to what REALISTIC consequences, short and long term, of all products they put into their bodies. I'm much more ok with a 16 yo who occasionally has a few glasses of wine and smokes some pot vs a 16 yo who chain smokes and binge drinks every other weekend.

Posted by: Liz D | May 10, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

But surely there are kids who defied the warnings and tried drugs at to young of an age - and guess what - they didn't die. Did that just prove to their peers that the teachers were just full of it?

Posted by: realist | May 10, 2007 09:29 AM

You are so right, Realist. This ridiculous and false hysteria just causes kids to dismiss any more moderate & sensible warnings about drugs along with the cr@p.

The best information about drugs in my experience comes from people who have been there, done that, and grown out of it. People who have the experience to separate myth from reality, but are no longer in the stage of thinking drugs are cool.

In my case it was a neighbor, the mother of a boy I used to babysit. She gave me a truthful rundown of the various drugs and their relative dangers--and some funny stories from her Woodstock days.

Posted by: worker bee | May 10, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Anonymous | May 10, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Hey, this is fun, can we talk about lipstick parties next????

Posted by: di | May 10, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Are you nuts, posting this crap? Do some research!
Oh, and Go Ask Alice is a hoax, btw, for the poster who recommended that.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 11, 2007 12:11 AM | Report abuse

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