Once again, another teen superstar has given us the opportunity to talk to our kids about a serious, heavy subject- drug use.
Miley Cyrus, former star of Disney’s “Hannah Montana”, has been videoed smoking a bong containing an unknown substance and clearly getting high as a result of it. It has been widely expressed that the drug contained therein is Salvia, a plant that is a very potent hallucinogen, much more potent than any other naturally occurring hallucinogen. It is also legal in California (and most other states), as it’s a very common, very pretty flowering plant. The leaves, when juiced, chewed and swallowed, or dried and smoked, produce the hallucinogenic effect.
Some have claimed, and it is possible of course, that the drug contained therein was, indeed, marijuana, but we don’t know that for sure. Given the effects that the drug had on her, it would appear that Salvia is more likely.
But does that even matter? Does the fact that it’s a “legal” substance somehow diminish the horror of the act? Perhaps some of you think that “horror” is too strong a word, but honestly that was my initial reaction. I was, and still am, horrified. Not shocked, but definitely mildly surprised, and totally horrified. Watching the video, you just know that she’s taking a drug and making it seem fun. That’s not okay.
Unfortunately, my kids (the teen and tween) saw the video before I had even heard what happened, so I couldn’t caution them against it. When I found out about it, I spoke to them about it immediately, which is when I found out that they had seen the video. My son thought it was stupid and disgusting; my daughter thought it was funny- which was exactly what I had hoped against.
She understood it was wrong, and agreed that it was stupid, but she thought it was funny anyway- the way she acted, seeing things and people that weren’t there, etc. The fact that the other people Miley was with found it funny didn’t help. And of course when I asked her about it, I got this as a response: “Well, they were all laughing so I figured it couldn’t be that bad. I mean, I know drugs are bad and I’m not going to do it, but it didn’t seem like it really hurt her- I didn’t think it was that bad.” My heart stopped in my chest, and I thought I would be sick.
That is one of the scariest statements I’ve ever heard- specially coming from my child. It was one of the moments I’ve always dreaded, knowing that she has seen and spent time around these things, but not knowing the extent of her exposure to these things (she’s not our biological child). Somehow, I had to turn this around, and get her to understand that there was nothing normal or funny about it.
Which becomes my charge to all parents- again, talk to your kids about the hard things. Use the example of Miley’s behavior to talk to your kids about the dangers of drugs, of poor friend choices, and of how just because something is permissible (legal) doesn’t mean it’s beneficial. I read an article asking whether this was extreme behavior, or typical teen behavior. I like to think it’s extreme. And honestly, it makes me angry, because she was one of the teen stars that my daughter looked up to. I feel that all stars whose careers are aimed at young people have a responsibility to not steer them wrong.
Her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, commented that her choice made him “so sad”. I would have had more to say I think, but I understand his feeling. And in one act, she truly embodied the worst of both worlds- the child who has disappointed her parents; the star that has let down her fans. As a star, she could have had practically anything she wanted for her birthday, but that’s what she chose. Truly, that’s sad, indeed. But as parents, we have the opportunity to do all we can so that our kids- many who watch Hannah Montana and listen to Miley’s music- don’t make that same mistake.
I talked to my daughter about how her behavior was totally unacceptable, and about how even trying a drug can be the difference between life and death. I think she ultimately got the message, but I can’t be sure, so I’ll keep talking. I encourage you to do the same- and as you watch with your children, help them to stay grounded in the fact that although they may be high profile, these stars are still just people- people who make mistakes and poor choices, and their lives are nothing to emulate. Teach your kids to strive for their personal best in whatever they do rather than to idolize superstars and you’ll be well on your way to helping them make choices that are the best choices for them.