A study released this week by the Department of Health and Human Services reveals that drug use is down among uncool American kids. The federal study, conducted over a 10-year period, shows a dramatic decline in drug usage among uncool kids aged 12 to 19 since 1985, down from an overall total of .001 percent to .0001.
“Really, this should surprise no one,” Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said at a news conference. “If you’d ever met one of these kids, you’d be amazed if he’d ever left his own bedroom, let alone smoked a joint.”
Recently sanctioned federal guidelines define “uncool” kids as “those who characteristically exhibit introverted, passive tendencies, physical ungainliness, academic aptitude, and who live in continual fear of things that really aren’t a big deal.”
Among the uncool kids who were polled for this study were computer geeks, people who couldn’t do chin-ups for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness tests, Forensics Club secretary-treasurers, school newspaper editors, and newspaper carriers who were saving their money to buy a Capsela set.
Researchers conducting the poll believe that the decline is due to a resurgence in conservative values. The uncool youngsters themselves named many factors behind their unwillingness to use drugs.
Forty-four percent were influenced by Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug “just say no” campaign as featured on an episode of Diff’rent Strokes. Fifty-six percent said that their parents would kill them if they tried drugs, and 62 percent believed that their brain cells would erode, risking reduced scores on calculus exams. An overwhelming 94 percent feared allergic reaction.
As one respondent put it, “I am allergic to milk, cats and pollen, and I am afraid that if I smoke marijuana Dr. DeSmet will give me more shots, which I don’t want because they are painful and cause small red welts to rise on my pale, doughy flesh.”
Researchers tried to measure the limits of this reluctance by assigning popular kids the task of turning their uncool peers onto drugs. Resistance was practically universal.
“I was trying to get this little geek named Paul to smoke a joint, all right,” high school football team captain Chris Mitchell said. “And he was all crying and spazzing out and going, ‘noooo, noooo, noooo,’ and snot was just shooting out of his nose. He made us want to puke, the little suck. We were glad when he finally ran away. What a girl.”
Berkeley professor of psychology Theodore Wil-linger was circumspect about the findings.
“The laudable fact that these kids are no longer seeking out pleasure through drugs is, frankly, canceled out by the tortured hell they endure daily within their own miserably awkward selves.”
Among the un-cool subgroups, drug use was slightly higher among sci-fi freaks, but still only topped .001 percent by decade’s end.
“At ElfquestCon in ’84, we were told that there was marijuana present,” Kenneth Osoms, 25, said. “My older brother said he had seen a marijuana smoking pipe with some charred marijuana leavings, but this I never witnessed. That is all I have ever seen at any con. This year at GenCon, I felt kind of sick after eating a corn dog.”
Government officials claim to be encouraged by these findings, but given the nature of the adolescent subgroup in question, have had difficulty showing much enthusiasm.
“You know, even I’m tempted to tell these kids to loosen up a bit,” Shalala said. “I mean, stay away from the heavy stuff, you know, the stuff that fries your mind, but c’mon, you can get away with a beer every now and then. An oatmeal ale is nice. Or ask your parents to serve a nice table wine, like beaujolais, with dinner. It adds a tangy zest to chicken and fish, and it’ll kind of take you out of your shell a bit, so to speak. I mean, live a little.”
The Associated Press and The Washington Post contributed to this story.