Judy Nichol and seniors Jim and Kurt discuss drugs in high school
BROADCAST: May. 8, 1973 | DURATION: 00:55:41
As part of an on-going series, Chicago Sun Times reporter, Judy Nichol and her colleagues went to various high schools in Chicago and the suburbs to talk to students about drugs in the high schools. Lane Tech seniors Jim and Kurt said the reason they got into doing drugs was because of their peers and because they wanted to be a part of the crowd.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Kurt Well I used to work out. About 3 or 4 times a week at The Y too so that sort of kept me together. Then after I stopped doing it. I stopped drinking too, as an outlet I saw it was getting nowhere.
Studs Terkel That's Jim talking.
Studs Terkel He's a senior at Lane Tech and that's Judy Nichol of a reporter of the Chicago Sun-Times. And that's that was Kurt talking I should say. And Jim as his friend both of them were seniors at Lane Tech and this in connection Judy Nichol is one of the correspondents excellent one of the Chicago Sun-Times and your colleagues working on the series drugs and high schools in Chicago that you might say drugs and schools all over the country and perhaps drugs generally as far as all our are society's concerned. All kinds of drugs including the most pernicious of all, alcohol. And so where do we begin, Judy. We're talking about your colleagues who worked on the series of some of 2, 3 weeks now about drugs in Chicago.
Judy Nichol Well, there were, there were a large number of us who worked for 3 months, who went to high schools all over the city and in the suburbs talking to kids about why they used drugs, how often they use them, how available they are, where they come from and what, whether or not they think this is a problem. In large part, they don't think it's a problem they think they can handle it. But some handle it much better than others. I'd like to give credit to the other people who worked on this with me because I by no stretch of the imagination did all the work. The other people were Lloyd Gree,n who is an assistant city editor at Sun-Times. And the reporters were Ellis Cose, Jerry DeMuth, Bob Hilleman, myself and Leanne Pitt.
Studs Terkel And thinking about the whole series I suppose, Kurt, we were talking before going on the air about yourself and beer. Family. We always think of originally we thought drugs, black kids in the ghetto and we thought of Heroin, "H'. and now there are all kinds. What if we start in the beginning. Who are you? Who are you, Kurt? Your family? How would you, you go Lane.
Kurt My family is I'd term them as, average middle-class family. Both my parents work. They have since we were old enough to go to school and take care of ourselves and. That's one of the things where a kid to get involved like if his parents don't spend enough time with them. But that's by no means what the case was with me. You know like I picked it up from my older brother and from friends you know habits like that. Same thing with smoking your first cigarette. You know you don't do it just cause like you saw it on a commercial or your parents and maybe your parents influenced you. You see your father smoking all the time your mother and they're not home going in their bedroom sneak a cigarette out their pant you know it's the same thing with picking up drugs or drinking.
Studs Terkel We'll ask about the kind of drugs. So it's sort of a middle-class family. Your father, what kind of work your father do?
Kurt He's an electronics maintenance man in a foundry.
Studs Terkel How about you, Jim?
Jim Well, I'm like Kurt I come from a middle-class family. A family of 9 children, seven girls, and 2 boys. Our neighborhood isn't bad at all. It's it's getting pretty bad because of the drug scene now. But I guess you could say I started, picked it up from my friends which, supposedly you think there you're friends but you know they're they're not, And.
Studs Terkel We say drugs, Judy. Now on and we're come anytime you know. When we say drugs what do you mean?
Kurt They consider marijuana a drug but I don't at all, not in the terms where it would be classed as a narcotic because marijuana I feel is a lot safer than alcohol. I've been through a lot with alcohol [paper rustling] and I've had people in my neighborhood and relatives, things like that. Friends who've gotten too drunk they had auto accidents. Few of them are dead now. Things of that sort. You know and you see where alcohol got them. Now marijuana is smoked to be sociable just like drinking must you due to an excess where you are alcoholic but you can't be addicted to marijuana. There's no really bad physical effects unless you go out and smoke maybe, 20 dollars worth a day which you know that's called a lid. And you know it's impossible to do that because it can only smoke so much before your throat gives out, you know. You just keep coughing and it doesn't put you in a stupor or anything like that. Course, drugs affect people different ways. Depends what type of a mood you're in.
Judy Nichol How about downers at Lane? We find out that Barbs, barbiturates, and sopers so-called are very prevalent in high schools more prevalent than anything else. I'm wondering if there- what you think about that at Lane? Is it true?
Jim Well, the barbiturates you can't. I've never myself really seen a barbiturate addict because well Barbs there really are sort of hard to get I'd say you know. People that have Barbs, people that sell them get them from usually doctors or pharmacists or something. They, you know usually don't sell them in quantities and a barbiturate addict you know he's you can't compare them to a heroin addict because heroin addict has to have his junk every day you know, and a barbiturate addict you know like I say he doesn't have the drug exposed to him too much. So I don't see how he could become, you know that addicted to it.
Judy Nichol Well, it's hard according to what we see, we find out. But it is possible. You have to have a regular supply route that you can depend upon. Sometimes, it's somebody who who regularly gets it by stealing large quantities from pharmaceutical houses or from drug stores or has a friendly doctor.
Studs Terkel These are the blues, reds these are reds, blues.
Studs Terkel We say downers, what do you mean by downers? Downers in contrast to what uppers? What are downers?
Kurt Downers, put you down they slow you down they slow down your motor mechanisms and your speech and you speech is slurred you walk, you know tottering back and forth things like. While uppers are amphetamines and cocaine they stimulate you. A lot of adrenaline goes in your system everything your heartbeat steps up your pulse rate naturally.
Studs Terkel What is the one that is most used then?
Kurt The downers, barbituates.
Studs Terkel Why this is one that makes things seem easy relax sort of sleepy like?
Kurt Yeah. The trouble is people don't realize like the more they do them, they build up the state of depression. As Jim was saying before, like, he doesn't know of any barbiturate addicts I don't either. Not at school but I know some heavy users, and lately is one they've just been getting in to the heavy usage of them because as Miss Nichols said, depends on availability. Somebody in a neighborhood down towards the lake got a hold of a large quantity of them. Now some of them are coming around school and they're not for sale but the people who have access to them are using them rather heavily. People that I know as a matter of fact.
Studs Terkel Why is it? What were you
Judy Nichol I was going to say that I think it's interesting that downers are so popular because fr- there le- you can control evidently as I understand it the reaction to them easier than you can control the reaction to amphetamines. Sometimes amphetamines will make you just really freak out and you'll be running around the classroom but you can take it downer and just sit there and just sort of dream through the whole class and the teacher doesn't pick on you and in some cases, I've heard some students say that the teacher likes it better when you just sit in the back of the classroom and don't make any noise and you don't drop your books on the floor and you don't shuffle around and you don't nudge the kid next to you. You just sit there like a lump and they don't have to worry about you.
Kurt Well that's trouble with a lot of the teachers like they don't care. Sure a lot of the kids are problems you know that's part of growing up. I used to be a class clown. I remember when I was in first and second grade I was the only kid in the whole school who had his own seat behind the piano. Just to keep me separated from the rest of the class. But you know I was always an active person. But having a student just sit in the back if he can't keep up with his work and just passing him because he keeps his mouth shut isn't really giving him a education that he deserves that his parents pay for in taxes.
Judy Nichol What kinds of drugs have you used?
Jim I have experienced all the drugs. You know I've went, well I'll say I started out on alcohol. You know that was in grade school.
Studs Terkel Beer?
Jim Beer. Yes. Whiskey you know.
Jim And from there you know I went to glue. Glue is a normal stage I think. Just like alcohol was. But then again I'll say I got turned on by my friends to pot. This was when I was, I think at the I was in eighth grade. And then I went to acid you know and then you know right up the line cocaine you know.
Jim Junk,yeah. And I And I was in a hospital for a couple weeks of hepatitis from shooting dope.
Judy Nichol What does heroin feel like?
Jim It's similar to Barbs, barbiturates, downers.
Judy Nichol How would you describe the feeling that you get from taking down downers?
Jim I don't like to do downers that much because you know I get too tired you know I just go to sleep in a corner or find a corner and go to sleep. But like heroin you know like you can go and you don't sit down in a corner or you know your cigarette burns down to your finger. You know you go off in to dreams you're nodding constantly you know and it's real relaxing. They call it the King of High.
Judy Nichol Why do you feel the need to to relax? It would seem to me with your life ahead of you and both of you smart and both of you going to a really good school and from nice families. Why do you why do you need to do this? Why do you want to do it?
Jim I really don't know. It's one thing I can't figure out. It's because I think is the main thing is the people that I hang around with. If I could get out of the crowd, you know I think I'd be better off on my own.
Studs Terkel So you think it's the matter of wanting to impress your friends?
Studs Terkel And that's important is it?
Jim Feel a part of the crowd, to belong.
Studs Terkel Yeah, to belong. Why do you think Kurt, Judy's question. Why do you think a lot of people you know your contemporary friends?
Kurt I went through the same thing as Jim here. I was out with hepatitis in all of January.
Studs Terkel Why did you get hepatitis from? From what?
Kurt Using a needle that somebody else used when they already had hepatitis. And you know that put me out in January and I really didn't take care of myself. I didn't stay at home and rest as much as I should of. And I had a relapse which is about, 5 to 10 times worse. You know and I had jaundice, now my liver is scarred you know i'm not and supposedly I won't make it past 50, so you know I just learned the hard way it's part of life. But I don't take it bad because I knew what I was getting into. I really didn't know what would happen if I had jaundice but I knew what hepatitis was already because other people that I know had it. And, you know it's just something that comes with getting high. Depending on how you get high if you use a needle if that's what you into, you know using heroin or getting amphetamines.
Judy Nichol You mentioned it, it make you feel part of the crowd. That it relieves loneliness. Do you think it's a big problem?
Kurt Loneliness is definitely a big problem. I can't, I couldn't stand it when I was in the hospital. A lot of people didn't come to visit me that I thought were such good friends and everything.
Jim Same thing with me. No- Not. Only one person came to visit me.
Kurt My parents were always there. I talked to teachers at school like some of them are like we were talking before about teachers. They don't really care about the student just pass them, but some of them are very intelligent and they'll talk with you, you know and they'll tell you like you'll find out as you go through life that the best friends you really have the people that love you and care about you the most are your parents cause they went through so much with you. And like I put my parents through a lot here with hepatitis and everything like that. But you know basically in school I keep up with all my work and I pass everything and going on to college which is more than most of the people in my neighborhood do because most of them never even made it out of high school they dropped out in their sophomore and junior years.
Studs Terkel Of course, this raises the question that Judy is asked you know, why has there, has there been an increase we say. drugs are so var- are so many the varieties: downers, uppers, the hard stuff, the stuff that's pills, stuff you find in the family cabinets too. The question is there's been an increase hasn't there as far as high school,
Judy Nichol We think so particularly in downers [chair moving]. We don't, again, we're not sure because nobody really tested it before, [chair moving] and nobody has really tested it now. So it appears that in some schools maybe there was a peak in about 1970 or at least that's what, that's what the teachers think. Where there were more kids who were sick in the hallway, more kids who had to be taken to the hospital, more kids who had to be sent home than there are now. We're not sure whether there's more drug use now or whether kids are controlling it better now. One of the things that one of the suburban hospitals that I called said that I thought was interesting was, that it used to be that they would get people who just were afraid would maybe smoke 2 marijuana cigarettes and felt a little weird and would come into the hospital because they were scared. Now when they get somebody they're really really sick. They don't get any more people who are just scared from 2 marijuana cigarettes. They get people who are virtually on the brink of death. So that the number.
Studs Terkel That's not from marijuana it
Judy Nichol No, no something else entirely is what I'm saying.
Studs Terkel Yeah,
Judy Nichol And so that the number of people who, the the statistics that you get, the statistics from hospitals the statistic from Police Departments, the statistics from sick people may not necessarily be an indication of use but more an indication of of abuse and it's not clear to me that there is a lot of abuse in high schools real abuse of drugs in abuse to the extent that it would permanently damage a young person.
Studs Terkel See but Kurt and Jim are both touching on something that we cannot evade. Teachers, schools, education, societies like it better if you're members of the silent majority. In short if you're quiet, and say nothing, and even if you're asleep or if you're off somewhere. Is that your feeling?
Kurt Yes. For the most case. I have very good teachers at Lane I've had them. But it's not so much the teachers as the people who run the school. They don't want to give the students a voice. You know and what goes on at the school. They're up to elect a new principal for Lane and they were supposed to choose a committee which was to be made up of teachers, parents of the students, and students. And from what I gather like they don't tell the students anything this was printed out in a student newspaper though. Everybody that's been chosen for the committee is a union teacher and the teachers' excuse for this was, while the students are only going to be here 4 years if they make it that they don't drop out. And the same thing with their parents when the student is gone this parent has nothing to do. Well, I disagree with that because, like, the students should always have a voice like you're not going to be here all the time, neither am I but still we should have a voice in the government, that's democracy. Everybody should be entitled to something like that.
Judy Nichol How often does the school ask you about anything? Do they ever consult you on anything? Do they ever consult the student, students in general? Do they ever ask you about what you think of the American history courses or what you think about that lunchroom or anything?
Kurt Very seldom. The only thing they ask us about now is graduation. Do you wanna go to the prom or not? Do you wanna attend graduation or not? Because if you don't go to graduation that's 1 less kid they have to hassle with. Worry about throwing his hat at the end of the ceremony. And that's the way it is at school. They don't treat you as a person they treat you as a student ID number. You're just somebody that's much lower than them. You know speak when spoken to and that's all. That's the basis that they treat a lot of the students with at least the head members of the board over at Lane.
Studs Terkel So if you're a student ID number then you don't make waves is that? Just get along
Studs Terkel and you ge- now we come back to drugs again don't we? Downers particularly don't we?
Kurt The kids like it gets to be such a bore for them going through school every day. The same old grind you know, having to come and sit in class. Open your book write a few things down to impress the teachers so he or she doesn't yell at you. Why do that when you could come in and be high?
Studs Terkel Jud,y, I wanna make one thing clear. Although Kurt and Jim are Lane, would you say this is pretty much indicative of pretty much all the schools?
Judy Nichol Yes it is. To say that the drug problem confined to Lane would be the biggest exaggeration of the century I think.
Studs Terkel But also what Jim said about the attitude towards students too.
Judy Nichol Well it would be awfully hard to find a school where you couldn't find at least one person who who felt that way. And I think the school administration in many cases realizes this. I talked to a teacher at Senn. And he said about 50 to 70 percent of the teachers are deficient in their ability to listen to kids. And I thought that that was a very interesting statement because he said we should we should consult the kids on everything. We should consult the kids on every single thing that happens in this school except the union pension plan and there's not a whole lot of that going on. And I think that it makes people feel like they're just being pushed through schools most schools. And that it wouldn't make any difference doesn't really matter. Their individuality never comes out. They're never treated as separate people. They're treated as a great mass of students to be pushed through this 4-year program and to be pushed into these little molds so that they can get jobs or whatever. Now, certainly that's not true of every teacher but it's often true. What do you think of drug education?
Kurt Very poor. All they give you is statistics. What might happen if you do barbiturates with alcohol. What LSD might do to you. What heroin usage is like. When they say heroin users right away, everybody, especially adults you know they shriek they shrink back you know and they read the paper they think wow there's another junkie. They don't accept it from the terms of a person having problems or being lonely enough to turn to drugs because there's an availability rather than that, they figure well we were taught when we were in grammar school it's against the law. That's all there is somebody uses heroin put them against the wall and shoot them rather than cope with his problem and try to straighten things out.
Judy Nichol The heroin users that you've known, have they have they had personal problems generally?
Kurt Home problems, problems with school.
Studs Terkel How did it come down in your case Jim? You know. Matter.
Jim Well, I guess Well I'll have to say again through the through my friends so-called friends. Well, that's you know your friend. You see a friend doing it. You want to do it.
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Jim You know it's, it's it's point of being accepted again and it's so available
Studs Terkel It's available?
Studs Terkel Which one you talking about now? Which are available?
Studs Terkel Heroin. But I my, I follow the series in the Sun-Times of Judy Nichol and her colleagues that has been less heroin more of the downers taking place. This apply to black schools well as white schools?
Judy Nichol Yes I think so. There there is heroin available, but I think that a larger number of people are afraid to try it. Larger number of people think that maybe they can just get away with doing a few downers and they they the possibilities of addiction don't seem so real. The possibilities of getting in trouble or picked up by the police don't seem so real. It's a lot easier to hide 1 small pill or 2 small pills than it is the equipment that you need to shoot heroin. But a lot of kids snort it. So then they don't need the equipment and I suppose it's fairly easy to hide it in that in that instance. Snorting is sniffing as I understand it.
Studs Terkel What about downers or stuff like that? Isn't there a myth that downers are not addict- aren'r they addictive?
Judy Nichol Yes, downers are addictive.
Kurt Physically and mentally addicting.
Studs Terkel And these are the pills, the Reds.
Kurt Reds, Tuinals, Yellowjackets
Studs Terkel What are two in ones?
Studs Terkel No, what you just said.
Studs Terkel Tuin- Oh, Tuinals what are Tuinals?
Kurt I'm not sure just what it is in the terms of the actual drug name. Whether it's Seconal or Phenobarbital something like that but they're about what the kids term the best downer like to get. It's like getting heroin that's really good. Brown heroin rather than the white. Same thing with downers if you could get Tuinals. And when you're dealing with downers you're not dealing with something you have to get off the street because like downers or pharmaceutical.
Studs Terkel Isn't Kurt hitting something really interesting. We're talking about drugs that are advertised on television. Drugs that are composed kind of things to keep you nice and easy. We see the women with headaches. You take this or guys. This is what we're talking about too aren't we?
Judy Nichol Yeah I don't think that Barbs are actually advertised on television but certainly all these remedies to calm you down to deal with life. You've had a screaming child and what do you do? You don't pick the child up and hold it in love it. You take a pill.
Judy Nichol Right [laughing], so it's kind of a whole thing. Our life has been geared toward pills in many ways. I think we're sort of being taught to believe or they're trying to get us to believe that pills will take care of a lot of the needs that we have rather than trying to deal with them through our own resources.
Jim Sometimes they call that Mother's Little Helper.
Studs Terkel Oh really? What's?
Kurt it's been in songs already by the Rolling Stones.
Studs Terkel What's some of the songs? What's Mother's Little Helper?
Studs Terkel You know aren't we hitting something else now. How can we even talk about young people, high school kids or you know elementary school kids and drugs without talking about the drugs society, drugged society. About keeping it nice and easy and calm and quiet and out of it.
Kurt That's true because the first downers that I was ever placed in a position where I could obtain them weren't from a pharmacy. Well, originally they were from pharmacy but rather than buying them from a kid on the street, somebody had stolen them from his parents.
Judy Nichol One of the girls that I interviewed said that, whats- asked me what's the difference between kids taking Tuinals and adults taking nerve medicine or really barbiturates the same kinds of things. And she said it's just a clear cut case of adult chauvinism.
Studs Terkel Adult chu- [laughs] Yeah I think a slight pause ah something. The very thing you're talking about that, what Kurt just said guy got it from his parents. So, a lot of the stuff is in the family cabinet in the medicine cabinet isn't it?
Kurt Originally but once you get more involved with it you find out how to get a hold of phony prescriptions. I've known people who could fill out a prescription that looks better than if a doctor wrote it.
Studs Terkel Really?
Kurt Just go out to a pharmacy and hear you could crack crack a prescription is what it's called. And you pick up 30 downers for let's say 3 dollars or something like that. And you can go out sell them on the street for 50 cents a piece.
Studs Terkel You know a great deal is made of a heroin, quite horrendous people the heroin peddlers the drug peddlers you see on the street corners and these are dramatic stories and they're horrible and they've got to be obviously picked up and prosecuted. But somehow it evades the key question. Doesn't- he spoke of loneliness in Jim. You know the matter of no one really gives a damn and class however is how you feel or think or your thoughts. Therefore, unless you make trouble that it unless you're allowed to make
Kurt Then all of a sudden you in a spot where all the teachers know you. Where your name is in the office and the attendance officer for cutting classes and things like that.
Judy Nichol I'd like to go back if we could for one minute to the to the thing that you just mentioned about getting prescriptions from doctors. I,we've had a number of pharmacists call us after the series went into print and one of the articles in the series was how easy it is to have phony prescriptions printed up and then just write your own and take them into a pharmacy and they'll fill them without even doing anything to to question you at all. They just hand them to you as if this was a perfectly legitimate prescription. You mentioned that that kids know how to do that and a lot of pharmacists have called this stuff afterwards and they said we don't have the resources to check. We don't. It's awfully difficult for us to check when kids come in. And what about the doctors who write these? What about these prescriptions that doctors have written themselves in
Kurt That's why they don't want to
Judy Nichol Have you ever heard of a doctor who likes to help kids out?
Judy Nichol By writing prescriptions for them?
Kurt And then with the pharmacist a lot of times he doesn't want to call the police because of implications with the law. And in case he is mistaken. He gets a nice lawsuit on his hands.
Studs Terkel Isn't there something else here? [I think on which?] teachers, doctors, bigshots or what it is. What's the best way to take care of something, some kid- the town. The class clown that Kurt was. Give him a pill and.
Kurt That's not the way to do it.
Kurt This is what society moving towards, that's the
Studs Terkel Yeah.
Kurt I've heard where working on some kind of drug now to give students where it will keep them docile in class. I can't really see that. You know it's something like you would read in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley when you know everybody, or 1984, everybody is put in a state of low. You know being lower than whoever is ruling. The ruling class and then everybody else is just a number or something a call number,
Studs Terkel You know, what Kurt just says is a perfect spot for us to pause right now. And let's pick up on this very point point he made because how can we talk about drugs without talking about our society and keeping things quiet. We return in a moment. Judy Nichol of the Chicago Sun-Times Times staff, that for the past 3 months have been doing research on and the stories of the appearing and the Sun-Times Times for the past couple of weeks and drugs and the young particularly schools high school city and suburban schools. With Jim and with Kurt who are seniors at Lane Tech we return in just a moment. [Pause in recording] Resuming this conversation, of course we've got to come back to Kurt's point about that. First of all schools, suburban schools. This is no class is immune from this. Is that right?
Judy Nichol That's right. You can go to Winnetka, you can go to New Trier East and you can get heroin. We interviewed a girl who used it. We- you can go to Evanston and you can get Seconal within an hour. And a member of the team that worked on this story did. You can go to Highland Park or you can go to Rich Township or you can go to Wheeling. It's very easy to get drugs every place and it's just a question of whether or not the kids have the inner resources to to not buy them to not use them to the self-discipline to decide when it would be bad for them to do this. And I think that that is what we kind of we have to work on. And I think both of you have have sort of realized that in your own mind that you have to control it yourself. You can't expect someone else to take the drugs away from you or to make it impossible for you to get them. You yourself have to decide I am not going to abuse these drugs. You think that's right?
Jim I'm noticing now in my own in my experience that it really isn't getting me any place except that I'm spending a lot of money and well you know there's there's so many ways that you can spend your money and you know you have to keep on spending more and more just to get the kind of high that you want. And I guess you could say I'm maturing out of it. It's about time. No need to stop it. It's not worth it anymore.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking of the different ways that young people, you know find meaning whatever it is out of life you know. You spoke of loneliness too. We get- you guys differe- We have names you know we so accustomed to giving names to peo-. You guys once called Greasers right?
Studs Terkel Yeah Greasers. And Greasers are the guys who pu- working class people, lower middle class, middle class guys. Right. And now you've beaten category slightly longer here?
Kurt Greasers, you know if people out in the radio audience don't know just what that is you know it's somebody wears baggy pants and a black leather jacket things like that ride around in a hot rod. And always has you know big mouths ready for a fight or something. I know most of the greasers at Lane now or you know they're really good people once you get to know them. It's just like with anybody if you come up to a stranger if he's not an open person you know he's gonna shy away from you or something like that. But there's a few that have a bad attitude, you know, on life and on school. They're always getting suspended for cutting. But they bring that on themselves, you know. Now a kid will go to one class one day and that will be absent the next four days. He will be at school. He'll stay across the street with his friends all the time who are usually cutting class and this is typical whether you're a Greaser or a Freak or just a regular student you know you don't take sides either way and they get suspended and then they figure the school is picking on me you know and they get a bad attitude.
Kurt Well then what's the out? What is the drug of a Greaser? Just curious. What would be the out for him?
Studs Terkel Alcohol.
Kurt It's something you grow out of because when I was a Greaser in grammar school and everything I was getting rather heavily in alcohol.
Studs Terkel Wine what? Booze regular booze, whiskey?
Kurt Beer and once in a while hard liquor usually only when it was cold and very seldom because the hangover was too much. But it's something you grow out of and then when you start turning into a Hippie like first time you smoke marijuana. There's really nothing there you know it's really nice and you realize it's not as heavy on your pocketbook nor on your body because you get really run down from drinking a lot. And you start to realize things because your mind clears from the alcohol you don't always have to be rowdy. You don't have to go out and get in fights to impress people. You coaffectsuld be your own person. And some people don't grow out of it like Jim was saying before you know something you have to become aware of and find out for yourself because nobody is going to help you unless you get involved with the law. And then as in the case at school you only get to resent them if you wind up getting locked up or something. But you have to realize you know where you're going to go in life what you're doing now is affecting you in a certain way and how it's going to get you anywhere. If you want to get out of school you can't go there high all the time do the grades you know do the work to get your grades and keep up with the teachers.
Judy Nichol Kurt, you're a musician. I'd like to ask you how yo- use of drugs affects your ability to make music?
Kurt It impairs it very definitely. I won't use drugs and play I can't. I mean I've tried it already.
Kurt Piano and organ. I've played for about nine years now.
Studs Terkel Go ahead you were saying about.
Kurt Well like with any drug it impairs your- some of them impair your vision or alcohol your coordination and when you're playing on a keyboard you know you definitely have to have coordination because there's only a 1/2 inch each key, 3/4 of an inch and you know your finger just moves a little bit the wrong way and you hit a sour note messes
Studs Terkel Some I remember old-time musicians way way back used the code tea you know the name used long before pot was used. You know the phrase and they had the impression they were playing well with later on it came out they were playing pretty terrible.
Kurt When I play you know I like it to be me, nothing artificial. And since drugs are an artificial way of becoming elated. You know I can't mix that together with playing because like playing music is an outlet. I don't play, I can read notes you know I've taken organ lessons for 4 1/2 years before I quit that. Now the only music I play is my own original music. You know I work on modern music but like I've had a classical background in organ and I put that to use on the piano and organ. Hope to get a group together someday.
Studs Terkel What's happened to acid? What's happened
Studs Terkel It is? phased out. That's a good phrase.
Kurt It's still there but the only people that use it are people that are in the same state of mind that Jim and I were in like 3 years ago. Three or
Studs Terkel Why do you think it is? Why is LSD being phased out and what is replacing it?
Jim It's too wild, to hectic. I think people are starting to realize that you know it does burn you out after doing a lot of it. You know you get spacey. It isn't that expensive you can pick up a hit for $1.50 or $2.00.
Studs Terkel Aren't we touching on something now here? You spoke earlier if you behave yourself that is if you're quiet and that's all you know, Brave New World out of it entirely, no questioning. LSD makes you very frantic.
Studs Terkel Whereas the downer makes you kind of "So what's the difference."
Kurt It calms you down. But if you do too much it's just like alcohol and you become rowdy, violent possibly somebody argues with you.
Judy Nichol If you do too much,
Kurt Too much is it in terms of the person and what general mood state of mind there in at the moment. I seen a little a little fellow or a girl at school doing maybe 2 downers and.
Kurt Can be rowdy you know they can't walk they will fall in the lockers then you say, "don't you think you're a little too high." What's you talking about, you want a punch?
Studs Terkel Almost like a drunk?
Judy Nichol Yeah.
Jim Yeah. Alcoholic is wor- is worse though I think. Cause you get that sick with it too you know, you start throwing up with it.
Studs Terkel Alcohol is legal though.
Kurt That's that's the only difference between drugs and alcohol like a lot of people. They always say, "the drug problem is terrible", you know. This and that they go on, you know the kids are junkies and addicts and they're pushing dope on the streets. You know we only got that from society the way we grew up. All the things that affected us throughout our lives and our friends. And what you see on TV and it's the same thing with adults how can they talk about drugs when a lot of them are alcohol users are abusers in the case of alcoholics. When you're a chronic alcoholic where you have to have alcohol just the way somebody needs heroin are they go into a fit.
Judy Nichol I think the question that everybody always asks is, "Why do kids use drugs?" And we've gotten every answer in the book for that question. But it seems to me that the question that we also ought to ask is a corollary to that is, "Why do adults use alcohol?" Because I think that the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse said that the reasons were basically the same. You want to alter your consciousness you want to see things differently. You want to feel differently. You want to bolster yourself up or calm yourself down or whatever and you want to change yourself a little bit in using drugs or fit in with the group or the reasons are just so parallel as far as I can see that it's interesting that we are so upset over the drug problem and not very upset over the alcohol problem.
Studs Terkel Is that on the minds of many young people? [Intelligible] The hypocrisy, the double standard are the young aware of this is?
Kurt Yes. Like it's when we are talking before Jim and I growing out of drugs is something you have to do on your own. You have to see really what's going on. And rather than just look at ourselves you know we got ourselves into this mess with drugs. It's up to us to get ourselves out. Because who wants to turn to a parent when the parent could be hypocritical. You know as much as they're hassling you, you're not maybe you're not coming across with your schoolwork or so they say and why are you always coming home high. You know why do you smoke pot, why do you do this and that and they themselves will sit down and go this kid's too much I need to drink drink.
Judy Nichol [Laughter]
Studs Terkel [Laughter]
Judy Nichol That's really that's really interesting.
Studs Terkel Yeah as we're talking, this is just a breezy conversation with Kurt and with Jim, who are 2 students at Lane Tech. We choose Judy Nichol of the Chicago Sun-Times, [Liberty?] chose Lane Tech as almost representative of what might be called Middle America in a way. And we are not talking about black ghetto kids now, and there too of course problems are deep and deep and deep the nature of bla-. We are talking about life and suburban kids. But there's one common denominator here then and Kurt and Jim both have touched on it. That no one really cares what you think, you're there. You're a body in that classroom. Is that it?
Jim Right. As long as they can take attendance you know as long as you're there you know.
Kurt The more seats they have full. That's that's the reason they get on a lot of kids for cutting because the kid who cuts doesn't always come across with his schoolwork. And the reason they'll get after the kid rather than getting him out of class or he'd be a problem is because the board gets on them because every seat full means more dollars coming into the school.
Studs Terkel As you talk, are many of the students aware of this as you are?
Kurt Some of them are some of them aren't. A lot of them are indifferent because they think things aren't going to change. I think they are though because, you know, it won't be for a while. Change doesn't come about rapidly but you know students like us are going to be tomorrow's leaders, tomorrow's businessmen and things like that. And as long as we're not out just to make a dollar. If we get a humanitarian sort of you view, where we take each other as people rather than just somebody you have to deal with or a customer if you're in business or something like that then you know things are straightened out because we'll be out to help each other rather than oppress each other.
Judy Nichol Lane Tech is not is not really typical in a way because you have to take a test. You have to you have to be an above average student to go there isn't that right?
Judy Nichol So that when a when a school with this big a reputation and dis- as well-deserved a reputation as Lane for for academic excellence and for-
Judy Nichol And for a lot of other things. Having good teachers teaching a lot of courses that perhaps are not offered at every school. When when there's drug use at Lane I think it's indicative that there's drug use probably in almost every high school in Chicago and that's certainly what we've found in almost every high school in the suburbs. We've not gone into a high school at all where we couldn't find that drugs were available and that people were using them.
Studs Terkel We always come back to "why" don't we. Why this particular increase? We have to come back to that theme again don't we? What percentage would you say roughly in your school?
Studs Terkel More
Kurt At least half or more at least smoke marijuana but I don't consider that abusing drugs. You know that's something that
Jim Just as accepted as alcohol.
Kurt It's socially accepted and it's nowhere near as bad as alcohol.
Studs Terkel But an a question. Doesn't the use of marijuana on occasion, doing that because it's socially acceptable lead to another? Not that that itself is addictive but.
Kurt It depends on the person too and who he hangs around with. Some people never get past marijuana. Some people try marijuana and they say I don't want it. Some people go on up.
Kurt Depends on the person, who he hangs around with and what kind of life in general he has. You know if he has troubles at work, troubles at home. He's always getting the raw end of the deal in school. Something like that.
Judy Nichol Nobody knows exactly that we've been able to find how many young people use drugs have all the different kinds. You get estimates depending upon the person that you're interviewing from 80 to 5 percent. If it happens to be a kid who doesn't use drugs he's likely to say, "Oh hardly anybody does it," because hardly any of his friends do it or hardly any of the people that he knows do it. If you interview a person who uses a lot of drugs he's likely to say that everybody does it or 90 percent because among his friends everybody does do it. We're all limited by the people that we intimately know and so that comes out in the kinds of information that you get when you interview people. But it's clear it seems to me that there is widespread drug use at virtually every high school and doesn't seem to me that high schools are doing a lot to cope with it. And a lot of the things that they're doing haven't worked. I don't know. We can't suggest anything that they could try that would work other than perhaps to be better high schools, nicer people, pay more attention to the kids, make schools a better place to go. That's the only thing I can suggest and it sounds so utopian.
Kurt Oh, thank you. They have to deal with the students and you know on a term where they are people and they're gonna to grow up and fit in to society. They don't really prepare you for society when you are in school they don't tell you about the the ills of it. Large corporations you know going out and just making money off the people and all the corruption and politics and everything. You know I don't know if they expect to learn that on your own by reading the papers and watching the news or whether they just don't care. You know they have a set course you have to take history. You have to pass the constitution test. Well that's good because you have to know about the government. But it's set that you have to have 4 years of English and
Kurt Yeah, 2 years of math at least, 2 years of science and certain things that shop. All these classes are good for you and you know they give you a good general knowledge to have. But they should also have something like a sociology class where people just get into an open discussion about how their lives run and the way they view things because a lot of kids will get out of high school or they wind up dropping out they'll be completely bewildered and they won't advance from that stage.
Kurt They're lost. Like what do I do to get a job you know. What about going on to college and this and that. They're not really prepared to cope with things like that. And if they get into a legal hassle they're not ready for it unless their parents can help them. With drug education as we were saying before the way it's really not up to par at school with what it should be. I feel that they should start dealing with the drug problem in grammar school before the kids even become involved with it. So they'll be aware of how bad it is. You know they could even teach it to the real young Sesame Street because kids of that age you know some of their parents are around 20, 23 years old and I'm sure a lot of them use drugs and it's just something that you have to bring across with the kids while they're still little and you can't just treat them as a student ID number you know somebody to fill a seat. You have to treat them as a person and realize that they might have a problem where they could turn to drugs or they might get involved with some people that might lead them into it just to feel accepted. I feel that bringing this across to the students and getting their parents more involved with the students would help a change come about as far as using drugs goes as long as they did it while its child was still on a young stage and the parents stay involved with them rather than let them feel things out for himself because there's always a chance of them going wrong.
Studs Terkel I was thinking just as Kurt was talking, "not an ID number", come back to that again and you see the world outside. I mean you're not dumb you know what's going on and you read of the corruption and all that and saw the best. So since you feel kind of helpless. Is that part of it too that what can I do about it? Things are so rotten outside that the best way then is to turn off.
Kurt That's how a lot of people feel. But, my feeling is getting involved otherwise I wouldn't be here right now I'd be too scared. Let somebody else go talk.
Studs Terkel Yeah,
Kurt Why should I do a lot of other people use drugs but I don't feel that way. I have some sort of knowledge that maybe somebody can benefit from. So I'm here to share it because that's what knowledge is. You can't just keep it to yourself. You have to share it with other people.
Studs Terkel You were gonna say something Jim.
Jim Well I was going to say that well he's saying it you're just an ID number.
Studs Terkel Who was just say?
Jim Kurt was saying that your just an ID number. Well you know, there's there's and also he was saying about teaching kids in younger schools. Well I have a sister that's that's she's in seventh grade now. And she's pretty well aware of what's going on. And I mean you know the marijuana and all that is around here right now and I could see that she's trying to make a choice. You know should I hang around with these with this crowd or should I be sort of an outcast? Should I hang around with these. You know the more or less smarter kids? I could see that she's trying to make this choice. You know it's right there. And you know she's very how should I say bewildered. You know she doesn't know which one to choose. And that's where the you know the people should come in. The parents should come in and help. You know she should be able to talk to other people and if they were.
Judy Nichol It's a hard choice to make though don't you think whe- between this group that seems so cool and so sophisticated and is smoking and talking about dealing with drugs which sounds scary and or sounds to me scary and it's illegal and you're flirting with danger. And or to go with this group of kids who likes to study and who believes in all the old values and who stays away from it because it's illegal. It's a hard choice for a young person I think to choose between being cool so-called or doing what they might basically think is the right thing.
Jim I think they should get away from this. This idea of scaring people from the drugs you know scaring a person doesn't, you know it doesn't prove anything. It just wants for me, it just makes me want to do it all the more to see just what it is that I'm up against.
Kurt It's not now because you know we're older wiser put it in a phrase but, when we were younger it's just like when we were Greasers we used to call up the police.
Kurt Somebody talked like an old lady and go, "Help there was a fight on the street." You know they come out and have a good time. Couple of nights a week we have the police chasing us all over the neighborhood. And most of the time I think that they knew that like we called up but there was really nothing better to do. They come out give us a run for the money and it's the same thing with doing drugs at least when you're younger. How much can I get away with with my parents? How much can I get away with with the police and society?
Studs Terkel Aren't we talking now as we near the end of the hour that there's an excitement involved here. It's a phony excitement and excitement because the life that is led is so boring and dull and you're not considered anything about an ID number. Therefore, to be recognized as a person you would do this thing that might be called antisocial. You see isn't this what we're talking about, now how can drugs and schools and this whole serial at Sun-Times, Julie Nichol and her colleagues: Ellis Cose and Jerry Demuth and Leanne Pitt and Lloyd Green and Bob Hilelman. Isn't this what it's about really how can it be separate from the rest of the society?
Judy Nichol It's exactly what it's about. And it's near as we can tell there's there's no simple answer to it. I once interviewed an expert and he said that he was always asked to speak to parents groups. The only question that the parents ever asked him was, "How can we, what can we do about drug abuse how can we stop our kids from using drugs?" And he said the only answer that I can give them is that there is no pill to stop drug abuse and that's what they wanted.
Studs Terkel Yeah but there is a pill isn't there? There is a connection with everybody isn't there? And that pill is one way or another to get attention or to get out of it altogether. Isn't that we're talking about too? You were the remember you said beginning of the hour perhaps one last go round with Jim and Kurt and Judy. That you were the clown of the class and you the was it was you were colorful. But to stop being the clown to be part of that mass and then a pill took care of it.
Kurt No, and this is when I was way back in grammar school. That's something I grew out of. I mean I was always getting attention as compared with other students in the class that would just sit and read their books. You know. I'd always be doing something but I'm just an active person I like to get all of all out of life I can like now rather than turn to drugs I've found that I could get a real high you know a mental and physical high without using drugs by just going out in the country or being with friends and having a good time and a lot of people have to realize this. You don't have to be high. As long as with your you're with your friends you know somebody who appreciates you and you'll appreciate them. That's part of life too.
Studs Terkel Jim? What are your thoughts before we say goodbye now about everything everything we've been talking about?
Jim Well, I just want to say one last thing that I don't think that the older generation accepts the point that marijuana is going to be legalized sooner or later. You know just as though there just as there alcohol is accepted only by them I think they should start realizing that it's going to have to be accepted sooner or later. And that is it's going to be just like their alcohol is to them as you know marijuana will be to us.
Studs Terkel You don't want a single standard around a double standard really too. Judy what are your thoughts as we say goodbye now? The series is a Sun-Times, by time this is on the Sun-Times it will almost be over I assume it will be offered and booklet from eventually. The drug series and the Sun-Times when, your thoughts?
Judy Nichol I, I just think that after talking to the hundreds of kids that we talked to and teachers and so forth. That it's a it really is a great commentary on the intelligence in the self-control of young people that so few people do abuse. Very few people are addicts in high school. Very few people get sick or ruin their minds or have to go into mental institutions. And with the availability of drugs it is a great statement about the smartness and the ability of young people to decide what's best for them most people decide right.
Studs Terkel This perhaps is the ending and yet not the ending of this particular situation because but obviously the undercurrent this sub thing we're talking about with Kurt and Jim and Judy Nichol of the Sun-Times is that you can't separate young people and drugs from what ails our society generally. Schools, politics, corruption, double standard, hypocrisy all is what it's about too, isn't it. Thank you very much Jim. Any last thing you want to say, Kurt?
Kurt Nothing in particular except what Jim said about the marijuana. It will be accepted because the parents and the adults who are in politics now that won't accept it they're moving out. And the younger people get in you know they'll put it through legislation. It's it's a case of where like a lot of people say two wrongs don't make a right. Why have alcohol and marijuana legalized you know? But since marijuana doesn't do anything near as bad as alcohol does to a person physically or mentally, I don't think they can consider anything like that at all. It's just the way the adults were brought up to accept everything it's either right or wrong. They don't accept the true aspects of it. You know the usage and they can't talk about something they never encountered.
Studs Terkel That's it. Let's call this then a roundtable on the double standard. And let it go at that. Thank you very much Kurt and Jim and Judy Nichol.