[Question] How to Convince my Son that Drugs are Bad


My son (16m, henceforth referred to as John) has monologued about this site a few times over the past couple of months, so I figured, based on my brief impression of the community, you might be able to help me with an issue. Given the topical nature here, I am not sure if this is an appropriate type of post to make, however it might be a useful place to make an appeal. Worst case, this gets taken down for incompliance.

John has always been a little too obsessed with his computer, but things really came to a head when he found this whole subcommunity. For a couple of weeks, I’d regularly notice as he spent hours just sitting in his room scrolling through blog posts and papers and forums. While damaging to health, this doesn’t seem unusual among teenagers and I try to let him make his own decisions as I’m sure eventually it will taper out, and that’s not my main issue.

First off: I’ve noticed some positive changes since he started discussing effective altruism and rationality and such, though I don’t know whether to attribute that to this site or just maturing. Thank you all for that. But there are some worrying ideas he seems to have gotten as well, centering around romanticization of drug use, specifically “nootropic”-style with a focus on amphetamines and psychedelics.

One day he just came up to me and began engaging in a discussion about the merits of doing drugs. I’ll give you some approximate quotes so you can understand about how this went:

  • “Why the hell is LSD criminalized everywhere? There are NO negative side effects *proceeds to compare to prescription drugs*”

  • “Psychedelics and amphetamines are classes of drugs I plan to do, I’ve done extensive (3 hr—sigh) research on their side effects and chemical compositions and all seems fine! People take Adderall all the time and I can easily get a script, I’ve read the entire DSM 5!”

  • “What’s the difference between you drinking alcohol or coffee and me taking amphetamines and doing LSD? Drugs. are. drugs.” “Alcohol isn’t synthetic? Well then, what about peyote?”

  • “Why not try heroin if the purpose of life is to optimize happiness assuming heroin provides proportionally more even if for a shorter amount of time?” (!)

  • “Look, here’s this site where someone (a ‘gwern’ if I recall correctly) did this scientifically! They’re fine, I want to do that too!”

  • “How will I acquire the drugs? I’ll just … uhhh … synthesize the LSD myself! Can’t be that difficult”

This discussion re-occurs any time someone brings up recreational or cognitive-enhancing drug use. I’m getting frustrated of explaining how dangerous these ideations are and how a lot of these drugs can permanently damage him, through addiction or brain damage or other negative health effects.

But he is apparently “a rational being who can make his own decisions”. While he’s certainly intelligent, he’s misguided in this particular direction. How can I persuade him to stop these thoughts?

Relevant note: our current settlement of the situation is that he’s going to wait until he’s age of majority then do whatever he wants. This is an outcome I want to avoid, as I fear he will fall into psychosis or addiction. It’s possible that these ideas will fade over the next year or so, but I’m looking to accelerate that period.