I am all for the crusade against teen-age drugs. I have given my blessing as Nancy Reagan launched each new campaign against the hard stuff. I even praised the anti-drug comic characters, The New Teen Titans, that were introduced last week at the White House.
But as the parent of a teen-ager, I am afraid that we are still overlooking one of the most widespread drug problems among our adolescent population. I am talking, of course, about shampoo.
Too many parents are still unaware of the rising addiction of our children to shampoo. We have enormous trouble even calling it "addiction." After all (let's be frank about this), most adults are social users.
In all likelihood, we were the ones who originally brought the product into our children's lives. In the beginning, we may have been pleased to see them adopt such a wholesome clean activity.
When our friends asked, "It's ten o'clock at night. Do you know where your children are?," we said smugly that they were just in the shower. Just in the shower! I blush at our naivet,e.
But slowly some of us realized that our children were in the shower before school and after school and three times on weekends. The fact of the matter is that they were always in there, lathering up.
When, finally suspicious, we checked their supplies, what did we find? Shelves lined with an assortment of plastic bottles, a panoply of hair paraphernalia. We had to face the truth: the bathroom had been turned into a head shop.
If there are parents of teen-agers out there who still refuse to face this desperate situation, pay heed. Ask yourself the four warning signs of shampoo addiction:
Is your son using more than six fluid ounces a week on his scalp?
Is your daughter saving up her allowance to buy yet another ultra-rich formula to change her hair behavior?
Do your children need clean hair to feel that life is worth living?
Do their moods vary with the conditions of their roots?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, I submit to you that your young ones, too, have developed a chemical dependency on lauramide dea, dihydroxyethyl, methylcellulose, and perhaps even sarconsinate. Check the labels.
I don't want to be too hard on the teen-agers. After all, they are at a young and vulnerable age. It's the pushers who are everywhere, even on television. They are not just hustling shampoo, but even (I hesitate to say the word) conditioners.
What do you suppose the advertisers mean when they tell our children: "Sometimes you need a little Finesse, sometimes you need a lot." What sort of escape is really being offered by the pushers with their hallucinogenic notion: "Hair so clean it will set you free." Free from the greasies? Be serious.
What merchant of Madison Avenue has snuck a subliminal message along with the tom-tom heartbeat that promises his shampoo will "En-hance, En-hance" these innocent souls.
Every evening our children see lives transformed in 60 seconds by a single dose. People turn silky and sexy. They bounce on trampolines and point hair- dryer guns at their heads and are beloved. Is it any wonder that the kids want some, too?
In fairness, the government tried to tell us about this potential epidemic. It went so far as to label the bottles with a warning: "Keep out of the reach of children." But most of us were too worried about what was being drilled into their heads to think about what was being massaged into their scalps.
Now our children are awash in Suave and Preference, full of Pert and Silkience. Some, the hard core, have even lost their allowances to Pantene, the cocaine of the shampoo world.
But not all is lost. If the New Teen Titans won't clean out the head shop, it's up to the tough love of parents. Sweep the house clean of lauryl sulfate. Check the shower for traces of suds. Smell your children's heads before they go off to school.
And if you think you're getting paranoid, remember this: shampoo spelled backwards is oopmahs.
Copyright (c) 1983, The Boston Globe Newspaper Company