THE war against drugs disappeared when my friends and I came of age. Luckily we had grown up at a time when the war was in high gear.
By fifth grade we knew the antidrug egg commercial as if it were the national anthem. ''This is your brain (egg). This is your brain on drugs (egg sizzling in frying pan). Any questions?''
We didn't have any questions because the message was simple and clear. Drugs were bad. But these days the message has been muddled because the war has disappeared. The egg commercial and the Just Say No campaign faded with the end of the '80s and the inauguration of a new president. I miss the egg commercial. I miss Just Say No.
Some wars end with a truce. But for my generation and my 13-year-old sister's generation, it has ended in tragedy. According to the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, daily use of marijuana has quadrupled among eighth graders since 1992. In 1995 the number of teenagers who smoked marijuana at least once was double that of 1992.
When I entered college my friends and I didn't need statistics as proof. We lived in an environment where our peers turned into potheads. At Woodstock '94 we watched drug pushers become as popular as the bands. During freshman year, my roommate and I lived on the ''drug and alcohol'' floor, where the smell of marijuana was permanent and nauseating.
The bands and rock stars we idolized glamorized drugs all the more. In the '80s groups such as Debbie Gibson and New Kids on the Block sang happy drug-free songs about teenage love and passion. The music wasn't as angry, as in-your-face, as it is today.
These days many Top 40 bands push drug use in some form. Bands like Cypress Hill promote drug use by pushing out a six-foot joint on stage as they rap songs like ''Legalize It.'' Even sedate singers like Tom Petty promote drug use: ''It's good to get high and never come down,'' Petty sings in one of his songs.
The message that most young people are getting is that drugs are no big deal, that drugs don't kill, that drugs are cool. In the movies those who get high never die. Uma Thurman's character in the film ''Pulp Fiction'' overdosed on cocaine. She should have been dead, but 15 minutes later she walked back to the house and called her experience a ''bad trip.'' My schoolmates howled with laughter during this scene. I wonder if they would have been laughing if she had died.
Talking about drug use with parents is a lot harder now. Ten years ago parents could use public-service announcements as a stepping stone for conversation. Schools had Just Say No campaigns where my compatriots and I learned how to overcome peer pressure. Drug users were uncool in my high school.
These days drugs are a hush-hush subject much like sex and race. Instead of talking to their kids about drugs, parents can conveniently spray their child's room for traces of drugs. There is even a new kit that enables parents to cut off a lock of their child's hair and have it analyzed for drug use.
Meanwhile the number of young people smoking continues to rise steadily. Half of high school seniors have used illegal drugs at least once. There are also an increasing number of politicians who want to legalize drugs. During a recent interview on National Public Radio, Ethan Nadelman, a contributor to the National Review, said, ''Drugs are here to stay, drugs are always going to be here, we have to learn how to live with it.'' Young people are getting mixed messages.
It's time for someone to come out and say, ''Enough is enough,'' and revive a much-needed war against drug use.