DECATUR, GA–Rodney Dunbar, a 46-year-old civil engineer and father of two, "must have read some drug-slang pamphlet or something," his children reported Monday.

Rodney Dunbar holds a rap session with his son.

"Dad and I were watching the NBA playoffs Saturday," 14-year-old son Dylan said. "Someone missed a pass, and he goes, 'Sometimes, I get the feeling that some of these basketball players are smoking the rock.' Then, a few days later, he sits down on my bed and asks me if I'd ever been 'pressured into attending a raver party, where kids dance and take party drugs like truck driver, co-pilot, Georgia home boy, and doctor.' It's like he picked up a health textbook or something. Or maybe he found some weird talking-to-your-kids-about-drugs web site."


A discussion between Dylan and his sister Megan, 16, revealed that she had been asked similar questions.

"He asked me if any of the kids at school 'do crystal.' I just stared at him, dumbfounded," Megan said. "Then he says, 'It's also called crank. It's very dangerous.' Okay, dad."

Dr. Allen Mayhan, a local family therapist, explained Dunbar's clumsy efforts to incorporate contemporary slang into his drug talks.

"By using current slang terms, Dunbar is trying to tell his children, 'I'm "hip" or "down," and you can talk to me about anything,'" Mayhan said. "He is unaware that his stilted speaking style, belabored references, and frequent incorrect usage of terms leave his children more confused than reassured."

Mayhan discussed an April 3 incident in which Dunbar alluded to "Special K," the newly popular club drug Ketamine, during breakfast.

"As Dylan was eating a bowl of cereal, his father told him, 'Product 19 is fine, kiddo, but stay off the Special K,'" Mayhan said. "Dylan wouldn't have even known he was talking about a drug if he hadn't punctuated the reference with a raised eyebrow."


Said Dylan: "I had no idea what 'Special K' was. I had to ask White Jimmy, this guy in my history class who deals. Turns out, it's a dog anesthetic that people take. Then White Jimmy showed me his stash. Man, that guy has a lot of wild stuff."

According to Dr. Mary Putnam-Ellis, author of Speedballs, Spliffs, And Spores: How NOT To Talk To Your Teen About Drugs, parents have attempted to use drug slang for generations, despite the fact that there are no known cases of the tactic being effective.

"Recent studies indicate that knowledge of slang does not improve communication between parents and children," Putnam-Ellis said. "Instead, statistics show that hearing parents use the street names of drugs leaves teenagers feeling vaguely creeped out."


In the past, parents would use drug slang from their own generation, assuring their children that they "don't have to smoke doobies to be cool." More parents, however, are turning to current slang, picked up from articles about drugs in Time and Newsweek, investigative pieces on 60 Minutes, and movies such as Traffic, as well as from drug-slang brochures.

"Parents feel that, by exhibiting knowledge of street names, their children will see them as an informed, experienced peer who is worth listening to, rather than an out-of-touch authority figure," Putnam-Ellis said. "This tactic never works."

Despite its ineffectiveness, Dunbar said he has no plans to stop using contemporary drug slang any time soon.


"I read an article in the paper about that new drug Ecstasy and its long-term effects on the brain," Dunbar said. "I wanted to talk to the kids about it, but then I forgot what the article said they call it. Is it 'E' or 'X'? Or is it both? And I can't remember if you use 'E' as a noun or verb–do you 'do E' or do you 'get E'd up'? I'll have to make sure to get that straight."