Drug Addiction in Middle Class Families

I've been continuing to read about the tragic death of Henry Granju, the 18-year old son of a prominent blogger. Allison first wrote about her son's addiction a month ago, when he ended up in the hospital after being severed beaten during a drug deal.

My first and biggest mistake – and one that I implore other parents
reading this not to make themselves – was to minimize and rationalize
my child's earliest drug use as the kind of "experimentation" that
"lots of kids" try when they are adolescents. In fact, however, this
"experimentation" was an early warning signal, a huge, blaring,
shrieking, flashing early warning sign, and I chose not to see or hear
it for what it really was. It was akin to early stage pediatric cancer
and instead, I treated it like he had made a "D" on his report card or
something similarly inconsequential.

That's good advice. However, in many instances, parenting has its limits. One kid's internal demons will take him to the street corner, while a sibling in the same house will make different choices.


45 thoughts on “Drug Addiction in Middle Class Families

  1. But how do you know it’s an early warning sign? Is it an issue of age? If an 18 year old is smoking pot, is it an early warning sign?

  2. I read Granju’s quote on that as well, and it will stay with me. One of her goals in writing was to reach people, and she has reached me.
    I do think drug abuse/addiction are complicated, and that there are no easy solutions. But, I think one of the points she’s raising is a new one for those of us (not me, incidentally, I was a square) who are parenting now, but grew in in an age where experimenting with drugs (marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, etc.) was a part of the past. I know fully functioning, happy adults who used coke, for example, recreationally as young people. How do they tell the difference between that and early stage addiction?
    We need to be talking about that. As I said, I was a square, so I don’t have personal experience to impart. I’m likely to tell my kids that illegal drug use is simply unacceptable, and to do what I can to enforce that rule. But what about those who used coke when they were in law school, and are now partners in law firms, and know that the use didn’t significantly change their lives? What will (and should) they tell their children? What are the warning signs that distinguish their recreational use from the start of a terrible addiction?
    (I think an underlying factor that Granju might cite to is the age at which the use began — and I could see that being relevant, especially since it’s completely true that developmental pathways, especially the ones important for impulse control are still developing into young adulthood)

  3. It’s hard to know what the “take away lesson” is here. For every similar story, including the child whose sexual experimentation led to AIDS or pregnancy, or whose fast driving led to a fatal crash, there are tons more kids whose (equally dangerous) childhood experimentation faded away as they got to college with no terrible long-term repercussions. It’s often only in hindsight that you learn you missed the important sign, or that you were a smothering helicopter mom.
    I am far far away from the position of “blame the mom” — I know that we’re all in the position of “there but for the grace of. . .” From all I could tell, Ms. Granju was a wonderful, loving mom, and there was likely nothing she could or should have done differently that would have led to a different result.
    Based on her writing credentials, though, it makes me think back, though, to our family’s long-ago debate of “Attachment Parenting” versus “Ferberizing.” While we (and I would hope most) parents end up choosing a happy medium between the two, we definitely fell closer the “Ferber” side — more crying it out (though not for hours), no family bed (but sometimes when they were sick), etc.
    And I wonder if there are any studies about different forms of dangerous experimentation by kids raised in the different ways. Cause or effect, are the “permissive” kids of attachment parents engaging in risky behavior because they don’t have as many rules? Are the parents of stricter Ferber families engaging in risky behavior as a form of rebellion? Are the kids of parenting extremes engaging in more risky behavior that the muddy middle?
    A lot of comments are quick to dissociate this tragedy from the cause that Ms. Granju championed. I’d be curious to explore it — without assigning blame either way.

  4. When you’re older, you know enough about yourself to judge whether you’re an addictive person, or someone who can experiment without losing control of their lives. Part of the reason you know that is the risks you took earlier in your life. So let the risks young people take be low-impact risks, risks that won’t ruin their lives if it turns out they are an addictive person.
    As far as parenting through this, there’s a limit to what we can do as parents. It might be helping Ms. Granju deal with this tragedy in her life to imagine that she could have made a difference, but it’s just as likely that she might not have made a difference even through trying, her son might have ignored her attempts. Some young people just start making their own choices and are unswayed by adult opinion at an early age.

  5. “When you’re older, you know enough about yourself to judge whether you’re an addictive person, or someone who can experiment without losing control of their lives. ”
    Is there evidence for this? Do people who use addictive drugs at an older age show lower rates of addiction? It’s possible — because “you know enough about yourself” or because of better developed impulse control, or some other phenomenon. I feel like I’ve heard about smoking that most addicted smokers started smoking when they were young.
    Regarding parenting styles — it’d be a pretty difficult study to do. For one thing, people’s theoretical parenting styles are not necessarily their actual ones. I would have said that I find the concept that children sleep in their own beds a good one, and never planned on practicing attachment parenting. But my son still comes to sleep on our bedroom floor, and we joke that the way that we got our first out of our bed was by buying a new house.
    But, maybe, you could do a study on whether co-sleeping produces greater rates of addiction. I’m guessing that the confounds (ethnicity, socioeconomic, etc.) would all make that a difficult study, too.

  6. Well, what killed him was a violent fight in a drug deal gone bad, right? Seems to me it is at least worth thinking how things would be different if drugs were legal, sold in stores, etc.
    In my own high school career, it was striking how much easier it was to get drugs than liquor – people who sold drugs had no state drug licenses they could lose, people who sold liquor had a huge investment in their license to be in business. So kids were better protected from liquor than from heroin.

  7. In my own high school career, it was striking how much easier it was to get drugs than liquor
    Perhaps because I was more rural, I found it just the opposite. We never had trouble getting liquor (somebody always had an older cousin or brother), but I never heard of anybody using an illegal drug* before college.
    *I knew a few people who tried to smoke ditch weed, but there was never any THC in that stuff.

  8. I love the comment(er)s on this blog.
    For addiction it really is so complex. My genetic legacy is terrible for addiction – 3/4 grandparents were formally diagnosed at one point or another with a serious, life-altering addiction and 2/3 uncles/aunts have been in treatment as well, with my parents each the only non-addicts in the generation.
    I think one reason (of many) that my sister and I did not become addicts was because it was always on the table that we COULD. But I also think there was a certain amount of grace involved.
    For attachment parenting…putting it on the table that I lean that way myself with BABIES; I don’t find it a particularly permissive form of parenting over the long-term.
    Attachment parenting doesn’t mean we don’t require a standard of behaviour from our son. As a baby it’s true he was less scheduled than his non-APed peers and we didn’t fuss too much about where he slept or leave him to cry it out. But at 3 he was required to sit at the table for meals (at least for the first 10-15 minutes) and at 4.5 he’s required to be polite, and so on.
    I do think that this personal and unique tragedy is a wake-up call to AP evangelists in that some people who practice AP seem to think that if you babywear and co-sleep your child will never have any difficulty in life because he/she will Feel The Love. And that’s a good thing, because I think the big gap in AP is that transition from an infant and toddler to a child and teen. (Not that I am pointing fingers at Granju at ANY level, just discussing a flaw I perceive in the greater community.)
    But that’s not any more true than sleeping in a crib is likely to prevent drug abuse either.

  9. I should point out that Katie is a member of a list I am on. I’ve never really talked with her, though several of the current members consider themselves close with her (online-wise). For some reason I have it in my head that Henry was 14 or so when he started experimenting with pot.
    We have addiction in my family, too, so I’ll be watching for that. However, we also live in Massachusetts, so I am not entirely clear what is and what isn’t legal. I thought we recently legalized possession of small amounts. Or, we made it a misdemeanor. I need to check with my cop acquaintance for the rundown of the rules.
    Though I’m on an AP list with Katie, the parenting book I’ve found most inspiring is Blessings of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel, which suggests that the role of parenting is to prepare children for the world and to foster their independence. In fact, at the dentist today, the dentist was surprised that my attitude is to consider E more grown up than he is. She kept saying “He’s only 7.” She said that more often than not, she deals with parents who treat their children as younger than they are. (End result: we have to brush his teeth every night for the next 2 years. Ugh.)

  10. “the parenting book I’ve found most inspiring is Blessings of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel,”
    I quote Wendy Mogel all the time. I haven’t been able to get into the book (the religion is just a little bit too strong for me, though I plan to try again). But, I heard her speak, and I think I got most of her bon mots. I think she comments on the style of parenting that is both too permissive and too demanding that can occur in my community. One quote that sticks in my mind is that we treat our children like “disabled princes and princesses.” We demand enormous accomplishment of them (win spelling bees, read in K, do homework in 2nd grade, play the piano practice soccer 3X a week and, as they get older, develop their own community service projects, build the CV that makes them competitive among all the teenagers) while at the same time picking up after them (cleaning their rooms, cooking four individual meals, driving them everywhere).
    I think a lot of people practice a variety of parenting styles “incorrectly” — there are different methods of raising your children to respect themselves and others, from rules and religion to therapy and attachment. And, unfortunately, it can be easy to miss the main point.
    I’d be worried about using Granju’s families own personal tragedy in order to have this general discussion, except that I think that she has posted that *she* wants us too. I think her posts say that she wants us to think about her tragedy and how it might guide our own choices.

  11. PS: I have no plan to accept drug use (including alcohol) among my children as long as they’re under 18, and living in my house. I wont’ say never, since one of my rules is never say never, but right now, I imagine that drug use would be treated as “pediatric cancer” in our house, immediately. I don’t know what we’d do, but we wouldn’t accept it as “childhood experimentation.”
    (and, my rule on sex might be different).

  12. I dunno about the zero tolerance thing with drugs. Does it really help a kid deal with the reality of modern drug availability to go absolutely nuclear over everything? How is this teaching the middle path? Would it be OK if he were experimenting with drinking? What if he were over 21 and experimenting with drinking?
    My parents never drank when I was growing up, and one result of it was that I had no working model for functionally dealing with drinking. Same thing with sex: never discussed, as if it never occurred. This did not help with real-world coping mechanisms.

  13. Attachment parenting doesn’t mean we don’t require a standard of behaviour from our son.
    The Attachment Parenters I know were also the ones who were the earliest to let their children walk home from school alone, and plan their own play dates, and engage in other form of “when they think they are ready” independence. It often involves treating the kids are “older” than they are in some areas and “younger” in other areas. The Raggirls will cross the street on their own when ^I^ think they are ready, not when they do.
    My basic assumption (subject to disproving) is that any differences in outcomes — both pro and con — are less the result of AP versus Ferber, and more the result of “the type of parents” who are drawn to one or the other.
    But I do think it’s worth looking at. Otherwise its just a bookshelf full of anecdote, without any science to back up whether “you are cruel if you pick up your baby” or “you are cruel if you put down your baby” is the right approach.

  14. I have a 14, almost 15 yo. No signs of drugs or alcohol yet. He is borderline depressed, however, and I think drugs or alcohol would be a very, very bad thing for him. And he is aware of that. A guy came to talk at his school about how he was depressed and turned to alcohol to make him feel better and ended up an alcoholic and not really aware of what was going on in his life. Geeky Boy came home very upset and said that he didn’t want to end up like that.
    I think he has a healthy fear of drugs and alcohol. We’ve been very open about our own use. I, for one, used drugs quite a bit in high school and college, but basically grew out of it. I tell both kids all the time that I am lucky to be alive. When I look back on the things I did, I could easily have killed myself, either through use itself or through doing dangerous things while under the influence. We’ve told our kids we’d rather them call us and wake us out of a deep sleep to come and get them if they’re in a dangerous situation than allow themselves to drive drunk, ride with a drunk driver, etc.
    We just try to keep the communication lines open, constantly share our values, set limits, but still maintain a level of trust. I’m telling you, though, parenting a teen is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. What they do is so much out of your control. I feel like I’m holding my breath until he gets out of college.

  15. I have no plan to accept drug use (including alcohol) among my children as long as they’re under 18, and living in my house.
    But what will you (or I, w/my own kid) reasonably be able to do to stop it? My brother and I both became pretty rebellious in our teens, despite having great parents, and it was clear that we were drinking and taking drugs. But really, there was nothing our parents could do to stop us. Grounding a rebellious 16-year-old doesn’t work: they just leave the house. Physical force would have led to us moving out and going and living with friends. We both worked, so we had our own money, and our parents didn’t give us any they could take away as punishment. And with absolutely no exception that I can think of, parents who sent their kids to rehab for minor drug use pushed those kids into further rebellion.Basically, we could bluff them harder than they could bluff us, and they knew it, and so did we.
    And yeah, eventually we both outgrew it–perhaps not as soon as my now 40-year-old self would like, but I don’t think tough love from my parents would have had any positive effect. (But in fairness, maybe it would have cowed less rebellious children.)
    I feel for the woman whose child died, but he is very much the exception, even amongst kids who are pretty hard core experimenters as teens. If good policy/law isn’t made from extreme cases, I doubt that good parenting is either.

  16. I am not sanguine that good parenting and middle-class status is as protective as it once was. NPR had a report a few weeks ago about the spread of black tar heroin into residential areas hitherto largely shielded from hard drugs. Here it is: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123781346.
    Our very affluent area has had a spate of, um, “bad outcomes for rich teenagers.” Overdoses, suicides, criminal charges. Some of the teens were reportedly depressed, some were always more daring than their peers. On balance, however, there was nothing about any of the teens which would have made adults forecast a “bad end,” or however the suburban elite might phrase such a thing these days. They were all college-bound.
    It is my belief that the drugs are stronger, the adults are less involved, and the suppliers have studied Wal-Mart, Facebook and Amazon. I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist, but a cell phone provides instant access to your kid from a pusher. A few years back, two high school students were arrested for selling drugs at the school. The situation was bad enough that the DA sent in an undercover agent who looked like a high school student.
    No one forces teens to take drugs. Only they can say “yes,” or “no,” though. While I would not allow drug or alcohol use by minors, a huge percentage of adults in my state admitted on a survey that they would serve alcohol to their children’s friends. http://tinyurl.com/29u5z5j
    Your teen is only as protected as the most permissive parent in her circle of friends will allow her to be.

  17. Well, I don’t know what I’d do about it. That’s why I’m not saving never. Recreational drug use was never part of my life, and I guess I’m hoping my kids will be the same. Of course, part of that is being fairly introverted and nerdy. So there’s a price.

  18. Ragtime, there have been a few studies, all of them pretty “eh” in methodology. One found that parents who self-rated themselves as old-fashioned/strict reported children who were more complaint between the ages of 9 and 14, but far less complaint after age 15, than parents who reported themselves as permissive. I believe the actual words for self-reporting were “requires compliance” versus “seeks cooperation.” I tried and failed to find that particular study this morning.
    The other confounding factor here is that in large numbers (i.e., not just “the people we know” — and I’m guilty of that, myself, so it’s not a slam on you), there’s a surprisingly weak correlation for middle-class parents between infant/toddler parent style and later parenting choices. This isn’t to say that there’s NO correlation. But Ferber vs. Family Bed turns out to be a heck of a lot less predictive of school-age parenting choices than the folks who write baby/toddler books would have you believe.
    As “Unequal Childhoods” shows, almost all middle-class parents in the US today follow a roughly similar style of parenting, as compared to their lower-middle-class/poor compatriots. The similarities far outweigh the differences, at least from the POV of child-development researchers.

  19. As “Unequal Childhoods” shows, almost all middle-class parents in the US today follow a roughly similar style of parenting
    I really like Annette Lareau, both as a person (she’s a good friend of mine) and her work. But I’m pretty sure as well that he study group wasn’t nearly big enough or dispersed enough to let us make this broad of generalizations about “middle class parents in the US”, especially as, I’m pretty sure, there are quite strong regional differences.

  20. Matt, I think Lareau’s own study reflects a wider body of research in the field.
    What sorts of regional differences do you mean? We’ve lived in three different parts of the country (California, Connecticut, and North Carolina), and I grew up in Minnesota, and there are pretty dramatic differences that I’ve seen in terms of when child acquires technology or when child is allowed to roam unsupervised or how many after-school activities child attends, but most of the child-development stuff I’ve read suggests that those differences are on the margins, when it comes to effects.
    I’ll state upfront that I got into child-development stuff through the backdoor, looking for what the research showed about being part of a twin/triplet set (short version: It Ain’t Good Academically — which is reason enough right there to distrust the field), so I don’t have the academic training to know which studies are best.

  21. If by “regional differences” we mean differences in city vs. suburbs vs. small town/rural, I have seen that with my own eyes. My relatives in small-town Iowa still act like it’s the 70s, sending the kids off to the pool alone at age 10. “Hollowing Out the Middle”, a recent sociology book documenting the impact of the brain drain on Iowa, talks about this quite a bit.
    I live in the city of Chicago, where good public transportation mean that parents can send kids on their own before 16 if they need to. There is some variation in how parents choose to use this flexibility. I think we’ve all seen the wide variance in answers to the question, “When is your child old enough to ride the bus alone?” (There was a NYT piece on this a while ago, after a child was put on a train alone and was detained by the transit police for being too young to travel unsupervised.)

  22. Jody- the differences you list as regional ones are the sort of thing I was considering, and much of what Lareau focuses on in her book. What I had in mind is that in Idaho, where I grew up, the way parents treat kids is just massively different from what happens in the North East (both from what I’ve seen living, mostly, there for the last 13 years or so and from, say, Laura’s depiction of her kids. A typical N.E. middle to upper-middle class parent would be thought to be a controlling nut by many equivalent people in the west. I agree that this stuff likely doesn’t have that much impact on over-all success in the end, but mostly think that that’s because kids are both smarter and tougher than parents often think, and that it ought to make us worry less about it.

  23. My question is, why is this post titled, “Drug Addiction in Middle Class Families”? Do you believe there is a difference between addiction amongst the middle class and addiction everywhere else on the economic spectrum? Or is it more that addiction is something middle-class people think happens to “other people, over there” than to themselves?
    I think the physical component of substance abuse is overlooked. There’s a lot of emphasis on “addictive personalities” and the mental aspect of abuse, but not much on the embedded codes in one’s DNA that make it more likely for one to tip the scale from use to abuse (not to mention how narrow those parameters can be). Also: “drugs” is a broad category—most of the folks I know who smoke(d) pot never went on to harder drugs; everyone I know who “experimented” with harder drugs (speed, coke, heroin, prescription painkillers) became addicted. Every.single.one.
    (perhaps that’s where the class difference comes in? I ask because I’ve never heard working class or poor people talking about casual or temporary hard-drug use—only middle class folks.)
    I’m not middle class, and this is something I worry about a great deal—despite all the prima facie evidence right here in the neighborhood of drug addiction being synonymous with drug use, period. My daughter has heard the story of her father’s drug abuse and frequent-flyer points in jail; I’ve told her about the strong family history on both sides of substance abuse; I point out the folks staggering down the street out of their heads and missing most of their teeth; I note the Oxford Houses (one next door, one across the street) for recovering addicts—but I wonder if it will be enough.
    The title of this post bothers me because it implies that drug abuse is normal among the sub-middle class, or maybe that’s it’s no big deal, ‘cuz what the hell are those people going to do with their lives, anyway? And that makes me angry, because I think that’s part of the attitude that allows drug addiction and all its attendant negative characteristics to thrive in neighborhoods like mine. It’s like….here I am, trying to convince my daughter that she has a future…in the face of a greater society that says she doesn’t. (and I’ll add, despite any parenting practices or philosophy I adhere to. again, maybe that’s where the class difference comes in.)
    I read Granju’s book when my daughter was in the NICU. If I had to make a wild guess, I’d say her son’s addiction was based on a family history of substance abuse—he didn’t have any “wiggle room” between casual use and abuse. It didn’t have anything to do with permissive (whatever that means) parenting, or not seeing “warning signs”—with some folks, by the time there are any warning signs, it’s already too late for anything but rehab. (and I hope she doesn’t beat herself up for this)

  24. My impression is that one huge difference in the experience of drug use in middle-class versus lower-middle or less class kids is that the middle-class (and especially upper-middle class, to say nothing about upper-class kids) have more room to mess up w/o it having a bad long-term effect. This is true of school, work, and in dealing with the law. (i.e., the middle to upper-middle class kid is more likely to be given a “warning” or alternative sentence by the police/courts, or not even stopped at all.) Because of all the room, when something does go really wrong with the middle-class kid, it seems more shocking for people who are not used to bad stuff happening to their kids.

  25. I am very grateful to Katie Granju for writing about her son’s drug use. La Lubu, is there more drug abuse in working class neighborhoods? I don’t know that there is. I grew up in middle and upper class circles, and I’ll tell you, there’s a huge number of things which Are Not Talked About. And, as Matt just wrote, there is greater leeway to protect teens from the first mistake.
    Middle and upper class children usually go off to college, and then settle somewhere other than their home town. I’m not convinced, though, that there’s something magically protective about middle-class status. Look at the lacrosse murder at UVA. While the press is vilifying the boy, my husband heard an interview with the victim’s roommate. The roommate reportedly said (according to my husband), that when the victim didn’t respond to a knock on her door, the roommate assumed she was just “too drunk to answer.” Reading the Washington Post’s reporting of the story, I don’t just see a story of an abusive relationship. I see a widespread habit of alcohol abuse amongst the very privileged UVA athletes. Even when that substance abuse leads to a death, however, it’s very hard to talk about substance abuse in the middle class.

  26. I entitled the post “middle class families and drug addiction,” because most middle class families think that they are immune to these problems, but they’re not. A close friend of mine from high school had a sister who ODed and died in early 20s. They came from a very upper middle class town in New Jersey. I know that drug addiction and death can hit every family.
    I also have a strong family history of addiction — mostly smokes and booze, but we have that gene. So does Steve. Knowing we have that genetic predisposition, we’ll need to watch our kids very carefully.

  27. My understanding is that if you’re not addicted to something by your early 20s you never will be — nobody starts smoking at 25 and becomes addicted, for example. People become addicted to other things later, but only if they;ve been addicted to something else first. I assume this is because addictive personalities have ample opportunities to get addicted early.
    I am so like bj that reading what she says is quite unnerving. I want to know what my kids are doing, and reason with/forbid certain things, as effectively as possible. Being effective takes a very high investment of time though — you can only influence teenagers if you really are part of their lives in a deep way (as their peers are). Its starts long before teenagerhood.
    Also, although death is a rare outcome from drug use, all sorts of other mild and deep miseries are not. Even if you emerge as a fully balanced adult, having a fucked up time for X years in youth is a real loss. I speak as someone who never used drugs/alcohol/anything like that, but had long periods of mild-to-less-mild depression, and I don’t discount it just because I’m ok now. It would have been better to be happy, and doing enjoyable things. (Not that I’m saying that drugs aren’t enjoyable for many who use them — they are — but for many others they are not).

  28. I’m not so sure people don’t become addicted later in life – my uncle was extremely clean when he was a young man and a Marine, but after he left and became a PI, he started drinking and it has been a huge struggle since then – like unemployed, sick struggle.
    I do believe genetics plays a big role too.
    I’ve drunk to excess (in one case, dangerous excess) several times in my life and I’ve never had a hangover or even a headache. The physical downside of drinking doesn’t seem to register on me at all. I sort of feel like if my parents hadn’t made it clear this is a liability and not an asset I could have had a very different story.

  29. I look at things like the movies “Rachel Getting Married” and “Traffic”, or the many colleagues who come back from Christmas break talking about their f***-up brother who ruined the holiday again. To me it’s anecdotal evidence that addiction is in fact quite common in middle-class families, but presents itself in different ways.
    In my extended family we have several kids who are staggering thru high school and college, with various scrapes with the parents about underage drinking etc. And then we have the one kid who landed in the ER to have her stomach pumped, and is now in a residential facility. It’s not like we talk about the troubled niece all the time. But her issues are openly acknowledged (mostly in the form of “her poor mother” comments).
    I don’t have a sense that there’s a perception that working class people are all a bunch of addicts. But middle-class addicts and their families in general appear to be given more privacy relative to addiction (and maybe in general). Things play out behind closed doors, or in private conversations with the chief of police. As opposed to the staggering down the street and being placed in a group home stuff that La Lubu mentions.

  30. “My question is, why is this post titled, “Drug Addiction in Middle Class Families”? Do you believe there is a difference between addiction amongst the middle class and addiction everywhere else on the economic spectrum? Or is it more that addiction is something middle-class people think happens to “other people, over there” than to themselves?”
    You may remember a previous thread (on sex and kids?) where a poster essentially wrote that her kids would turn out fine because of their demographics. My feeling is that’s backwards–middle class kids do better because middle class parents do more monitoring, managing, and soak up more of kids’ free time, not because there is some sort of magic inherent in a particular tax bracket. It’s like the duck on the pond–it looks serene, but it’s moving forward because the feet that you can’t see are paddling like crazy.

  31. “although death is a rare outcome from drug use”
    Really? Or does the death certificate not reflect the underlying lifestyle?
    How many teen car crashes are due to drug or alcohol use? If a teen dies in a crash, do they test for drugs or alcohol? Do they publicize it? Or do they try to spare the family pain? I think there are a lot of things which people don’t talk about, and the police don’t go out of their way to publicize. That leads to the impression that there isn’t a problem here.
    When I was in high school, a fellow student had an accident. Two students died, and she and the survivor had serious injuries. Somehow, the blood sample from the driver was lost. Maybe it was lost, or maybe the nurses or doctors or prosecutors or police didn’t see any sense in dragging her into the courts.

  32. My initial reaction to Amy’s second para was, yes, that’s exactly right. And yes, it is. But, people in that tax bracket, by and large, though they are paddling like crazy, are paddling in clearer and more supportive waters, have had more help learning to paddle, and have other people who paddle well closer to them and ready to lend a hand. Its not (just) the money, but lots of other things that tend to go with it.
    But sure, if you don’t paddle, you sink.

  33. “How many teen car crashes are due to drug or alcohol use?”
    La Lubu, I think middleclassness is largely defined by parenting practices, so you’ll just have to get used to being middle class.
    A few scattered thoughts:
    1. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m from a long line of hard-drinking Swedes, who while long dead, have left a series of colorful family anecdotes, suitable for the edification of children. “Here’s the last dish from the family china–Aunt E. used to wash dishes while drinking.” “We had to watch Uncle M.–he’d steal and drink the vanilla extract.” Uncle I. was a vet with a very nice practice in Southern California after WWII, but he drank, and he gambled, and toward the end, he put his clothes on over his pajamas, etc.
    2. I’ve never smoked or used drugs and my brushes with alcohol were limited to a few drinks in Russia (note to self–don’t mix raspberry vodka and cough syrup). My personality type as a kid was probably fairly similar to bj and harry b, but judging from the speed with which I can get to the bottom of a bag of cookies, moderate Mediterranean-type wine sipping was never going to be my style, so it’s definitely for the best that I never became a social drinker.
    3. Note that the problem is sometimes not just substance abuse by itself, but substance abuse plus, for example plus a bad relationship. We started having to deal with a young female addict in the family about three years ago, and I think “Rachel Getting Married” is just about perfect. Our relative is clean and sober now, but there were a lot of wobbles on the way, and she had a simply supernatural ability to obtain her substances of choice. Unfortunately, she was in a super abusive relationship that the family was unaware of and she sustained permanent brain damage over the course of a number of years. She started out as a bright girl with undiagnosed ADD and she spent piles of her parents money hopping between college programs (always conveniently thousands of miles away from mom and dad). She’s out of the relationship now and has done well with AA, but her short term memory is shot, working as a Starbucks barista is as challenging a job as she can manage, and she’s always going to need a family subsidy. There weren’t a lot of tell-tale signs, aside from her being a 7th year freshman, keeping visits home very short, and a number of injuries that she was always able to explain.
    4. Three words: “mental illness” and “self-medication.”
    5. “Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You” is a really good book.

  34. I think the big difference is that if you are middle class and in a good school, you have a better chance of drugs and alcohol not having a long-term impact on your life if you keep your grades up.
    My town has a big rich-kids-drinking-alcohol problem (it will, for example, be all of your Google hits for “defecated in a piano”). When kids are caught, the parents lawyer up, and the kids generally get a slap on the wrist, if anything. Then they go to Rutgers or Penn State.
    Unlike lower class areas, where you generally have to be “the best” to get ahead, up the economic ladder, if the worst does not happen, there’s a really good chance of a good outcome. This often makes it worthwhile to pursue “don’t let my kid get a criminal record” over “let’s teach my kid a lesson and get him scared straight.”

  35. As to how to control your teenagers. My mom told me once that if she caught us drinking underage, she’d call the police and have us arrested. It was a credible threat.
    But I imagine that wouldn’t be effective with a pretty rebellious kid set on using whatever illegal substance would be in question. One would just give the kid a police record. Around here, people would be concerned that it would mess up one’s college chances.
    Other than this anecdote, I have nothing to add here. But I’m reading intently.

  36. (it will, for example, be all of your Google hits for “defecated in a piano”)
    You take the Pirates and we’ll take the piano-crappers.

  37. La Lubu, is there more drug abuse in working class neighborhoods? I don’t know that there is.
    I don’t think there is…but when a middle-class person falls from grace (kicked out of house, job loss, the sort of complications that substance abuse brings), he or she has to end up somewhere, and that somewhere is usually a neighborhood like mine (there’s three homeless shelters here, in addition to the drug rehab halfway houses). So, substance abuse is easily visible here in a way it isn’t in more upscale environs. I’ve got my own version of “Scared Straight” right outside my door.
    But like anything else, I don’t know that will be enough. Teenagers tend to think they’re invincible (I sure the hell did. Can’t say I’ve outgrown that entirely, either.) And yes, I worry about the consequences of “experimentation” in a way I probably wouldn’t if I had the protection of middle class income and status. If my kid gets caught with pot, she’ll have an arrest record that could affect her ability to get higher education. Stakes are higher, here.
    4. Three words: “mental illness” and “self-medication.”
    AmyP, you are right on target with this. I’d add in chronic pain from injuries too; that’s how a lot of addiction in the trades gets started—a permanent injury, chronic pain that outlasts the workers’ comp, a physically demanding job that exacerbates the pain, and self-medication (via black market prescription painkillers, booze, or other drugs). I completely disagree that an adult without a previous addiction can’t or won’t become addicted.

  38. 4. Three words: “mental illness” and “self-medication.”
    I’m not sure how the staff could control an inpatient psychiatric ward without controlling smoking opportunties. I’m sure that somebody has made someone find out, but it probably did not go well.

  39. Didn’t Chevy Chase blame his addiction to painkillers on injuries sustained during Gerald Ford-related pratfalls?

  40. I’ve found Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan to be very useful when discussing drug use and lifestyle choices. (I’m not trying to be funny.)
    The DARE programs wasn’t very helpful. Moral panic about everything doesn’t fit our Northeastern family. I am not going to try to convince my children that ANY drinking or ANY marijuana use would have terrible consequences. That argument won’t fly, when they know teens who do drink or smoke marijuana, although the adults don’t know about it.
    The CDC encourages schools and hospitals to conduct a Youth Risk Behavior Survey. http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm
    If you search your local newspapers, you might find a report on a survey conducted in your town or school district, which will give you a better feel for the sort of risky choices teens in your area make.
    Our local survey results were not reassuring. Between a third and half of 11th & 12th graders responding to the survey had attended parties at local homes at which alcohol use by minors was permitted by adults.

  41. To change the subject slightly, I just heard the most horrendous story about the daughter of one of the other dance moms at my daughter’s studio, who was horribly bullied in her (Catholic) high school. Apparently, T got a restraining order against the lead perpetrator 12 months ago. In the last weeks or so, since the order is coming to an end, they’ve been back harassing her daughter on Facebook and Formspring. T said, “And they just handed me the evidence I need to renew the restraining order.” Such morons, plus they must know about Phoebe Prince and how those bullies were arrested for their actions. And yet they keep on doing it, despite the risks.
    T says the school did nothing. She had to pull out her daughter and homeschool her (and the public school wanted her to repeat a year in order to enroll her).

  42. The guy who gave us an anti-drug talk when I was in about 8th grade, got arrested about a month later. He ended his sober period, robbed a bank and tried to get away on a bike. That was pretty convincing.

  43. “The guy who gave us an anti-drug talk when I was in about 8th grade, got arrested about a month later. He ended his sober period, robbed a bank and tried to get away on a bike. That was pretty convincing.”
    Some years back, some of my relatives had a business relationship (!!!) with a recently released drug addict who discovered a talent for painting when he was behind bars. His sentence had been for knocking over hospital pharmacies with a BB gun. Anyway, after he was released, he had a brief artistic career, before relapsing. He had prints for sale, but my parents mostly sold just flat souvenir rocks with a painting on them. We sold those by the bucket and he could have done great if he’d stayed clean and kept doing those. You could look at the rocks and pretty much see him falling off the wagon–the colors got all weird and I think the brushwork was less careful.

  44. I think BB guns now have orange-tipped barrels, at least partially as a way of protecting artists from their non-ear self-destructive tendencies.

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