How did a well-adjusted kid become a full-time drug dealer of methamphetamine? Your kid is abusing drugs for more reasons than peer pressure.
I spent most of my life as a young adult fairly independent. I had a job — three, at one point — friends with benefits, confidants, an apartment, even a cat. My life included a boyfriend, a car, and food to eat. A college career complete with good grades was under my belt. Hobbies? Had them. My mom and dad fought a bit, but nothing major. They’re still together.
I got spanked. Sure, I sat in time-out. I developed friendships during my childhood that were satisfying, although they were transient due to moving every couple of years to satisfy the demands of my father’s job. I consider myself a decently attractive young man with goals for the future. So, what happened? Or, as my mother would ask:
Why Is My Child Using Drugs?
I smoked weed, snorted coke, swallowed LSD, parachuted bath salts, swigged shots of schnapps, and inhaled rips of methamphetamine for ten years. During that time, I lost my house, my apartment, my husband, a boyfriend, a car, my health, and my mind. I racked up a bill totalling over $21,000 from combined hospital visits and DUIs alone. I shudder to think what that number would actually be if I accounted for every opportunity lost to my awful habit.
The only reason that I have a sliver of what I once did is due to sobriety. Now that I am in recovery, the fog from that tumultuous time is lifting. I am able to sift through the wild days and identify several key factors that lead to my use and abuse of narcotics. Chances are, you kid is affected by these factors, too.
Alcoholism runs in my family. I grew up believing that you drink to deal with your problems. Both of my grandfathers smoked cigars, as did their fathers. I’ve smoked doobies with my cousins. My immigrant father thought nothing of it. My mom, having built herself up from a childhood of near-poverty, saw no wrong in drinking occasionally to unwind. And, perhaps for most, drinking and drugging occasionally is no big deal. They can pick up and put down without a care in the world.
I can’t. If addiction runs in your family, chances are your child will get hooked more readily than his friends. Some of us are unlucky enough to bear the brunt of bad genes.
Once your kid is hooked, her choice of substance begins to convince her that it is necessary for survival. Your child may know that the drug is harmful, but her ability to decide to stop is impaired. Drugs alter the circuitry of the brain. An addict’s brain is physically unable to make the same decisions as a somebody living sober, according to brain imaging technology.
Normally, our brains release feel-good chemicals whenever we perform certain activities, such as eating or having sex. Drugs bully our brains, forcing our natural chemicals to hit the road running. Without these chemicals, it is nearly impossible to feel pleasure. The more that addicts bruise their brains, the harder it becomes for them to quit.
Drugs slither their way into every neighborhood in America. Heroin creeps over our borders from West Africa, Colombia, and Mexico. The majority of cocaine can be traced back to Mexico and the Caribbean. Cartels, rogue governments, and big-time crime lords maintain vast black markets that funnel drugs around the globe, from producer to consumer. Hardcore drugs are likely to switch hands between several middlemen before arriving close enough for your child to purchase.
Drugs are everywhere. Country bumpkins can make meth by shaking up a two-liter soda bottle. Nowadays, it is easier than ever for drug dealers to buy and sell drugs online. The ease with which narcotics can be obtained has a lot to do with why your kid picked up his bad habit.
American culture is obsessed with getting high. We hear about drugs in movies, on television, or hidden in the lyrics of popular songs. Perhaps our wild love affair with things we can buy has finally bled us dry, creating a climate of thirst, one which we quench with things that make us feel something — anything.
Mainstream media promotes a decadent lifestyle of hedonism. The unstated assumption is that if you don’t feel good, you should force yourself to feel good by fishing for external sources of feeling. We are instructed to stuff our faces, fill our trunks, do and take as much as we can. “You can never have enough,” the invisible hand instructs, “you can never have too much.”
Your kid is a victim of our culture’s gut. He is reminded constantly that drugs are okay. He is told that there is no such thing as doing too much.
The advent of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) doesn’t help. It coincided with a resurgence of club drugs. Ketamine, GHB, ecstasy — drugs most popular in the eighties and early nineties — are enjoying a comeback. Coupled with our culture’s ongoing emphasis on doing everything excessively, kids coming of age today hardly stand a chance. The drugs are there, the reason to use them feels normal, and the consequences start off being too ephemeral to comprehend.
Work hard, play hard is a mantra for robots, not young adults and teens.
The allure of outlaw substances, like Schedule I narcotics, is enticing precisely because they’re taboo. The government tells us that we cannot have the very drugs that popular culture promotes. Sound dumb? That’s because it is.
The conundrum is especially confusing to young people, who are attempting to define who they are in relation to authority. Every parent expects their child to rebel during her teenage years. Going against the grain is a natural part of growing up. Indeed, good things come from growing pains, such as progress and social change. On the flip side, the youthful need to rebel can lead some young people to conflate being an individual with being a badass, and in turn, doing bad things.
But what about alcohol?
Okay, so wait, alcohol has been legal for centuries. We still have alcoholics, don’t we? So, doesn’t that discount the idea that drugs are more desirable when they’re illegal?
Not quite. Recall that Prohibition, a period in which the United States outlawed alcohol, was ineffective. It didn’t work. According to Jeffery Miron and Jeffery Zwiebel, the American people drank 70% more during Prohibition than before Prohibition. In other words, our urge to drink increased when society forbade it.
When I started smoking weed, you couldn’t buy medical marijuana with an official ID from a licensed dispensary. You bought your shit on the street. I bought my kush from drug dealers who ran illicit operations in New Hampshire. Now, I’m not going to tell you that weed is a gateway drug. I will say that had I not started to smoke weed, I probably wouldn’t have met dealers who dabbled in drugs besides dope.
The legalizing of marijuana may have the same beneficial effect as overturning Prohibition did. I think a similar approach should be taken with more hardcore drugs. Clearly, they’re not going away by outlawing them. Plus, when not taboo, fewer feel that it’s cool to use.
Nowadays, there’s a pill for everything. The advances of modern medicine have undoubtedly contributed to our increased longevity. I’m thankful that we have vaccines. I wouldn’t trade over-the-counter Tylenol for a life without it. Our ability to cure common aliments is a blessing.
Conversely, the opioid epidemic is out of control. The death toll has reached terrifying heights. Even though doctors know that opioids are highly addictive, their practice of over-prescribing medicines like Vicodin, Demerol, and Dilaudid has seniors hooked. In 2015, doctors prescribed pain pills to a third of all medicare patients. And in case you didn’t know, the only people who get medicare are old people.
Well, what does that mean? It means that a lot of grandparents have pills in their bathroom cabinets. You kid might have had his first dose of drugs after rummaging through grandma’s bathroom.
While working construction, my buddy and I had many elderly clients. Without fail, we checked each bathroom at some point during our project, typically towards the end. If a bottle of pain pills was nearly full, we helped ourselves to a few for the road. I’m not proud of it, but it happened.
Some people find newness to be intimidating. Others see difference as a source of excitement. If your child is anything like me, cocaine piqued his interest, so he smoked it.
As stupid as that may sound, it’s true. As early as 1968, psychologists postulated that curiosity plays an important part in why kids eventually pick up drugs. In 2014, researchers found that college students tried synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or Spice, simply because they were curious. But why are kids curious in the first place?
Nobody really knows. Perhaps humans are driven to explore the unknown simply because it is unknown. It could be that we created the perfect storm in America through a combination of sheer availability, strict laws, and popular promotion. Drugs are simultaneously feared and glorified, creating a mystique about them — a sort of magic that young people want to taste. After all, if adults are all up-and-arms about drugs, they must hold some sort of power.
Everyone knows this classic explanation for why kids use drugs. If you remember the D.A.R.E. campaigns that came to kindergarten, then you know you have the power to “just say no.”
Well, what happens when you’ve already said yes? Your kid could be addicted to drugs because he said yes one too many times. When people around you are using, it’s easier to join in. You are who you hang with, right?
Drug dealers, like all talented business owners, know the value of freebies. Addicts hang out at crack houses because being a cronnie equates to scoring free bags. A friend of my did heroin “if you had it.” His addiction was a function of who had what. Once your kid tries one substance, she stands a greater chance to explore what’s available.
Drug use among young people is a primary way to socialize. It lowers inhibitions and gives people something over which to bond.
When your kid starts going out to clubs and bars, she may find other social lubricants besides alcohol to ease into the world around her. For many people who eventually become addicts, drugs make socializing easier. Many club drugs, such as molly, vaporize feelings of awkwardness. Once high, letting your fears go becomes automatic.
Packets of powder make people feel powerful in a way similar to liquid courage. Once your kid gets a taste of that power, the feeling may be too good to let go. She may never go out without a pill in her pocket. Everytime she gets high publicly, her ability to feel uninhibited without taking drugs dwindles. If she was never a people person, you may feel confused at her sudden bout of confidence. How did your bookworm become so bodacious? For an introvert who uses drugs to feel like an extrovert, the habit can quickly become problematic and destructive.
Since drugs are everywhere, your kid’s residence won’t protect her. In fact, it could expose her to harm.
Different areas determine the variety of drugs dealt. You can find any substance you desire in cities. If you know the right people, you can find a silmer selection in suburban areas. You might believe that rural small towns are safest, but prescriptions can be just as dangerous as street drugs. Plus, some savvy drug dealers know how to order and sell drugs online.
Once your kid starts abusing drugs, her world shrinks. Her associates will all use. She may change jobs to allow for greater drug use. She may move to be closer to her dealer. Around the holidays, getting her to show up for dinners can seem impossible. If she’s using, she’s afraid to venture anywhere that threatens her ability to find her drug of choice. If she’s dealing, her fear lies in the potential loss of clientele.
Growing up, kids eventually lash out against authority, vying for a sense of individuality. Kids resist the adult world before becoming apart of it. Some are so eager to taste the perceived freedom of adulthood that they grow up prematurely, which often leads to the denouncement of parents in favor of independence.
In search of qualities that mark them different from those in authority, kids may turn to drugs to prove that they have an ability to choose. As a parent, the choice is obviously a dumb one. But for your kid, that first hit of marijuana means more to them on a symbolic level. It represents personal power. It represents being different than teachers, coaches, and parents. Young people translate getting high into being a rebel.
Drug dealers who habitually end up in jail exhibit what therapists call “an addiction to the lifestyle.” As is the case with gambling, your child need not ingest poisons to ruin his life. Addiction to the drug lifestyle centers on a daily routine that involves limited responsibility and few obligations. Dealers and drug users alike find comfort in a day teeming with instant gratification — instant money, instant feeling, instant reward. It matters little that a lifestyle of immediacy is not sustainable. To your kid who is hooked on drugs, excitement is what matters most.
We know that pop culture glamorizes drugs in the media. But in some subcultures, drug use is woven into the very fabric of the community.
Take rave culture, a community I touched upon earlier while discussing EDM. Kandi kids are ravers who dress is bright neons and wear many colorful bracelets. Their culture is based on PLUR, which supposedly stands for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect. Interestingly, the acronym also forms the sentence, “Please Let Us Roll.” Rolling is a verb used to describe the effects of molly and ecstasy.
In gay culture, large circuit festivals are built on drug use. Gay men roll just as hard as kandi kids. There is also a subculture of gay men who use methamphetamine during orgies. The phenomenon is so widespread that the community refers to it as PnP, or “Party and Play.” Your child could be at a greater risk for drug abuse if he is involved with communities that drug dealers traditionally target.
I won’t argue that drugs are cheap, but when I first started to roll on molly, I rationalized the choice from an economic perspective. For the price of a drink or two, I could buy one pill and get high for a few hours. The fact that I needed more each weekend that I partied didn’t phase me. Like I said earlier, when you’re young, the consequences of addiction feel remote.
In fact, one weekend in New York City, I bought enough ecstasy tabs from a dealer I knew to score a discount. It became apparent to me that I had the ability to reduce costs by helping my friends get turnt.
Developing a hobby generally takes two resources: time and money. But if your kid chooses to use drugs recreationally, the only resource he needs is money. It takes no time at all to find and use drugs, and the effects are immediate.
Dealers have decent job security until they go to jail. Plenty of stories on the news feature drug dealers raking in massive profits prior to their capture. Drug dealing is a career that has few prerequisites. If you know somebody who has drugs, all you need to do is find people who use them. When your child gets hooked on drugs, she may pick up drug dealing to score freebies or tap into the huge income potential.
Selling drugs guarantees profit. The income is so easy that drug dealers pop up all over. When one is arrested, two more are lurking undetected, ready to slide in and fill the order of hungry drug addicts. Your kid is addicted to drugs because money incentivizes dealers to keep narcotics readily available.
Enjoyment ranks with peer pressure and curiosity as the most understood reason for using drugs among parents. Drugs are fun. They eventually ruin lives, but before that, they’re a blast.
People use drugs to have a good time, cut loose, and feel good. If drugs didn’t make people happy, few would abuse them. Your kid might be using drugs to have fun. Her use of drugs becomes problematic when she is unable to have fun without them.
Have you ever heard the saying that idle hands are the devil’s workshop? Without goals, hobbies, or places to go, we expose ourselves to the cheap relief that drugs offer. This is especially true today, when the younger generation is more apt to spend the majority of their day on apps. Sensory overload tricks our brains into mistaking silence for boredom. If kids aren’t plugged in, they feel apathetic. Sometimes, young people start using drugs because it’s “something to do.”
Boredom is such a powerful determinant of drug use that people in recovery fear idleness.
Life after drugs can be tough at first. Chronic relapsers often cite an inability to find joy in-the-moment. When they’re bored, they relapse. During active addiction, drugs become a highly orchestrated habit. Your entire life revolves around finding, using, and hiding your drugs. There’s isn’t much time for anything else. Once you’re clean, you may have forgotten how to have fun sober.
So, if your child complains of being bored, watch out — he may fill that boredom with ritualistic drug use. If he’s clean, get him active and engaged.
Modern society has left some us spiritually bankrupt. Without a sense of purpose, we spin around searching for meaning — some justification for why we matter in this vast sea of strangers on this one, lonely planet orbiting one of many suns.
Drugs step-in with a promise too tantalizing to believe, providing a feeling too good to be true. And what do some of us do? We open Pandora’s box. We bite the apple despite ourselves because, when you feel empty, anything is better than nothing.
Depression and hopelessness are awful conditions to endure. Drugs convince young people that there’s a way out, one that requires little to no work, one in which the effect is immediate. It’s difficult to pass on a fix as quick as this, especially when you feel worthless, without direction, or stagnant.
Whether he doesn’t trust authority, or doesn’t want to be a menace, your child could be dealing with emotional pain through self-medication. Emotional pain is just part of it. I’ve met farmers who drink daily to ease their hurting backs. People blaze to be okay. They shoot up to stay home and handle problems on their own. From the outside looking in, this logic seems ridiculous. How is poisoning yourself helpful?
Yet, plenty of addicts start and maintain their habits following this reasoning alone. “I can feel better all on my own,” they say, “I don’t need a doctor.” Perhaps insurance rates are too high, or maybe the thought of putting your health in somebody else’s hands is nerve-racking. Whatever the case, some drug addicts choose to handle their physical and emotional pain by hitting the pipe.
Others may go to the doctor, but they enter the clinic under false pretenses, embellishing their ailments and exaggerating their conditions to get stronger and more plentiful prescriptions. During residential treatment, several of my roommates confessed to lying to their primary care physicians to get pills they wanted but didn’t need. They wanted to feel better, even though better meant not depressed. Disregarding the advice of medical professionals, a buddy of mine swore that benzodiazepines helped his depression. The SSRIs his doctor recommended “messed with his head.”
For the record, it’s a lot harder to blackout on SSRIs than it is on benzos (and yes, my buddy had a lively history of blacking out).
You don’t need to be in pain to desire greater calm. Not surprisingly, people use drugs to chill out. They get high to reduce their levels of stress.
Young adults and teenagers may be more prone to using drugs because coming of age is tough. The sheer volume of decisions that one must make to establish oneself in the world is staggering. To avoid feeling overwhelm, some children turn to drugs to escape.
Alternative States of Mind
For centuries, shamans, druids, and tribal priests have relied on plant-based drugs to facilitate visions. Occult figures remind us that drugs offer a gateway to other worlds. People ingest the chemicals found in peyote and ayahuasca specifically for their ability to bend the mind wildly. Then there’s LSD and magic mushrooms, two drugs known for the trippiness.
Sure, some of us try drugs to explore the range of human consciousness. We run into trouble when what we find is better than what we have normally.
As is the case with the alleviation of pain, drugs taken to attain spiritual insight can easily cross the line and become the crux of life for their users. Undoubtedly, there are those who can handle the experience. But be warned: psychedelic drugs are addictive precisely because they allow the user to escape everyday turmoil. Artsy folk with active imaginations may be at a higher risk for addiction when using drugs that induce illusions.
What Do I Do?
If your child is hooked on drugs, you have options.
The most important thing that you can do right now is remain supportive. Shunning your child will only make the problem worse. That is not to say that you, by any means, should tolerate his/her use of drugs at family functions, birthdays, or social gatherings out in public. Set limits on how much you will tolerate, but strive to maintain contact.
When all else fails, talk until you are blue in the face — listen until your ears fall off.
It may not seem like much, but believe me, as an addict in recovery, had it not been for the loving support of my mother, I doubt I would be here helping you now.