Describing one of the latest trends in substance abuse, Baltimore County drug expert Michael Gimbel pulled out a pink-tinted hookah, its snaking hose dangling behind it.
“You think kids are sitting and smoking this for hours ... without [putting] marijuana in it?” he asked a roomful of Baltimore County school counselors Friday.
Well, actually, many of them do. Do some of them put Marijuana in it? Perhaps, though my experience has been that users find preparing a hookah for marijuana use is both too time consuming and rather wasteful. Of course, that doesn't stop Mike Gimble from making his "point". I dunno, any teenager who can both buy a hookah (nearly $100 I think, and only available to those over 18) and keep it hidden from parents (they can be rather large and produce a huge amount of smoke) is already most likely showing some more prominent warning signs of drug use/addiction.
He also said the Baltimore region has seen a surge in stimulant abuse, ranging from cigarettes to cocaine.
“Stimulants are probably the most popular drug going on with kids today,” Gimbel said.
He warned against the use of herbal supplements and caffeine drinks, such as Red Bull and Mountain Dew Amp, and said Adderall is the No. 1 prescription drug abused in the region.
Yeah kids, stay away from stimulants. Mommy needs her coffee and three cigarettes to wake up in the morning, and yeah, your brother Joey needs his Adderall so he can get straight A's in college, and every sports star around is jocking some sort of energy drink, but you stay away from those stimulants. Wait, take this sudafed for your stuffy nose and wash it down with this Dr. Pepper.
Gimble finally gets around to saying something MEANINGFUL in the final paragraph.
To address teen drug abuse and addiction, Gimbel said, more treatment options are needed.
“We don’t have enough treatment for people in Maryland. ... The hardest thing for kids to realize is they are going to addicts for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Agreed. Though perhaps treatment would be easier to focus on if we all simply accepted the prevalence of drug use in our society and moved forward from there.
There is a reason for inane specialty products like this (and I can guarantee you that "teens" are the big buyers):
Gimbel showed the counselors marijuana pipes concealed as lipstick containers and markers, Reef flip-flops with flasks embedded in the sole and a mini beer bong meant for quick drinking.
America, and more specifically, humans, like drugs. We enjoy (often OVERENJOY) mind altering experiences, from a cup of coffee, a runners high after a few miles, a shot and beer, a puff from a joint, an orgasm, a snort of cocaine, a mainline of heroin.
Gimbel is right, these kids will be addicted for the rest of their lives. But aren't we all slaves to our own addictions and fancies? Some addictions are more troubling than others, both for the addicted person and for the society around them.
We are left then with the choice of how to deal with both the addiction and with the addictive substance. When we realize that elimination of the addictive substance (the product), in a truly free and democratic society, is impossible, and that even a reduction in product levels does not seem to reduce demand, we must leave behind any strategy associated with criminalizing the possession or sale of the product. These strategies have proven to be ineffective, as extreme addiction and the ills associated with it have not been reduced, and have in fact increased.
We must turn to a harm reduction strategy which legalizes both the production and sale of the addictive substances. We must redirect our efforts to making the substance available to addicts in legal markets, thus reducing the violence associated with any trade in illegal products so high in demand. Any and all profits from this effort must be funneled, along with billions in federal and state funding, into numerous effective treatment programs aimed at all levels and segments of society. Programs should be available to all on a walk in basis for free.
Reducing the harm from trade in illegal goods and from addiction should be the main thrust of any drug policy interested in really improving the lives of the largest number of Americans. Until then, we can continue to twiddle our thumbs and fret over hookahs, flask sandals, and the kids drinking all of our caffeine and liquor.
Update: I think I should expand on what I meant by "But aren't we all slaves to our own addictions and fancies?"
Drug addiction is often seen as the most damaging of addictions. Illegal drug addicts are normally portrayed in the media as poor, criminal, dysfunctional, nonfunctional, unprofessional, and singularly driven by their addiction. In some cases, this mirrors reality. However, in many cases it does not.
Just think, can a multi-billion dollar industry survive by only selling to the poor and destitute? Selling only to those who must beg on the corner or steal to support their habit? Of course not. Someone is spending this money, and chances are that you know at least one or two of them.
But forget illegal drug addiction for a moment and think about what America seems to be addicted aside from billions of dollars in marijuana, cocaine, speed, psychotropics, and heroin.
Prescription drugs are a good place to start. Millions of Americans use amphetamines and narcotics legally every day. These drugs are distributed through pharmacies with the knowledge of Doctors. Often both the Doctor and the Pharmacist are complicit in serving the needs of an addict with a "recurring back problem." Yet we hear again and again how "immoral" it would be to "create a generation of addicts". Well, take your complaints to the "pain management" industry, keeping citizens filled to the gills with legal opiates. We don't hear about it because it doesn't lead to shootouts in the streets (only in a pharmacy, every once and a while).
What about sugar, or should I say, High Fructose Corn Syrup. Ask any "low carb" diet adherent about this one. One of the most highly addictive substances around, its in almost everything, and it is heavily subsidized by the government. If only diabetes and obesity got the same coverage as gang murders, you might see this made "illegal".
And of course, blogs can talk all they want, when it comes to shares of the internet, pornography wins, hands down. Another billion dollar industry, SEX is certainly something you never hear drug opponents decry as addictive, despite the serious chemicals released in the brain during orgasm. Well, the PORNO is feeding a rather pervasive ORGASM addiction (Buzzcocks anyone?) in the USA.
Of course, its silly to think the last two of these compare to the drug war in any real way, but I think they do serve to show that addiction is way of life for humanity, at least I believe it is. Acting as if it can be eliminated, or that simply by avoiding illegal drugs that these kids will avoid addiction for life is just silly.
Maybe its time for schools to introduce a class on identifying and treating addictive behavior of all kinds. Did this post make sense to anyone? I sure hope so.
Update 2: The current consensus in the medical community is that addiction is a disease, both mental and physical. Interesting. Lets go back to Gimbel's words.
..the hardest thing for kids to realize is they are going to addicts for the rest of their lives.
I have a feeling we will all be addicts of some kind for the rest of our lives. Drug addicts? That is another story. However, in our current discourse, the term addiction seems only reserved for those who use drugs, who eat too much, or who enjoy gambling a bit too much.
Other addictions get funny names, I suppose to lighten the blow that most of us are suffering from them. If you spend 80 hours a week at work, you are a workaholic. If you have sex with numerous random people, you are a player (it helps to be male in this case). Maybe you just like to sit in front of the TV after dinner, and for 5 hours straight, watch all of your favorite shows in order, or TIVO'ing them to watch later. In this case, you are just a normal American! Don't get me wrong, I watch a lot of TV, but the stimulus is easily addicting and hypnotizing at the same time. Lets not even talk about the ever present need to remove all of the bold from my google reader.
Of all of our daily repetitive behaviors, how many contain some form of addictive behavior? I would wager a good bit. I must conclude that we are all diseased, with the distinct possibility of things getting worse before they get better. Now, who should we call, a doctor or a police officer?