A Somber Holiday

by Anonymous

Yesterday I heard that a friend’s younger brother had died of a drug overdose.

This is the third 20-something in my neighborhood to pass away from an overdose in 2015. Drug overdose deaths are up 6.5 percent over 2014, and there has been a spike in heroin-related deaths in particular.

All of the ones I knew were from UMC families, with devoted parents who went to every school play, soccer practice and band concert. Two of the three went to good colleges. The other started his own business after high school instead.

When over 400 people showed up for one of the funerals, the eulogist looked out at the congregation and said: “it’s great to see so many here, but we should all ask ourselves: where was I when Michael needed me? We all have an hour to go to his funeral now, but what would that hour have meant – over 400 hours with his friends, his extended family, his classmates and neighbors – when he was still alive? Could we have saved his life?”

What can parents do? What can the community do? What are you telling your kids?

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82 thoughts on “A Somber Holiday

  1. it’s great to see so many here, but we should all ask ourselves: where was I when Michael needed me? We all have an hour to go to his funeral now, but what would that hour have meant – over 400 hours with his friends, his extended family, his classmates and neighbors – when he was still alive? Could we have saved his life?”

    Some preachers never miss an opportunity to lay on the guilt, do they? Mr. Preacher has maybe never met an actual addict. All the love in the world doesn’t cure heroin addiction.

    As to the questions in the last sentence, I really don’t know. And it’s not for lack of thinking about it.

  2. Family friends of ours recently lost their 20-something son to an overdose. I don’t know what can be done. They were loving, supportive parents. They supported his attempts at getting clean and paid for rehab many times. They have other children who didn’t struggle with addiction. When the son would go missing, the dad would spend hours and days searching for him in his usual spots. I was talking to the mom recently and she said it has been terribly sad, but at least she knows where he is now and can sleep. Addiction is a terrible thing. Mostly I just pray that my kids don’t have a tendency toward that kind of thing.

  3. How terrible, Anon–so sorry to hear this news. I do agree with RMS, though–I’m sure the eulogist was well-meaning, but sounds like s/he heaped unearned guilt on the grieving.

    As for the questions, I don’t think there is any one answer because I think the reasons for drug use and addiction are myriad. I think being honest with your kids in age-appropriate ways about the dangers (and the fact that on the front end, it may not look that dangerous) is important.

  4. There are families in my community that have lost children to an overdose. In the two cases that I am aware of, they were dealing with addiction and other issues for many years before their kids died. As for the last sentence that Rocky highlights, I know they thought they tried everything to get their kids away from drugs including locking them up at a remote treatment facility. The kids kept turning back to the drugs.

    This is a growing problem in a many communities. I am very aware of the problems with teens because of one of the boards that I represent for our district, but I recently became aware of the issue within my own faux circle of mom friends. One of my mom friends is not going to the education foundation fundraiser this year because she said she is tired of seeing people doing drugs in the bathroom.

    The education about drugs, alcohol and the impact has already started for the kids in our school district by 6th grade. As a parent, I try to have an open and honest discussion about drugs and alcohol. We don’t shy away from talking about this stuff in our home including discussions about older kids that DD already knows that have landed in the ER due to alcohol poisoning. We discussed the reason for police at a recent neighborhood party, and she knew some of the girls that were almost arrested because they are HS seniors and local babysitters. I am trying to educate her about the consequences of participation as she gets older. I am also going to have my eyes wide open as she gets older.

  5. Heroin use by UMC kids is very, very scary. Two distant acquaintances have lost daughters within the past two years to heroin overdoses. This is a good reminder to discuss drug and alcohol use again with my kids.

    We have a family friend (who is, among other things, a scout leader, a church goer, a father to three kids, an IT professional) who had a crack habit. Never lost his job; I don’t even think his employer knew about it. Even though he hasn’t used in several years, he says the urge is there, every hour, every day. He will never stop being a crack addict. Those are his words. What a way to live.

  6. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports facts about the relationship between mental health disorders and addiction, including the following:… 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.

    I think that’s an under reported component of this. Many of these kids are self medicating. I think some of us can remember how hard it was to be a teenage, the stress, anxiety, the lack of control, etc. Now, add in a mental health issue that dials your anxiety level up a few notches. With your anxiety level now at 11, someone offers you something that within minutes or seconds takes all your pain away. All that anxiety, stress, depression, the feeling of inadequacy that gnaw at you, all gone in an instant. You’re going to want to do that again.

  7. That eulogy was completely inappropriate, IMO. The family and close friends ALREADY feel guilty. His immediate family will probably never completely get over this tragedy, and some of his family and friends may suffer such deep remorse over what they THINK they could have done that they may require professional counseling.

    If there were an easy answer to this problem, someone would have found it by now. Addiction is a scourge that takes many forms, and seems to defy a standard treatment protocol. Unlike, say, gang involvement or petty crime or teen pregnancy, an UMC/Totebag upbringing does not seem to protect kids from addiction. And though heroin overdoses attract attention because they are often fatal, teenagers are also abusing prescription drugs at an alarming rate.

  8. I don’t mean to play down the seriousness of the heroin epidemic in suburban communities, but I do think it is interesting that as long as drugs are an epidemic in black communities only, the response is police and prison oriented. Once it becomes a UMC problem, it finally turns into a public health problem. There is a very different kind of response depending on race and economics.

    I had never thought about it this way myself until an African American friend, someone who writes very thought provoking posts on race on her blog, pointed it out. But it seems that others have already written about this.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/crack-heroin-and-race/401015/

  9. That eulogy was terrible. My sib killed himself many years ago – if the person doing the service had dared say such a thing, I might have marched up and slapped him. Often, when a kid has a problem like this, the family is frantically trying to do something.

  10. A few weeks about my 1st grader came home and told me the dangers of drinking too much wine. That day they had a lesson about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, with a focus on prescription drugs. I thought it was great that the school begins these discussions early and was pleased to hear that the emphasis on the dangers of how medicine can also make you sick. I have no clue if this education matters when they get older though. Nancy Reagan’s campaign didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

  11. I also think that this eulogy is totally inappropriate. But it does raise a good point. In the cases of addiction I’m not sure how much family and friends can really help. But I do think we all tend to underestimate the amount of suffering going on in the lives of those around us. I know in the past there have been people I envied/thought they had it all together and it’s turned out they were suicidal at the time, for instance.

  12. “He will never stop being a crack addict. ”
    I heard an interview with the head of Hazelden talking about why Heroin is so dangerous. And he said that a simple memory can turn an addict back to the drug. Something as simple as driving past the street corner that they bought heroin from, or seeing a stranger with the same backpack that their dealer owned, can cause the addict to relapse. He has seen it happen even if their kids are in the car. Their brain blocks out all logical thinking.

  13. The parents of one of my best friends from childhood were heavy drinkers, but they were also affluent and Ivy League-educated and owned a yacht so nobody thought anything was wrong. By the time I was through college, there had been a couple of suicide attempts and they both ultimately drank themselves to death. So I’m never as sanguine as many are about a lot of social alcohol consumption. And to Rhett’s point about trying something once to take the anxiety away, I can agree with that, and I also think that a kid who is already comfortable with pot is much more likely to try something more dangerous. So I’m not at all cool with pot, either.

  14. I’ve started to talk to the second grader, explaining how some things like cigarettes, alcohol and drugs can be addictive. When a Whitney Houston song was on the radio, I pointed out her beautiful voice and how she was once as famous and beautiful as Taylor Swift, but drug use took that away and now she and her daughter are dead.

    Before middle school, I will take her to the local court to see a day of misdemeanor pleas, which really robs the gangsta culture of all glamour.

    Middle school is when the alcohol use really picks up – there are eighth graders in rehab here – and the harder drugs and heroin are a problem at the high school. Too many kids have the money, and a lot of parents wink at the pot and alcohol use, to the point of supplying it to their kids.

  15. DH was a smoker for much of his adult life. He quit a few years ago. He, too, mentioned the danger of pot, especially for someone who has a prior history of addiction.

    I’ve observed that some people have “addictive” tendencies, that seem to be hard wired. DH is one such person. He has managed to replace smoking with swimming and racquetball, but it’s interesting to see his “withdrawal” if he goes for 2-3 days without physical activity. He is literally crawling the walls, and in a constant bad mood. Only a workout can “cure” him at that point.

  16. Yeah the eulogy would make sense if drug addicts were open to having help here and there from random people – doesn’t work that way.

    We are very honest with our kids. With respect to heroin I have told them that if they do heroin one of two things with definitely happen – you will die from heroin or you will spend the rest of your life trying not to do heroin. No other option. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a big point here with the Hunger Games fans in my house. I said “Here you have an acclaimed, Oscar winning actor who couldn’t keep it together. What on earth might make you think that you can somehow manage something that he could no?” In the end though, you do your best and cross your fingers! Very good parents often times have kids who do very bad things. There but for the grace of God.

  17. By the time I was through college, there had been a couple of suicide attempts and they both ultimately drank themselves to death.

    Then I assume you’d agree that the alcoholism was just a symptom of severe underlying mental health issues vs. the cause of their problems?

  18. Schools have been teaching kids about drug and alcohol abuse for decades. It doesn’t seem to be too hard to get 8-year olds on board. Yet a significant number of those grade-schoolers who solemnly report to their parents that drugs are dangerous become teenagers who regularly consume alcohol and smoke pot. And my guess is that those who start with alcohol and pot in high school are more likely than their abstinent peers to move on to heroin and Oxycodone in their 20’s.

  19. I’ve told my kids that I never started smoking cigarettes because I knew if I did, I’d never be able to stop. And I’ve shared with them that a friend of mine (who they know) has been trying to quit smoking for years now.

    Similar to Moxie’s discussion about Philip Seymour Hoffman, we also discussed the death of Cory Monteith who was one of the lead actors in Glee and who died of a drug overdose. All that potential gone – heartbreaking.

  20. “Then I assume you’d agree that the alcoholism was just a symptom of severe underlying mental health issues vs. the cause of their problems?”

    No, I wouldn’t agree with that. And if there were underlying mental health issues, and it’s possible that there were, then they are going to be both masked and exacerbated by excessive alcohol use. So if it’s a symptom, it’s also a cause of additional problems, both physiologically and chronologically (i.e., you have an alcohol-related incident and lose your TS/SCI clearance, suddenly your problems have gotten a lot worse).

  21. Already one of my older kid’s HS classmates has died of an overdose. This is 5 years since graduation and a class size of about 200. I assume there have been more deaths in our community, but I’ve not necessarily been informed of the details. A beloved former HS teacher in his late 20s who had a heroin addiction died in his sleep this past year. Of course, these are all from affluent, caring families.

    “You’re going to want to do that again.”

    From one interview, the “former” addict explained that the memory of the enormous ecstasy and relief felt after taking heroin never goes away. Any depressive or anxious feelings afterwards are an enormous temptation to go back.

    “I also think that a kid who is already comfortable with pot is much more likely to try something more dangerous”

    I don’t know, but from what I’ve seen the gateway drugs seem more to be prescription painkillers. I’m not sure being comfortable with taking pot or drinking alcohol is a cause for addiction to more dangerous drugs. An addictive personality or mental condition seems to be more of a danger.

  22. And yet cigarette consumption among teenagers has sharply declined, as it has in older age cohorts. Somehow teens got the message that smoking isn’t cool.

  23. Not sure I buy the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug. I think people who start using alcohol, pot, cigarettes, prescription drugs in their early teens are people who are probably hardwired to abuse any sort of drug (legal or illegal). I don’t think legalization of marijuana will lead to more drug use – because I think the people smoking pot at age 13-14 would have been using some other type of drug/alcohol if they couldn’t get pot.

    I do think using any sort of drug can be harmful on a teen’s developing brain – I just wouldn’t single pot out as being the gateway drug.

  24. When my daughter was 9, she was stunned to learn that cigarette smoking was legal – she assumed it was just as illegal as marijuana (when she was 9, pot was still illegal here in Washington).

  25. And if there were underlying mental health issues, and it’s possible that there were

    If…it’s possible?

    What do you think was going on in their heads?

  26. This topic is a subject of an article today in our local paper, which is writing on topics that generated the most interest this past year.

    Some people want the schools to do more, but I don’t trust there’s much they can do. At considerable cost, NY is providing the anti-overdose drug to all middle and high schools, but I doubt that many overdoses occur in school. Our school used to spend considerable federal money on vague programs and surveys, but nothing that had good research behind it. We know DARE doesn’t work. What works?

  27. My older cousin died at 50 of a heart attack that was caused by years of drug and/or alcohol abuse, but I was not close to her at all. I know she called my dad occasionally when she was in her 20’s to ask for money or for him to plead her case with her parents. I can’t remember what he did, if anything, beyond talking with her. I know it made me nervous to think about her situation, so I pretty much put it out of my mind. I was young enough to still be worried about people “forcing” me to take drugs.

    Not sure if the book Go Ask Alice survived past the 70’s, but it scared the %$#@ out of me when I read it in Junior High, and I never wanted anything to do with drugs. I recently read that it was a work of fiction, but we all thought it was true.

  28. And yet cigarette consumption among teenagers has sharply declined, as it has in older age cohorts

    Maybe that’s partially behind the rise in opiate deaths?

    I think a certain percentage of the population has a desperate need for “something to take the edge off.” If you have someone with an anxiety disorder, nicotine produces feelings of relaxation, sharpness, calmness, and alertness. They can self medicate their anxiety with it. If you take that away, they are going to need to find something else.

  29. “We know DARE doesn’t work.”

    How do we know that it doesn’t? It scared me a little bit.

    Rhett – I’m not sure what was going on in their heads. It was years of social drinking that wasn’t uncommon in their social set, and then they couldn’t live without it.

  30. Cigarettes have become ridiculously expensive.

    I was young enough to still be worried about people “forcing” me to take drugs.

    I know, right? I remember being afraid that someone would hold me down and force heroin on me in the girls’ bathroom. (I was in elementary school at the time.) I think some of those drug education programs didn’t really quite hit the mark.

  31. RMS – I had my strategy all ready: I would pretend to take the pill but somehow spit it out while getting a drink from the drinking fountain. I don’t think I had a sense of any kind of drug besides ones that came in a pill form.

  32. It’s interesting, Rhett. I keep hearing about the case, and his recent arrest in Mexico, but I hadn’t read anything detailed about it. People keep hearing “affluenza” and rich and spoiled, but it’s not at all the Totebaggy picture one would assume from that characterization.

    Tonya said the marriage ended because Fred had been verbally and physically abusive. She said he’d call her names, that he often grabbed her by the hair, and that he once “threw her into a fireplace.” She said Fred pushed and choked the daughter from her first marriage and that during a fight he’d threatened to “burn the house down.” Ethan’s half-sister told the social worker that she had seen Fred “slap her mother when she was pregnant with Ethan.” Tonya also accused him of having multiple affairs and manipulating family members with money.

    The father could have been one of Thomas Stanley’s Millionaires Next Doors, but he wasn’t quite so salt-of-the-earth humble:

    He was born in West Virginia but graduated from high school in Mineral Wells in 1983. He was a 17-year-old senior when he met the woman who’d become his first wife, Gaye. She was 30. By the time he was 21, he was the president and owner of Cleburne Sheet Metal, which does large-scale metal roofing. It’s not clear where he got the capital to start the business, but the company now employs about 40 people, and its website shows photos of completed commercial jobs all across North Texas. During a deposition, Fred was asked if, during a 1992 DWI stop, he had told a police officer, “I make more in a day than you make in a year.” His answer: “Probably.”

  33. My biggest fear is Adderall, which students are taking to boost energy and academic performance. A friend’s DS just had to come home from college due to Adderall addiction.

  34. I’ll give my children long, boring lectures about the dangers of drugs, but part of the danger is from the purity and methods of injection of modern opiates. Heroin and morphine weren’t regulated till 1914, and not everyone who used them became addicted. I like the explanation of “addictive personalities.” I’ve already told the story of my mom’s brilliant cousin who died from mental illness interacting from drug addiction. I have enough family history of mental illness to avoid opiates until I’m diagnosed with terminal cancer, at which time I’ll begin to imbibe. My accountant friend who had cancer-they-feared-was-terminal has told me about how hard it was to wean herself from opiates after her cancer and reconstruction surgeries. She says the craving was almost unbearable, though for her, the craving isn’t a lifelong problem.

    “Alexander Wood of Edinburgh discovered the technique injecting morphine with a syringe in 1843. The effects of injected morphine were instantaneous and three times more potent than oral administration. Heroin (diacetylmorphine) was first synthesized in 1874 by English researcher, C.R. Wright. The drug went unstudied and unused until 1895 when Heinrich Dreser working for The Bayer Company of Germany, found that diluting morphine with acetyls produced a drug without the common morphine side effects. Heroin was considered a highly effective medication for coughs, chest pains, and the discomfort of tuberculosis. This effect was important because pneumonia and tuberculosis were the two leading causes of death at that time, prior to the discovery of antibiotics. Heroin was touted to doctors as stronger than morphine and safer than codeine. It was thought to be nonaddictive, and even thought to be a cure for morphine addiction or for relieving morphine withdrawal symptoms. Because of its supposed great potential, Dreser derived his name for the new drug from the German word for `heroic.'”

  35. People keep hearing “affluenza” and rich and spoiled, but it’s not at all the Totebaggy picture one would assume from that characterization.

    Affluenza sounds like the complete opposite of totebagginess to me.

  36. When having the testing done for neurofeedback for my kids, one came back with a brain wave pattern that is consistent for alcoholics. Since my grandfather had a serious alcohol problem (had to be bribed with shots to eat his jello in later years), this alarmed me. In reading up on some of the studies, some of these people with this pattern are hard-wired for high anxiety. But when those people had a few shots of vodka, their brain wave patterns suddenly became the same as people without anxiety. Since people without anxiety didn’t have the same out-of-whack starting point, there was no similar change. It is exactly as Rhett described – this chemical suddenly makes you feel normal in your own skin. I’d want that all the time. So I had some pretty serious talks with my kids about this, about our family history, what I think they need to watch for, etc.

    Regarding drugs, I have a life long friend who became an addict in college, and has now been battling it for 30 years. That includes multiple stints in rehab, the loss of her professional license and being barred from working in that profession, to a very lonely life. I try to stress that no one starts out thinking they’re going to become an addict, and they need to assume that with their genetic profile that they will.

    That eulogy was off the mark. I agree with the comment that he must have never known an addict.

  37. WCE – that’s so interesting. The show The Knick which was on Showtime and is about a hospital in NYC in the early 1900s the main character, a brilliant doctor was doing tons of coke and heroin and was looking to discover the key to addiction. The things they did and tried on people is appalling and so interesting.

    We have a history of alcoholism in my family and I think it is something important to share with your kids.

    @Anon – I am sorry I neglected to tell you how sorry I am for your friend. It must be hard for you to know how they are suffering especially at this time of year.

  38. I am so sorry for your loss. I was not put off by the eulogy. Our family friends struggle with addiction. It is my biggest fear for our children. I lack solutions.

  39. From the SciAm article DD linked to:

    “Moreover, it [DARE] affords students few opportunities to practice how to refuse offers of drugs.”

    I swear the single most helpful thing I ever learned was from watching a new friend at a freshman party. She didn’t want another beer so she just smiled and said casually, “No thanks, I’m a lightweight”. Simple, non-judgmental, and worked perfectly.

  40. Rocky’s point at 4:47 makes me think of a tv special I saw on teaching kids gun safety. They were explaining that for that just telling them “don’t touch it and find a grown up” doesn’t work terribly well, especially for impulsive young boys. What did work was putting them through practice drills where they had to actually practice stepping away and running for an adult.

  41. Knock on wood, I don’t have any friends who are addicts or who are dealing with addiction with their kids. We have some of it in the family but more distant relatives (second cousins, great-uncles, etc.).

    Also disagree that pot is a gateway drug. We have multiple friends who are regular users and they are all responsible adults and not impaired while using…esp when contrasted with the distant relatives’ behavior when on the sauce.

  42. Do you think it’s true that drug addiction is much more prevalent among celebrities (particularly singers/musicians), and if so, why?

  43. “We have multiple friends who are regular users and they are all responsible adults”

    So were my friends’ parents. They had an enviable life.

  44. Milo, if about ten percent of U.S. adults admit illegal drug use in the past month, I would guess (a) the real percentage of adults is significantly higher, and (b) celebrities are still using at a higher rate than the general population.

    Money + easy access + job where no one will be performing a random drug screen + belief that all creative genii do it => greater use rate.

    Lauren, was the mom friend complaining that other moms were using, or kids at the fundraiser?

  45. L, I think the fact that you have lots of friends who are responsible doesn’t mean marijuana is not a gateway drug. I suspect that Totebaggers have a strong selection bias toward having (keeping?) marijuana-using friends for whom marijuana is NOT a gateway drug to more problematic substances.

  46. Most heroin users that I know started with prescription opiates. In the last decade, the supply of pills has constricted – leading people to switch to heroin (smoked or injected). The price of oxycodone has increased, and heroin is now cheaper (I understand that has not always been true). Heroin users have the interesting combination of honesty about their addiction and need for procedures in the ER (abscess drainage)- meaning that it is a group I often have time to chat with.

    I don’t have a good policy solution for this – making narcotic pain meds more difficult to come by really hurts some patients and turns abusers to heroin. Also, contrary to the belief of many well-meaning parents and friends that deliver loved ones to the ER who are “ready to quit” – inpatient detox is almost never medically indicated for opiates (which means it exists, but only for a high out of pocket price, and never for the indigent), and rehab is also in quite limited supply in many communities. I had a mother tell me that I needed to admit her child because “if you don’t he will go out and steal stuff to get more heroin.”

    There are medical solutions – suboxone, methadone help wean the drug, other meds can control the withdrawal symptoms if you stop abruptly. There is some interesting work for using anesthetics to get people through the “sick” period, but that kind of intervention costs a lot of money and I have not seen it done outside experimental settings.

    There are often bad choices that lead to heroin addiction. , but that is true for COPD and diabetes – the difference in level of care we provide for some diseases vs others is lamentable.

  47. I’ve taken Vicodin and Percocet and Flexeral at various times for back strains, oral surgery, and two horrendous, sharp sore throats. Maybe part of it is because it was relieving what I considered intense pain, but God they were nice. I can totally understand getting addicted to those. I keep the leftovers in my medicine cabinet.

  48. I find this place fascinating – would love to have an inside view of what actually happens and what the follow up really looks like

    http://www.schickshadel.com/

    Basically, aversion therapy for drug and alcohol abuse. Makes a ton of sense to me. You have to take away the positive associated with the item of abuse.

  49. Anthony Bourdain’s series on Netflix “Parts Unknown” has an episode on Massachusetts that is mostly about the heroin epidemic there. Talks a lot about his own history with addiction. Fascinating though pretty depressing.

  50. I thought of the musician angle while I was listening to George Jones, the four-times-married country star (“I put a golden ring, on the right left hand this time…”)

    Some Wikipedia snippets:

    Jones’ binge drinking and use of amphetamines on the road caught up to him in 1967 and he had to be admitted into a neurological hospital to seek treatment for his drinking. Jones would go to extreme lengths for a drink if the thirst was on him. Perhaps the most famous drinking story concerning Jones occurred while he was married to his second wife Shirley Corley. Jones recalled Shirley making it physically impossible for him to travel to Beaumont, located 8 miles away, to buy liquor. Because Jones would not walk that far, she would hide the keys to each of their cars they owned before leaving. She did not, however, hide the keys to the lawn mower.

    In October 1970, shortly after the birth of their only child Tamala Georgette, Jones was straitjacketed and committed to a padded cell at the Watson Clinic in Lakeland, Florida after a drunken bender; he was kept there to detoxify for ten days before being released with a prescription for Librium. Jones managed longer stretches of sobriety with Wynette than he had enjoyed in years but as the decade wore on his drinking and erratic behavior worsened, leading to the couple’s divorce in 1976.

    In the late seventies, Jones spiraled out of control. Already drinking constantly, a manager named Shug Baggot introduced him to cocaine before a show because he was too tired to perform. The drug would increase Jones’ already considerable paranoia. During one drunken binge he shot at, and very nearly hit, his friend and occasional songwriting partner Earl “Peanutt” Montgomery after Montgomery had quit drinking after finding religion. He was often penniless and acknowledged in his autobiography that Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash came to his financial aid during this time. Jones also began missing shows at an alarming rate and lawsuits from promoters started piling up. In 1978, owing Wynette $36,000 in child support and claiming to be one million dollars in debt, he filed for bankruptcy. Jones appeared incoherent at times, speaking in quarrelling voices that he would later call “the Duck” and “the Old Man”. In his article “The Devil In George Jones”, Nick Tosches states, “By February 1979 he was homeless, deranged, and destitute, living in his car and barely able to digest the junk food on which he subsisted. He weighed under a hundred pounds, and his condition was so bad that it took him more than two years to complete My Very Special Guests, an album on which Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello, and other famous fans came to his vocal aid and support. Jones entered Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. Upon his release in January 1980, the first thing he did was pick up a six-pack.

    I’m wondering in how bad of shape you have to be to have Johnny Cash, of all people, bailing you out.

    Perhaps ironically, it was listening to his cover of “Family Bible” that got me thinking about him:

  51. I love a twin study:

    Long-term outcomes — Adverse consequences of cannabis use may diminish or disappear with sustained abstinence or reductions in use. As an example, a study of 56 monozygotic male twins discordant for cannabis use found that previous heavy cannabis use was not associated with adverse effects on physical and mental health, quality of life, and sociodemographic measures [30]. Cannabis using twins consumed cannabis for a mean of 1085 days, and had last used cannabis a mean of 20 years earlier. The control co-twins used cannabis for a maximum of five days in their lifetime. No significant differences between cannabis-using and non-using twins were seen in:

    ●Current level of education and household income
    ●Proportion who were married and employed
    ●Current level of health related quality of life
    ●Lifetime nicotine abuse or dependence
    ●Lifetime alcohol abuse or dependence
    ●Lifetime risk of various mood or anxiety disorders
    ●Medication use for medical problems in the past five years
    ●Number of outpatient or emergency room visits in the past five years
    ●Number of hospitalizations in the past five years

  52. My argument is that people who don’t use any drug (tobacco, alcohol or marijuana) are less likely to use hard drugs than people who use one or more of the three above drugs.

    I suspect marijuana is more of a gateway drug than the other two for legalization reasons. If all were legal, I don’t know which is most likely to correlate with hard drug use.

  53. My argument is that people who don’t use any drug (tobacco, alcohol or marijuana) are less likely to use hard drugs than people who use one or more of the three above drugs.

    I disagree that the causation is there. I would argue that it’s the same psychological and physiological disposition to use tobacco, alcohol and marijuana that causes people to use hard drugs.

  54. Denver Dad, I agree that people with the predisposition to addiction probably have it for all drugs. But I think that people who are sufficiently worried to avoid all drugs (like me) are less likely to become addicts.

    Ada, I don’t find that study compelling without more information about how they gathered the sample of twins. Without being able to find the protocol, studying twins who had previously used and then were able to abstain seems biased toward finding people who don’t have issues with cannabis AND are twins. I’d want to see a study that looked at people in prison who are also twins and looked at whether the in-prison twin was more, less or equally likely to use cannabis and other drugs, and at what frequency, controlled for sex.

  55. Sky, it is an auction style fundraiser held in the evening, and no kids attend the event. It is just adults.

  56. Another good one for turning down booze @ high school party: No thanks, I’m on a diet. [Diet soda in hand] (Thanks to my high school friend the geeky but gorgeous blond who ended up dating the hard-partying guy who fell head over heels for her.)

  57. But I think that people who are sufficiently worried to avoid all drugs (like me) are less likely to become addicts.

    If the need for addiction was there you’d find a way. You’d become addicted to food, or shopping, or gambling, or you’d end up like Meme’s ex-husband addicted to some crazy brand of religion. If it needs to manifest itself, left untreated, your brand of addictive crazy will find a way.

  58. @Rhett – I think that is why AA works well for some people – they replace one kind of addiction for another.

  59. Rhett, I think I disagree about the efficacy of treatment but I’d be delighted to be wrong. My crazy relatives can have their crazy somewhat controlled- and lithium and similar drugs are a godsend- but I’m not sure that what medicine offers is clearly better than what a reasonable person can do for himself, including avoiding drug/alcohol triggers if you know you have addictive tendencies. My fellow NMSF who was murdered last year was a psychiatrist and what motivated her to enter the profession was her own depressive episodes combined with her knowledge of the limitations of medicine.

  60. I’m sure you all know (or you yourself may be) people who seem addicted to exercise. They claim it gives them a high, which is scientifically validated, and they are obsessed with putting in their exercise time. In another universe, these types could be heroin addicts. Now, often these exercise addicts suffer painful physical ailments arising out of excessive exercising. If they are prescribed strong pain killers, it would seem they are ripe for serious drug addiction.

    There’s a song about George Jones’ problems with drugs: “No Show Jones”. The lawn mower story is one of my favorites of all time, but sadly a friend of a friend died a few years ago driving drunk on a golf cart. He crossed a highway and was hit. Oh, so sad.

    I want to believe Ada’s linked Schick Schadel program works. I’ve seen the difference between affluent families willing and able to spend many thousands on treatment for their children vs. other families whose children end up on Medicaid with few options for effective treatment. The expensive treatments don’t always work, but they at least buy time. TBH, this has been a motivating factor in accumulating wealth. Knock on wood, so far not a serious problem for us . . .

  61. When I worked on committees at our school, the teachers acknowledged DARE does not work. But they continued to use it because, well, it fit one of the slots for health instruction and came with outside funds, IMO at least. I think they’re so jaded/ignorant/overwhelmed that they have just become used to curriculum that is ineffective, and DARE is just another one.

  62. ^ DARE also is considered a good community program, done jointly with the local police. It’s a feel good program with questionable benefits. It certainly must work for some kids, but it also makes some kids more cynical and less likely to believe other types of edicts from adults. Disclosure: My opinion is colored by the memory of my kid coming home with a poster she proudly created showing a wine glass with a circle/slash through it and convinced that all alcohol was evil.

  63. I know several people who have traded cigarettes, alcohol, and/or drugs for ultra-triathlons. I recently listened to a podcast interview of a guy who gave up alcohol and took up veganism and running and had run ten marathons in 10 days or something like that. Extreme exercise can be a socially acceptable addiction, for sure.

  64. Probably true that our circle of friends is more totebaggy with fewer addictive personalities. Also, my thought was less than fully formed – meant to mention that the distant relatives with alcohol addiction also had addiction issues with painkillers, porn etc. that developed well after their alcohol addiction had been ongoing.

  65. I think that the main difference in my experience between marijuana and alcohol as possible gateways to a life of substance abuse lay in the illegality of the former. If the only way you can get something is to find a connection, pay cash, and hide it thoroughly, it habituates you to the practice and keeps you around people who are using and selling other items as well. Many people of my acquaintance who are not on the road to addiction enjoy it in their twenties, but as they move on out to the burbs or away from college or club culture, they lose contact with their source and it is just too much trouble to find a new one, even though if they chose to look around it is available everywhere. As for alcohol, Milo’s genteel drunks are commonplace among the elites. I can never forget once getting on a plane at 9 am next to an 80ish Ivy patriarch coming home from his grandson’s graduation and watching the severe tremors in his hands until he got the top off the first of several bottles of vodka for his bloody mary. The shakes disappeared almost immediately. But drinking is socially acceptable, if not expected in many situations, you can obtain your supplies on every corner with a credit card. Just like pills, the stuff is usually lying around the house and used by adults freely. Disclaimer, in “program” parlance, alcohol is my drug of choice. Even a post surgical percoset gives me frightening dreams, not a comfy haze. And I have a seriously addictive personality.

    I do agree that pills, both downers and uppers, are the current gateway drugs for teens to more serious addiction. And I listened to Okie from Muskogee last night after reading the discussion, and unfortunately for heartland Main Street, meth and not white lightning has become the biggest thrill of all.

  66. And in terms of talking about drugs and alcohol with my kids middle school and up, I always told them that people drink and take drugs because at least initially it makes them feel really good, no matter what propaganda they had heard in drug education programs. I emphasized a) the loss of control over your situation that is the frequent result of partying or substances of unknown composition, and b) that doing something illegal is a less desirable and unnecessary choice.

  67. The riding lawnmower anecdote, while humorous on the surface, rings true for me because our other “genteel” :) neighbor across the street used to steal my parents’ car to get to the liquor store. Initially, the story was that her forgetful DH took both sets of keys with him to work, and since my Mom just left the keys in her car, and she had some errands that she needed to run… She explained it so apologetically, like “and I’m thinking, ‘I hope I’m not *stealing* this car…’,” and my initially naive parents thought “no problem, you’re welcome to take it whenever you want.” This happened three or four times.

    One time I was home alone for the weekend, and we worked out a deal where she could go to the “deli”–actually get lunch for both of us!!–and I could get something at the mall. The poor woman, it must have been so humiliating.

    A while later, she went to visit some friends in California for several months, so I hope that worked. They were always so nice to me; whenever I might try out a business, they hired me. I house-sat, mowed their lawn, blew leaves, and detailed their cars. They moved away eventually.

  68. We have a neighborhood with what I suspect are “genteel” drinkers. I have seen my some of my neighbors with alcoholic beverages in hand watching their kids at play, then chatting with neighbors, mowing their lawns. While walking around with the kids at Halloween, I was one of the few without a drink as drinking like that from mid afternoon to eight or so at night and having to keep up with the kids is something I cannot do. At the end I was the only parent on hand to make sure everyone got indoors safely. Some of the neighbors tend to get together and it is good that they walk to restaurants or socialize at their houses because I would not want them driving.

  69. I do think the addictive personalities have a very difficult uphill battle. One of my siblings definitely fits the addictive personality type. For a long time, he drank to excess and had some issues from it. In the last couple years, he has replaced the alcohol with being a super strict healthy eater and now does extreme exercise/sports. The latter is much healthier, but it all seems to stem from the same place. As someone who doesn’t have an addictive bone in my body, it is hard for me to understand, but he really does seem to be wired very differently from me (and my other siblings). The thing that seemed to be the big turning point for him was moving out of housing with friends and in to his own place and dating a girl who had a well-defined path. When my husband visited his prior living situation, he was like, nope! He is moving out of there! And he organized a move for him. Luckily, my sibling was happy for the help. He had to have surgery last year because he injured himself and he wouldn’t take any painkillers after other than ibuprofen. He knows he has this issue and has to work hard against it. It worries me.

  70. Years ago there was a man who lived down from the road from me who used to drive his tractor to the nearby general store to get his beer. The man eventually died of alcoholism and the general store, like most of those around here, closed its door several years ago
    Our house was rental property for college kids in the ’70s. The owner’s daughter was telling me just yesterday that he once discovered that the kids were growing pot behind the house. He came over with his lawn mower and cut it all down. The kids never said anything to him about it.
    DH has a friend who used to grow pot in between the rows of his corn. He got caught and spent a short time in jail.

  71. But I think that people who are sufficiently worried to avoid all drugs (like me) are less likely to become addicts.

    Yes, people who don’t use drugs are definitely less likely to become addicts. Obviously you won’t become addicted to something you never use.

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