Tuesday, May 16, 2006

"Teens swapping legal drugs at 'pharming' parties"

See this article: Teens swapping legal drugs at 'pharming' parties.
Not so long ago, kids raided their parents' liquor cabinet when they wanted a quick high.

Today, it's the medicine cabinet.

They're stocking up for "pharming parties," get-togethers sans parents where teens barter legal drugs and get high.
From 1992 to 2003, the numbers of younger teenagers who abuse prescription drugs have doubled. But lest we think that this new abuse is just limited to otherwise legal, but illicitly used, drugs:
Compared with the rest of their peers, teens who abuse prescription drugs are ...

-Twice as likely to use alcohol

-5 times likelier to use marijuana

-12 times likelier to use heroin

-15 times likelier to use Ecstasy

-21 times likelier to use cocaine
Not all of this is done illegally.
Indeed, some kids come by the drugs legally. Maybe they're taking Ritalin for attention deficit disorder or painkillers after losing their wisdom teeth or breaking a bone.
I've met teenagers who tell me that they abuse attention deficit drugs, and some seek out prescriptions even if they don't legitimately need it, or attempt to keep prescriptions long after they are no longer needed. Also, having ADD or ADHD is now seen as being fashionable.

The author of the story, however, is quick to place blame:
In our quick-fix world, kids see adults, who'd never touch an illegal drug, fill prescriptions to treat everything from physical pain to anxiety. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies via TV and magazines hype drugs that promise a happier, thinner, more energetic you, all by popping a pill.
This is an old excuse for drug abuse. I remember it being used in the 1960s: hippies would blame their marijuana use on their parents' use of Valium. This seems to be a use of the common "Tu Quoque" (Latin: 'you're another') fallacy, where someone blames an accuser of the same fault. While it does allege hypocrisy, it also serves to encourage that same behavior: if an authority does it, it must be right. This is the same type of argument used in the priestly sex-abuse crisis: the mainstream media simultaneously accuse Catholic priests of abuse while also pushing for greater sexual freedom and a lowering of the age of consent.

Too often modern society judges behavior merely by a narrow scientific analysis of consequences: "doing X increases the risk of Y by Z%", while avoiding any mention of what may be objectively right or wrong morally. We can be bogged down in quantitative analysis and statistics while never doing a proper moral analysis.

Another problem is the excessive American faith in democracy. If everyone is doing it, it must be right. Truth is whatever the majority says is true. Radical democrats dare not condemn anything that is popular among the youth. But the mainstream media tend to emphasize trends such as this: what the 'cool kids' are doing in Los Angeles and Miami is soon broadcast nationwide, turning subculture behaviors into mainstream trends, so we have the artificial creation of democratic consensus.

I think that this new kind of drug abuse is actually encouraged by some.

Back when I was in 5th grade—around 1972—we had what was called "values education". This had nothing to do with teaching values in general, but instead was an intensive education in illegal drug use. They never told us right vs. wrong, nor did they argue within any type of moral system, but instead, the students—10 year olds—had to determine their own values and make their own choices regarding whether or not to use illegal drugs. Teachers and police officers told us both the benefits and the health consequences of drug use. I recall a number of my fellow students who ended up choosing the illegal drug lifestyle, based on this program. This type of education, "values clarification" has since been extended beyond drugs to also include sex and suicide, as free choices that young children have to decide for themselves.

Morally, everyone is, in fact, free, but this freedom should not be a policy. Imagine a program where every child is given lessons on using firearms, but are never told about the almost-inviolable and deadly serious "10 Commandments of Firearm Safety"; instead every child is told that they have to confidently choose for themselves what (or who) to shoot. Just because drugs, sex, and suicide seem to be private matters of personal preference, unlike firearms, some argue that it is OK for individuals to have subjective, self-made values regarding them. But it isn't true: drugs, sex, and suicide are matters of social justice, since they do, in fact, affect others, and often directly.

Children are strongly encouraged to decide these matters for themselves in order to break the moral development provided by parents and religion. They don't say this at school board meetings, but this is clear at higher levels: in trade journals, political forums, and founding philosophical works.

I see several reasons why this kind of drug abuse may be actually encouraged. Kids selling drugs at "pharming" parties clearly benefit, as do their suppliers, and ultimately the pharmaceutical companies, and also, as the above statistics show, illegal drug use is also greatly encouraged. But this does not directly address the reasons why this kind of behavior is not morally challenged. I see this as another form of "bread and circuses", an attempt to keep the population stupid, entertained, and in a mental, drug-induced stupor. Russia's vodka policy over the decades reflected this kind of social control: Lenin restricted production to encourage the revolution, Stalin encouraged production to keep people passive, and Gorbachev restricted production to encourage reform. There may also be a kind of Social Darwinism here, perhaps a cynical attempt to eliminate the stupid.

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