I recently finished listening to the audio book version of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug company that Addicted America.
I’m not okay.
Dopesick wasn’t my first non-fiction book on drug addiction. It must’ve begun with James Frey’s pseudo-memoir A Million Little Pieces back in 2004. Then a few years later I absorbed Nick Reding’s Methland. I generally obsess over any book – fiction or non-fiction – of teens and drugs. I don’t know what it is about me that is drawn to this story line, but there you have it.
What really drove Dopesick home for me came in the prologue. Robin Roth, the mother of Scott Roth – a 21-year old whose addiction led to his death by overdose in 2010 – opined that her son might still be alive if she hadn’t tried to be a strong single mom. If she’d reached out to other adults in Scott’s life, she assumed, he might still be alive.
The concept of teenagers having a support system of adults is not a new one. Everyone needs a “squad”. From single moms like Robin to well-partnered moms, from the wealthy to the struggling, everyone needs friends. Robin wishes she’d thought of it sooner.
Would Scott still be alive if a teacher and/or a family friend had taken him out for the occasional milkshake when he was sixteen? Would conversations after a football game with a coach have kept him from succumbing to the peer pressure of drug use, followed by addiction, followed by the pursuit to not get high but to not become dopesick? (Dopesick is the effect of coming off drugs, and is what keeps many people on drugs. It’s not the high they’re chasing. Instead they’re desperately trying to not get a fever, hallucinations, and the intense abdominal pain that comes with your gut rejecting everything inside it in the most violent manner possible.)
Drug addiction aside, ALL adolescents need loving and supportive adults in their life. They need teachers who see past their distractingly high energy and see a child who wants to learn. They need a coach who can talk to them on and off the field. They need adults who talk to them like adults. Those adults will notice when the teenager they care for has changed, or is exhibiting signs of poor decision-making. Of drug addiction. Of being a victim of other abuses. Those adults can be the ones who have the difficult conversations when parents aren’t around or when parents refuse to see the truth.
Is there a teenager in your life who you could mentor? Not just a teenager on drugs, but any teenager. Who you could text once in a while? Who has a struggling parent? Reach out. You never know whose life you’re saving.