Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

On the Road Again

Monday morning I continue my jet setting lifestyle by flying off to DC for the Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness. That refers to substance abuse treatment.

Now, like a lot of you, the way I remember my adolescence the biggest drug problem we had was insufficient supply. However, the problem we have today is entirely different. There is a major epidemic of adolescent opioid addiction in the U.S. right now, including 16 and 18 year old kids who inject heroin. When I was a youth the idea of going anywhere near heroin was absolutely appalling. I never knew anyone who would even consider it. Ditto with meth. Yes, people got into that stuff but usually not so young, and it was largely limited to poor communities. Scholars of addiction could honestly say that the problem was not drugs, but lack of life prospects, or psychological damage. People with jobs to go to and education to pursue could get high on weekends but they would show up on Monday because they had a reason to, and they did not become addicted.

It's not that simple any more. We have a growing heroin problem among kids from affluent or at least stable and economically adequate families, with access to decent education and what ought to be reasonable expectations. Availability has something to do with this -- prescription opioids are the usual starting point and they are flooding the market right now, including very powerful drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl. Kids in the burbs are taking them like M&Ms. I mean, how dangerous could they be, they're medicine?

But they're hard to get in the quantities that an addict needs and their street price is high. Heroin, however, is plentiful and cheap, thanks to the failed state in Afghanistan and the many warlord fiefdoms there which are flooding the world with high quality junk. Yup, it all goes together.

So we aren't talking about firing up a Dooby on a Friday night here. I'll report anything interesting from the conference. I may have trouble getting up a post tomorrow, since I'll be traveling in the morning and meeting in the afternoon, but I'll do my best.

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