None of us can sing worth a darn, but we are a highly enthusiastic bunch caterwauling in the woods each summer. One of our chorus is a federal prosecutor. As the mental health professionals sit around the campfire discussing substance use disorder late into the evening, Ben remains thoughtful. Recent research predicts addicts are evenly distributed across social class suggests a social worker. The lack of connection correlates with substance abuse adds a psychologist. Craving is neurologically based, a psychiatrist reminds us.
Ben, the prosecutor, seems unimpressed with the latest research. Ben has a more succinct explanation: addicts take drugs because it feels good.
Everyone agrees that the behavior of addicts is deplorable. Theft, selling drugs, lying to family, using money to support drug habits that should go to food or medicine for children, all are despicable. How do we make better predictions about who is at risk for addiction? Where can limited resources be best invested? How can we recoup the billions of lost dollars of productivity, help to heal the shattered lives? What kind of treatment is most effective? What are the underlying reasons for the behaviors? Addiction affects us all. That’s why there is so much concern about the causes of the behavior.
Speaking of behaviors, what is to be made of the reasons behind the following crime?https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/16/us/16florida-homecoming-vote-fraud.html?campaign_id=57&emc=edit_ne_20210316&instance_id=28135&nl=evening-briefing®i_id=77901497&segment_id=53551&te=1&user_id=38d033d8104348b66d5c23c5e96712f3
a mother abused her position of authority to have her daughter elected homecoming queen. Mom, an assistant principal, used her computer access to cast over a hundred votes for her daughter. Daughter was elected; mom was carted off to prison.
How important was it that her daughter be homecoming queen? Important enough for mom to risk losing her job. What was the reason underlying the behavior? Perhaps mom didn’t care about the other children in the competition. Maybe mom thought her daughter was tragically unique. Conceivably mom felt that her daughter had no other chances in life, that being elected homecoming queen was more meaningful than say, studying chemistry and going to medical school.
My take, as always, is to love your kids for who they are rather than for who you want them to be. Helping your kids understand that, “you win some, you lose some” is a valuable life lesson. (Unless your children are members of the 1927 New York Yankees who won a remarkable seven games of every ten.) And your parents will love and respect you no matter the outcome. Sorry to hear you lost the election for homecoming queen, wanna go for a hike? is a sensible response, normalizing the experience and helping to quell disappointment. A similar reaction to a failed driver’s test or a rejection from college impresses me as appropriate parenting.
To return to the causes of substance use disorder, it may indeed be the case that addicts use because taking drugs makes them feel good. But my money is on substance abuse stemming from the lack of connection between user and family, user and community, user and sense of self. If folks don’t have anyone who sees them and loves them for who they are, aren’t they more likely to take drugs to feel like they are someone else?