Oh, Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children?

Middle class heroin abuse is nothing new

From Pajamas Media comes the upsetting news that more teenagers than ever before are now using heroin:

Why is this addictive opiate making its way through the suburbs, taking down kid after kid while the parents remain naive and oblivious to its presence? Why are kids who seem to have it all reaching out for a drug that has more of a social stigma than methamphetamine and ecstasy, the drugs of choice of the teenagers before them? The answer might be found in looking at the effects of those drugs. While meth and ecstasy are stimulants and offer a user increased energy and heightened awareness, heroin is a depressant that blocks out pain, dulls the thought process and takes one away from life.

The explanation offered by author Michele Catalano is that, for today’s children born of professional families (or “good kids,” as she calls them), the pressure to get good grades and excel in extracurricular activities and get into fancy colleges leaves them unable to cope with failure, causing some deep anxiety that occasionally manifests itself in a nasty heroin addiction.

Dear God, being white and middle class is so damn hard.

Is the stress of being a suburban teenager now really so terrible that we’re seeing a rash of heroin addictions? While it’s certainly a fascinating idea, the problem is that it’s not really clear that middle class heroin (and other hard drug) use is any more prevalent these days than it ever was. Remember Traffic? Hell, remember Diff’rent Strokes?

In fact, journalists have been bemoaning the rise of heroin use among residents of places like Suffolk and Rockland Counties for more than thirty years. While the author seems to focus on the good kid/bad kid thing, she’s really talking about social class. The hitch here is that, in terms of middle-class suburban communities, heroin use is nothing new.

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Daniel Luzer is web editor of the Washington Monthly.