Many people associate low socioeconomic neighborhoods with drugs and addiction, and there is certainly some degree of accuracy to this notion, but who is actually buying these drugs? A drug habit is a full-time job, and you don’t get paid. In fact, you pay your employer (drugs) for the privilege of working. It is a nightmarish job that entails crime, lies, manipulation and a whole host of other deplorable and unmentionable pursuits, but I digress. On any street corner in Newark, Camden, Paterson and several other New Jersey cities, a steady procession of vehicles drive through to get their daily fix. It may come as a surprise to some, but most of these vehicles make their way to the aforementioned street corners from abundantly wealthy New Jersey suburbs. As I said earlier, a drug habit is an extremely expensive endeavor in more ways than one, so it helps to have some financial resources to get you going. To answer the question of who is imparting the demand for drugs upon our inner cities, the answer has become painfully clear; white, suburban, 18-25-year-olds.
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The Literature Indicates a New Trend
In a recent study published in the journal “Development and Psychopathology”, “Large suburban metropolitan counties went from having the lowest to the highest rate of premature death due to drug overdose within the past decade. Premature death due to drug overdose was highest among whites.” The sad truth is that people have become used to the characterization of our inner cities as dangerous, inundated with drugs and plagued by premature death. But as this recent study has shown, the past decade has seen an onslaught of drug-induced death among white upper-middle-class communities. What’s more, the study demonstrated alarming statistics regarding drug use among whites in affluent communities in the northeast, where the studies sample population was derived. The study followed individuals from early adulthood through high school and beyond. Growing up and living in affluent neighborhoods is generally positively correlated with better health, but it is also associated with higher incidences of binge drinking and the use of marijuana.
Two groups were followed and studied in the “New England Study of Suburban Youth”; the first group studied was students in affluent communities through their college years, the second group was people from age 23 to 27. They found that not only were the college students and the adults ages 23 to 27 in this region more likely to drink to intoxication and use marijuana, but their use of stimulants like Adderall and “club drugs” like ecstasy were also higher than that of their peers in other racial and socioeconomic groups. One extraordinary finding of the study is that in the group of people ages 23 to 27, addiction rate and use of drugs was actually 2-3 times higher than national norms. Among the males, addiction rate was as high as 27%, a stunning finding.
Although authors of the study feel as though more thought needs to go into how to apply these findings in a broader context, they feel it is clear that this isn’t a problem to be taken lightly.
Latchkey Kids and Addiction
Multiple reasons were discussed for why young adults and adults in affluent communities use more drugs and have higher rates of addiction. This discussion breeds much speculation, but one reason for this phenomenon is clear; affluent communities, in general, have a significant lack of parental involvement. I can personally recall my childhood as a “latchkey kid”. My father worked (still does) as a dentist in New York, approximately an hour from the home I grew up in, and my mother worked as a registered nurse in a healthcare facility approximately 45 minutes away. They both worked long hours six days per week, and when they finally got home they were understandably exhausted. In the hours immediately following school until relatively late at night, my brother Eric and I fended for ourselves. The term “latchkey kid” is a product of the WWII era. Fathers were voluntarily enlisting in the armed forces or being drafted, and mothers were forced to seek employment for financial security and to contribute to the war effort.
The Effects of Absentee Parenting
Lack of parental involvement has a wide range of potentially negative effects on kids, and these effects vary with age. For younger children below the age of ten, they often experience intense anxiety, fear, loneliness, and boredom. By the time kids reach their early teenage years, lack of parental involvement is inversely correlated with increased susceptibility to peer pressure. This leads to an increase in smoking, drinking, drug use, promiscuity and poor grades. Peer pressure isn’t the only factor in these behaviors, studies have repeatedly shown that children and teens develop hostility due to the lack of necessary attention from their parents. Furthermore, children without adequate parental supervision and involvement tend to have lower self-esteem, which manifests itself in self-medicating.
My parents are and always have been extremely good people and good parents. They did everything they did to give my brother and I a better life than they had growing up. They worked hard, long hours to ensure financial security so that my brother and I could get a college education and live a nice life. Yet and still, all of these feelings and behaviors are highly relatable to me. When I was in middle school and high school I struggled quite a bit with attention issues, depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, and a persistent feeling of loneliness. A relatively brief window of four or five hours without one or both of my parents left me seeking attention and company, and I found it in the older kids who smoked, drank and did drugs. Money may have never been an issue for my family, but drug addiction became an enormous issue in my life. My family was able to attain financial security, but it came at a significant price.
This story is true of many other families and for many of my friends. Hard working parents that couldn’t spend a lot of time with their kids, which resulted in life-long issues such as drug addiction and mental illness. This issue is one similarity that affluent communities have with poor communities. The rich and the poor alike both have the issue of lack of parental involvement. This doesn’t seem to affect the middle class nearly as much according to research, but with economic trends indicating a shrinking middle class, this problem is only going to continue to get worse.
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