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Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Addiction-Proof Your Child: A Realistic Approach to Preventing Drug, Alcohol, and Other Dependencies," by Stanton Peele (2007, Seven Rivers Press, 258 pp., $14.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

Teens on drugs! Almost nothing in America these days frightens parents as or throws society into a conniption fit as much as the prospect of young people using drugs. That's why we have DARE, zero tolerance, drug dogs in schools, drug testing in schools, and all those other programs and policies designed to eliminate teen drug use.

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There is, of course, legitimate reason for concern: No one wants charming little junior to grow up to be a junkie, no one wants his son to end up as a drug overdose statistic or his daughter to wander the streets selling herself for the next rock of crack. Less dramatically, no parents want their kids to fail to achieve their potential because they're spending their days sitting on the couch smoking pot or their nights driving around swilling booze.

But the programs and policies devised so far to eliminate or at least reduce teen drug use have demonstrably failed. For decades, about half of all teens report having used some drug, and even higher numbers report drinking. Naturally, parents, school administrators, and police call for redoubled efforts in the face of such numbers, as if more of the same failed approaches would result in a different outcome.

When it comes to teen drug use, it's time for an intervention, and who better than Dr. Stanton Peele, the New Jersey-based psychologist who has been studying and writing about addiction and related issues for decades? Peele is controversial -- he rejects the currently popular "disease model" of addiction, he scoffs at "abstinence only" approaches to recovery -- but his latest contribution, "Addiction-Proof Your Child," is calm, collected, and a common sense approach to grappling with teen drug use.

A primary message for parents from Dr. Peele is "don't freak out." As noted, teen drug use is so prevalent as to be normal, just part of adolescent life. Yes, there are indeed dangers related to drug use and drinking, but, as Peele shows, most teens use drugs without overdosing, becoming junkies or prostitutes, or otherwise destroying their lives. If your kid is smoking pot, it doesn't mean he is necessarily on the path to perdition, and the casual teen pot smoker certainly doesn't need to be stuffed into some kind of 12-step, just-say-no, abstinence-based treatment program. In fact, Peele argues, such programs may only make things worse. Reshaping a young person's perceptions so that he identifies himself as an "addict" is self-defeating and disempowering, Peele believes.

It's not that Peele thinks addiction is a myth -- quite the contrary. Peele has an expansive definition of addiction that includes not only dependence on mind-altering substances, but also phenomena like video gaming and internet porn addictions, and even food addiction, which he sees as a leading contributor to the current epidemic of teen obesity.

But unlike the molecular fetishists of the disease model of addiction, led by Dr. Nora Volkow and her well-funded legions of researchers at NIDA, Peele sees addiction not so much as a biopharmacological phenomenon, but as a behavioral one. As Peele titles one chapter, "The problem is addiction, not drugs."

Healthy, well-adjusted kids who are taught good values and personal responsibility are less likely to run into problems with drug use, or video gaming, or overeating, Peele posits. It makes sense. We all know people who used drugs as teenagers, and we all need to acknowledge that the fact that a kid smoked pot doesn't mean he is inevitably headed for skid row.

In "Addiction-Proof Your Child," Peele puts his decades of clinical experience in dealing with problematic (and not so problematic) drug use to work for parents, educators, and anyone else dealing with what can be a frightening issue. He is clear, compelling, and level-headed, and the book is full of easily digestible wisdom about what it takes to make an "addiction-proof" child.

"Addiction-Proof Your Child" is a desperately needed intervention in an area too often filled with hysterical fears. We don't want our kids to become junkies, but as Peele shows, there are much better and sensible approaches than relying on DARE cops and their horror stories or 12-step programs and their insistence on life-long identities as "addicts." DRCNet regularly offers books as premiums for our donors. This one needs to be added to our list right now. It is most useful, full of insights, and a healthy corrective to the misinformation and disinformation that all too often passes for drug education.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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The war on drugs works wonders

it keeps at risk populations vulnerable, the disenfranchised, disenfrancised, it gives support to the notion that people remain that way because of their own personal choices, it gives rise to the idea that this is a meritocracy, it helps to distingush between the deserving and underserving, it turns neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, sister against sister. It keeps us atomized, apart, in fear, regulated and enslaved. The war on drugs strikes terror into the hearts and minds of the population at large...we have a war on drugs because we have a system that needs a war on drugs....you won't stop the war because you won't change the system....you are just smoke and mirrors just like the drug war you are supposedly fighting....( see if we all just fight hard enough and educate we can change the system) So you are sowing illussions....keep up the good work...
Nobody's Fool.

Education is bad, mmkay?

The war on drugs will not end because use will always be defined as abuse by those of us who aspire to positions of control over others, both personally and professionally. Insightfully, this book recognizes the perpetual self-identification of alcoholics (and all sinners for that matter), and foresees future wars on junk food, internet porn and violent video games, or at least wars on those who entertain these activities which our leaders have found "unproductive" and therefore harmful to workers and "wealthy corporations" alike.

Addiction can end, if useful information such as that provided by Dr. Peele is used to educate parents and teachers. The Scared Straight crowd won't like it - bad for their business. Same for street dealers, prison guard unions, drug smugglers and the company that supplies Round-up(TM) to Plan Colombia. So useless hysteria, zero-tolerance and labels stamped into your permanent record are here to make sure drug addiction as they define it is here to stay. As manufacturing jobs continue to offshore, there will be plenty of new positions as suppliers and persecutors of the illegal junk food, porn, and video game addicts in our future.

And a word for "Nobody's Fool" above - Paranoia will destroy ya...!

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