Thursday, December 16, 2004

A sobering look at teen drug use

...Not your idea of quiet time contemplation? Well, it's mine...

Drugs and youths. Not a new subject, but it sure has a different look about it these days. From my vantage point (non-user) in the seventies (graduated in 1977), drugs were used for the high, the thrill, the escape. The current use of steroids and anti-depressants in the teen population reveals concerns of a different nature.

Steroids are a mystery to me. We are sports fanatics around here, and have followed the achievements of Barry Bonds and his home runs because we love baseball. But, the shadow of steroid use over the whole world of baseball/olympics/sports-in-general ruins it, at least for me.

Anti-depressants are more complicated. I have not personally battled depression, but those I love have. I am deeply grateful that their lives have been helped with carefully prescribed medication. But, how are these medications impacting children (yes, I think teens are children) and what is happening in our culture to create such confusion and misery?

Even though I am the mother of two teens (and three future teens) I am still completely unaware of the pressures the young people in these articles are feeling. We have our share of angst, attitude and navel contemplation around here, so don't misunderstand me. Maybe these unhappy days are ahead, but I hope that we can fend off the cultural messages that might pollute our children's thinking and cloud their decision making. I hope they can remember that they are known and loved, by the very God that created them for great things.

Toxic Strength, Newsweek
"An authority on youth sports, Dr. Jordan D. Metzl of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, calls steroid use "a burgeoning epidemic." The annual "Monitoring the Future" survey by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research suggests that the rate of steroid use by high-school students increased throughout the 1990s before dropping off slightly in 2003; a NEWSWEEK analysis of the data indicates that last year more than 300,000 students between the eighth and 12th grades used steroids. And they were not all jocks; as many as one third were girls, and experts say there is a growing problem of steroid use by boys whose heroes aren't baseball sluggers but the sinewy, rock-jawed models glowering from the pages of the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. This development led to the recent introduction of a new psychological diagnosis, muscle dysmorphia (sometimes called "reverse anorexia"). For teenagers who use steroids, the side effects may begin with severe acne and run through hair loss, infertility, male breast development, violent mood swings and paranoia. And, in an unpleasant irony, steroids can stunt growth and cause injuries that could end the very career they were intended to enhance."
(Regarding testing for steroids:)"And even if they were looking for it, they would miss the increasing number of cases of steroid use that don't involve athletes at all, but students who simply believe they don't measure up to what an American boy ought to look like—an image they probably formed playing with their G.I. Joe action figures, around the same time their sisters got their idea of female body shape from their Barbies."

"Could it really be that decades of education aimed at boosting the self-esteem of normal teenage girls has just transferred the body-image problem to boys? Or is vanity simply too deeply ingrained in human nature to eradicate, merely shifting its form and locus with the times?"

Casualities of the Drug Lords, Touchstone

"On June 27, 2004, the Boston Globe published a story about the suicide of 16-year-old..."

"The causal connection between antidepressant drugs and teen suicide is suspected rather than proven, but the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about it the month after Kaitlyn’s suicide. Great Britain, citing the suicide risk, has banned most of the drugs for young people."

"Kaitlyn seems to have needed two kinds of guidance. At a practical level, she needed to learn how to set boundaries in her personal relationships and how to terminate relations with a person who would not respect those boundaries. At a spiritual level, she needed to learn that people exist for a purpose, and that periods of unhappiness are normal low points that can be overcome and need not prevent any individual from leading a gloriously fulfilling life."

"But materialist biology encourages the assumption that we live in a purposeless world in which the goals of life are reduced to the pursuit of pleasure on the one hand, and the avoidance of pain or insecurity on the other. When youth have been educated to see the world that way, the misery and anxiety of an insecure sexual relationship can make their lives seem not worth living."

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