The American Dream in Reverse
By now you all know that I’ve been working with the addicted population throughout my entire career. On a regular basis people ask me “How did this epidemic happen?” “What does this mean for the future of our nation?”
Upon reflection, I thought about the traditional American Dream, every generation is supposed to do better than their parents, have a better life, maybe move up in social status, right? It made me think about how this epidemic could have started. Was drug and alcohol use handed down as well? Did the each generation move to more sophisticated and devastating substances?
I was born two years before the summer of love (no need to guess, I’m 50) and from what I know this WAS the age of Aquarius. People smoked home grown grass, psychedelics were big and I’m sure that the granddaddy of all drugs, alcohol, was ever present. Free love, buck the system, grow your hair and change society. Make love, not war.
The 70’s generation was much the same. Maybe you smoked a higher grade of pot, if you could find some not sprayed with paraquat, the poison enlisted in Nixon’s “War on Drugs.” Rumor has it that addicts hoped maybe the sprayed pot could provide a higher high. Full speed down the road to premature death, either by the drug or lifestyle.
The users of the 80’s needed to raise the ante, do better than their parents, get a higher high, get to the next level. Welcome cocaine! Cocaine was harder to walk away from than pot and acid. It was the drug that took you to the peak in an instant and made you want more and more, to the point you’d walk away from everything and everyone you loved. Still, no one considered it “addictive.”
The 90’s continued the quest for the Reverse American Dream, taking the high to the next level. Enter Crack, cheap, easy to get, and smoking got you there faster! The rebound was strong, as was the craving. A whole generation, consumed by drug seeking behavior started losing their children to the system, and family members
started dying a little faster from their use and/or lifestyle.
(Throughout this time, heroin users were considered “really bad” and even “crackheads” felt they were higher up on the social scale of addicts. )
Welcome to the new Millennium!!! Still chasing the Reverse American Dream to do it one better, enter pharmaceuticals. Stealing whatever is left in medicine cabinet became an easy way to get high. Pills are so much more sophisticated than needles, so much cleaner, so much safer, not so sketchy. It comes from doctors and pharmacies. This can’t be so bad, right? I call today’s pot Frankenweed, as its modified and engineered to a more potent level than the hippies ever thought possible.
So now we have a generation, eating 30+ pills day, graduating to the cheaper Heroin and dying on a daily basis. Many of my contemporaries’ children are being raised by their grandparents. Will their parents see them graduate high school? Get married? Have their own kids? Are their lives a fulfillment of the American Dream to always do a little better than their parents or the Reverse American Dream of drugs and death? This can’t be what the homegrown hippies intended. No one thinks about the progression when it all starts…
Here’s the glimmer of HOPE : People are starting to get active. Parents are tired of losing their children, children are tired of losing their parents. Education and intervention are replacing incarceration. Addiction is being recognized and treated as a medical issue, not a moral or legal issue. The “War on Drugs” is evolving into a war on addiction. People are taking a stand and beginning to hold the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance companies accountable for their roles in its cause and cure.
Lets all make a commitment to continue that forward momentum, and reverse the Reverse American Dream.