In Bed with Susie Bright 277:
Listen to my whole interview with Mike: Link
In his Op-Ed, Males says that contrary to media stereotypes of drug-abusers, it's middle-aged, college-educated white people who have the highest rate of drug abuse today, with some of the most startling increases in the number of female addicts. Rush Limbaugh and his girlfriends are not the exception, they're the rule!
According to the CDC, the number of Americans dying from the abuse of illegal drugs has leaped by 400 percent in the last two decades, reaching a record 28,000 in 2004. The F.B.I. reported that drug arrests reached an all-time high of 1.8 million in 2005.
The Drug Abuse Warning Network, a federal agency that compiles statistics on hospital emergency cases caused by illicit drug abuse, says that number rose to 940,000 in 2004— a huge increase over the last quarter century.
Why are so few Americans aware of these troubling trends?
One reason is that today's drug abusers are simply the ''wrong'' group. As David Musto, a psychiatry professor at Yale and historian of drug abuse, points out, wars on drugs have traditionally depended on ''linkage between a drug and a feared or rejected group within society.''
Today, however, the fastest-growing population of drug abusers is white, middle-aged Americans. This is a powerful mainstream constituency, and unlike with teenagers or urban minorities, it is hard for the government or the news media to present these drug users as a grave threat to the nation.
Among Americans in their 40s and 50s, deaths from illicit-drug overdoses have risen by 800% since 1980, including 300% in the last decade. In 2004, American hospital emergency rooms treated 400,000 patients between the ages 35 and 64 for abusing heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, hallucinogens and ''club drugs'' like ecstasy.
Equally surprising, graying baby boomers have become America's fastest-growing crime scourge. The F.B.I. reports that last year the number of Americans over the age of 40 arrested for violent and property felonies rose to 420,000, up from 170,000 in 1980. Arrests for drug offenses among those over 40 rose to 360,000 last year, up from 22,000 in 1980. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 440,000 Americans ages 40 and older were incarcerated in 2005, triple the number in 1990.
...Few experts would have suspected that the biggest contributors to California's drug abuse, death and injury toll are educated, middle-aged women living in the Central Valley and rural areas, while the fastest-declining, lowest-risk populations are urban black and Latino teenagers. Yet the index found exactly that. These are the sorts of trends we need to understand if we are to design effective policies.
These numbers blow my over-40 mind!
It also caused me to have a personal reflection. In the past couple years, among my own circle, the two people I'm closest to who've had an unpleasant brush with the law are both women in their mid-50s. One was busted for her third DUI. Another became addicted to Oxy after a surgery, then got caught scoring it illegally.
Neither of my friends are "Ma Barker"— they're the salt of the earth, wonderful, giving, educated, and really hard on themselves. All their loved ones were "shocked"— but now I think, why? Apparently, my girlfriends are right in the bullseye of the fastest-growing trend ever.
The more intriguing question is: what do my friends, and other middle-aged women have in common that makes them so vulnerable to substance abuse? —Or the cascading law and order disasters that follow in its wake?
Of course, I am speaking anecdotally, but I am fascinated to see my life fitting the statistics. Sure, I have teen friends who've gotten in trouble too, but it was crap like shoplifting, graffiti, and underage-whatever. A nineteen year old friend of mine suffered the worst violence of last summer because he was held up at his minimum wage donut-shop job, at gunpoint, by someone who was no doubt a middle-aged drug addict. Lock up Pop! Time out for Mom! Grandma is going down!
I phoned Mike the instant I read his op-ed, because I recognized that the way teens are fetishized as drug fiends, they are similarly targeted as sexual monsters or victims. It's the same propaganda, and in the case of sexuality, once again, it's women in their late-childbearing-years who are leading out-of-wedlock births, not teenagers.
Why does there have to be a teenage bogeyman or mewling kitten-victim in every tree of media fear-climbing? Mike's got the facts at his fingertips that really put the sting on this thing.
Finally, in my Try This at Home mailbag, I gave Mike the option to stay and listen to me answer a letter from a man who wonders if he can use a dildo as a depth finder. Gee, the things senior criminal justice researchers have to listen to!
Don't forget, you can request Susie's Girly Cards, or send confidential sex questions and feedback about the show to email@example.com. (Episode 277, January 12, 2007)