Youth Addiction: The Great Double Standard
It’s one of the most common explanations for why kids get
involved with alcohol and drug use. Parents use it to deflect
responsibility. Coaches use it to protect the eligibility of their
star athlete. Grandparents use it to make sure any other reason is
What is the common explanation for youth addiction? “They got
in with the wrong crowd.”
When I was growing up my mother would use one of the kids in my
neighborhood as the classic guilt example. “Don’t me like (so and
so),” she’d say. Or if she was really angry with me, she’d call
me by his name, bringing more shame and humiliation to my already
The “bad kid” was a product of a broken
home, had no parental oversight of any kind, repeatedly was held back
in school and finally thrown aside like yesterday’s garbage.
Looking back 50 years, I am heartbroken for him. He was the “bad
kid” and I was seen as one of the “good kids,” but only
because I didn’t get caught.
Youth Addiction: Can you pick them out?
Here’s a question for you. Who are the drinkers in the high
school? According to recent statistics, some 80% of high school
students admit to having taken a drink, even though the legal
drinking age is 21. Does that mean 80% of the kids are the “bad
kids” and only 20% are the “good kids?”
If you walked into a room full of high school students, could you
pick them out? Can you identify the wrong crowd? Who smokes grass? If
your child got in with the wrong crowd, surely you can identify them.
Who are the “bad kids”?
What does the “bad kid” look like? They must have a uniform of
some kind, like a certain style of clothing, or spiked hair, or black
leather and chains. It’s not simple, because you can’t tell who
is drinking and who isn’t. Of course, if a child has developed
alcoholism, maybe then you’ve got some more obvious clues, but in
general, who’s to say?
Adults control much of what happens and how teens are labeled
Adult attitudes play a major role in distinguishing the good from
the bad. If the ball team has a drinking party the coach can deny
anything ever happened to make sure that none of the players are
found guilty of violating the athletic code.
After all you can’t punish them because they just made a bad
choice, and you may have to forfeit the game. They are the good kids,
so we must have a separate standard for their behavior. You can save
your wrath for the child who is a little out of step, or the one who
doesn’t have any friends.
Kids have many reasons to drink or use drugs
What if we were to group all of them together and look at them as
potential victims? Maybe they just want to be a part of the crowd and
join in the drinking without any particular reasoning other than
that. Maybe they want to feel better and alcohol helps to numb the
pain. Maybe they have been neglected and turn to alcohol in rebellion
to their parents. Maybe they do it because their parents do it.
Blaming the crowd is WAY to easy!
It’s too easy to blame the “crowd,” or sweep the dirt under
the rug by making excuses. It’s worse when the “good kids”
never face the consequences of a bad action. If your child got in
with the “wrong crowd” it is ultimately your fault if you haven’t
talked with your kid about alcohol, if you haven’t paid attention
and been a part of their life, if you’ve assumed that this kind of
thing could never happen in your family.
Even the best of kids can make a stupid decision and even the
worst of them can be redeemed. It’s not about excuses, it’s about
facing the reality that all kids are potentially going to fall into
the “bad kid” category because they drank. Youth addiction can hit even the best, most unsuspecting kids, and we all have a stake in
their future and a responsibility to help them understand the
realities of drinking.