Monthly Archives: April 2015

“Incarceration of children should be a last resort”

The State of New York is moving in the right direction by making attempts to reduce incarceration of 16 and 17 year olds.  Currently New York is one of 2 states that allow children 16 years and older to be tried as adults.  Yes, I used the term “children.”  They ARE children.  Think about the decisions you were capable of making at that age.  Not the smartest choices I’m sure.  I know mine were deplorable.  Combine the age of a child who has a brain that is just beginning to engage in rational thought, as it comes to social interaction, with the introduction of alcohol, drugs or a negative environment, and you have the recipe for disaster.

As a criminal defense attorney, I have had several such defendants.  I always struggle with the gravity of their situation, and advocate strongly for the return of their case to juvenile court.  I am rarely successful.  The tough-on-crime era we live in lumps everyone into the same basket.  The interventions by courts to determine the true mental and emotional make-up of a child are sorely lacking.  The brain of a child is still forming.  Any 13 year old (or younger) who can think that it is a good idea to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, etc, can obviously think that any violent behavior might also be normal.

Many studies suggest that the brain isn’t fully formed until 25 years old.  We bombard kids with our own poor modeling (drinking to excess in front of them, using illicit drugs etc), violent video games, plus TV and movies portraying substance abuse and violence as appropriate, and then we expect them to behave as perfect law abiding citizens.  We never think about the full effect of our actions when it comes to kids.  They are sponges.  They want to be like us.  I’m not advocating a society of prudes, but rather a society that cares about it’s young – before they act out in ways we disapprove.

Baby boomers: sex, drugs and… more drugs

Aging baby boomers are reportedly using opioid pain relievers more and more to cope.  Sure, we knew boomers were big users of marijuana, but now the opioid epidemic has us realizing that they want a quick fix for pain.  Problem is, those with a predilection for addiction, can’t stop taking the pills once they start.  The all encompassing warmth of an opioid high leads them to doctor shop and pharmacy hop.

It’s harder to peg older adults as abusers initially, because, well… they are old!  Older people are assumed to be suffering more from aches and pains.  Therefore, they get a pass.  That pass can be the first salvo in a long trip down a bumpy road with the potential of a “dead end.”  Physicians, nurses and pharmacists need to spend extra time with boomers, to help explain the dangers of opioid abuse.  Alternative therapies need to be explored as well.  Yoga, physical therapy, massage etc.

We are a country that believes too much in an instant fix and that if you have your health, you have everything.  Well, I hate to break it to everyone, but you will all suffer at some point.  Not every ounce of pain can be taken away by a pill.  Too much faith in an overburdened medical system that may want to throw an Rx at you to get you out the door so they can get on to the next patient is misplaced.  As a drug counselor and attorney, I have seen it in both of my fields, and it needs to be addressed.