- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

God bless Bill Cosby for his stinging commentaries. His blunt criticisms and the conversational town hall meetings he has been holding in cities across the country force Americans (and occasionally the mainstream media) to think and pay attention. The indictment he handed a year ago to middle-class Americans holds as true now as it did then. At some point, we need to stop “making excuses,” take control of our lives and our children, and simply say, “Enough!” The drug epidemics of recent decades prove that we either have to do that now or pay later.

The crack epidemic that started in the 1980s left a crippling pathological effect on urban America, and we have yet to fully recover. The children of those early crack abusers are today’s teen-agers and young adults — the very young people we are struggling to educate and turn into productive and independent citizens. Their parents are either “still on it,” dead, incarcerated or trying to stay clean. Drug crises turn forty-something parents into grandparents, and sixty-something grandparents into caretakers for boarder babies — infants legitimately taken from their crack-smoking parents.

Ditto all of the above for another epidemic sweeping the country: methamphetamine. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies seemingly have been caught off guard about the American meth scene. While they can track some routes — Mexico to Texas and the grain belt is one, Southern Caifornia to Colorado and Minnesota is another, where it then heads to points North and East — methamphetamine production and abuse clearly is no longer a rural problem. Indeed, it is wreaking havoc on families, communities and law enforcers ill-equipped to handle its trafficking and users.

Consider what’s happening just in the Twin Cities:

• One-third of the parents arrested on meth charges have small children.

• Teen prostitution and Hmong pimps are linked to getting the girls hooked on methamphetamines.

• A meth-addicted baby is born every week in one Minnesota county.

• Minnesota State Police found more than 400 mini-methamphetamine labs in 2003 alone.

• Police have said they fail to intercept the “majority” of meth that hits Minneapolis.

• Children born to meth abusers (and those who are subjected to meth production) have respiratory and neurological illnesses, and may even develop problems with their organs.

Addicted babies borne of addicted mothers wail like sirens, crying out loud because of the insufferable pain of withdrawal. When the children of substance abusers grow older, the behavorial and neurological disorders can surface anew, problems that still are leaving the medical and educational communities scratching their heads.

On far too many occasions, the child of a substance abuser is labeled “special education” and the parents or caretakers are told by school authorities to get “help” by way of Ritalin or other drugs. Indeed, while attention deficit/hyperactivity activity, or ADHD, is a medical disorder that affects 35 percent of our school-age children, educrats — always happy to see more dollars but fewer children pour through school house doors — like nothing more than getting their hands on taxpayer money. And when it comes to feeding at the public trough, bureaucrats will, if you let them, label your child a neurological basketcase quicker than you can say ADHD.

The Food and Drug Administration said this week that it has some serious concerns about drugs widely used to treat ADHD, and parents should be alarmed, since more than 1 million prescriptions were dispensed last year for Ritalin and other methylphenidates, including Concerta. The FDA wants the labels on these drugs to describe such possible side effects as violent or psychotic behavior, suicidal ideation and visual hallucinations. Remember: These are drugs we are giving our children.

In her smart commentary yesterday, “When society is the asylum,” Suzanne Fields wrote that it’s nuts to believe a new government study that says half of us are mad. As she pointed out, “The diagnoses of mental illness have changed as often as the treatments and cures.”

It seems, as Mr. Cosby has been trying to point out to us in plainspeak, is that we simply seem to be gving up on living and would rather play dead and let whoever or whatever run our lives and the lives of our children.

Foster care and adoption agencies are begging for “suitable” homes for children. Our schools runneth over with children whose parents who just don’t seem to care. There is no shortage of drugs — legal and illegal. Our jails and prisons are overflowing with fathers and mothers. After all, drug abuse is an illness, is it not?

“Distinctions between mental illness and difficulty in dealing with everyday problems of living, between coping and growth, between traumas that destroy and traumas that make us stronger, have always been difficult to make,” Suzanne said.

Life has big and ups and downs, and coping isn’t always easy. We have to deal with the hand we’ve been dealt.

We all need a mental-health day now and again. But if we don’t start paying closer attention to the children, and the government already thinks half of us are loopy, imagine the mad, mad, mad, mad world that will surely come.

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