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Paul Hayden

A Pill for Every Ill is No Way to Grow Up

July 17, 2017

A survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has found that young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 used heroin in the past year at exactly double the national average. This leads me to inquire whether there is a correlation between the opioid epidemic and millennials’ infantile demands for safe spaces on campus.

Former major league pitcher Jamie Moyer once criticized minor league managers for pulling young pitchers in favor of bullpen relief at the first sign of trouble.

Moyer’s point was that by denying young pitchers the opportunity to struggle with adversity, they were inadvertently being taught to look to others to bail them out of trouble rather than gutting it out themselves.

Minor league pitchers aren’t alone in being shortchanged by today’s penchant to shield children and young adults from adversity.

I once knew of a therapist who advised young men to avoid situations that made them uncomfortable. Not only is that a tall order but shockingly bad advice for a clientele on the cusp of adulthood.

This modern phenomenon has produced a generation of young adults utterly unprepared to cope with the real world. They are children in adult bodies, bereft of fortitude, purpose, or direction.

Parents, teachers, and authority figures are accessories before the fact to this heartbreak. At the first sign of trouble, be it poor grades, bad behavior, or lethargy, adults turn to a throng of child psychologists, counselors, and therapists for help and advice. Most often the prescription for these mental “disorders” is a diet of psychopharmaceutic “mother’s little helpers”

A pill for every ill.

The upshot is that every uncomfortable mood, feeling, thought, or impulse is deemed a psychological disorder (think attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and a host of others). Sentient existence has become a pathology and free will a fiction.

In less enlightened times, these “disorders” were known by different names. Attention Deficit Disorder? My parents’ prescription was to order me to sit down and be quiet. For their part, nuns treated oppositional defiant disorder by threatening unspeakably dreadful punishment for the brazen ones.

An acquaintance tells of behavioral problems as a youngster which a prison psychologist attributed to depression. His mother was unimpressed. She countered that he should be depressed, considering the mess he had made of his life. She wasn’t a PhD, but knew what she was talking about.

Nowadays, children are wrapped in cotton wool, medicated through their formative years, and insulated from every bump, bruise, peril and pitfall.

We shouldn’t be surprised that upon entering college they demand “safe spaces” and segregated dorms to further protect their fragile psyches. Of course, cowardly administrators, like others before them, acquiesce to their infantile demands.

The upshot is that putative adults who should know better have launched a generation of twenty-something children into an adult world for which they are woefully unprepared.

These same supposed adults are now wringing their hands over why so many of these emotional cripples abuse drugs and alcohol, why Social Security disability claims continue to explode, and why after spending thousands on the best colleges (and cream-puff degrees) many college graduates are unemployed and living in the penultimate safe space, parents’ basements in upscale suburban enclaves.

The same people whose misguided compassion helped create the opioid epidemic now propose to combat it by throwing money at it. Good luck.

As the SAMHSA report suggests, a demographic for whom medication is mother’s milk will not be easily weaned.

Growing up is hard. We do children no favor by shielding them from this inconvenient truth.

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Copyright ©2017

Gerald McOscar has lived, practiced law, and penned an occasional column in West Chester, Pa for over three decades. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers and periodicals over the years, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Women's Quarterly, and many others. He was politically raised a "blue collar democrat" before acquiring  a conservative world view upon entering young adulthood. Jerry believes that the personal responsibility that conservatism espouses is the key to a life worth living.