DIRTY: A Search for Answers Inside America's Teenage Drug Epidemic
Maran (Class Dismissed) was herself the mother of a teenage drug abuser; she learned the hard way that there are no easy answers to the questions "Why do kids use drugs?" and "How can we help them?" "Nearly two-thirds of the teenagers in America today do drugs before they finish high school—one-third of them by the time they're in eighth grade," and none of the current programs, from DARE to detention camps to jails, have worked. Maran studies three leading treatment approaches by following three particular teenagers in care. The Center Point adolescent program separates kids from their families and friends to break bad habits and focus on behavior modification. The Phoenix Academy program keeps kids connected with their community and uses small classes, individual mentoring and AA/12-step participation to target addiction. Drug Court combines monitoring by court professionals with an after-school program of group therapy sessions, sports and drug testing. Unfortunately, the bottom line with youth programs—and these are better than most—is that they're hard and kids don't want to do them, so they run away, and there's no enforcement of participation. Indeed, none of Maran's subjects stayed with their programs—they all lapsed. Still, Maran learned enough to make some recommendations for improving teen care, outlined at the book's end. This is an insightful, compassionate look at the mistakes we are making with our teenagers. Agent, Amy Rennert. (On sale Sept. 23)
Forecast:Maran's book is important and timely. With the right publicity, it could get good media coverage and attract the attention of high school counselors and social workers. Harper SF has assembled an impressive press kit with suggestions for parents seeking help for their children; the book has garnered advance praise from Anne Lamott, Jesse Jackson and others.