MANSFIELD: Parenting During an Opioid Crisis

A good friend — a banker who resides in a far eastern suburb — called me the other day seeking information. He wanted to know if I knew of a “scared straight” program that he could get his 15-year-old son into. I didn’t. But we chatted for about a half hour anyway.

It seems his son has turned into what we used to call a “Weedheimer” a frequent pot smoker who has come to the brilliant (at least in his own mind) decision to sell a bit of weed also; better to make a little coin than to continue to shell out your own money to get high, right? Wrong, but his teenaged brain just doesn’t operate that way. He now is cool at school.

Of course my friend and his wife are scared, confused and are in a bit of a tizzy over this new circumstance — and they certainly are not alone. I can image thousands of other parents locally, and millions more nationwide, being in the same predicament.

After all, this ongoing opioid crisis has many parents in a state of panic, and who can blame them?

But the Drug Enforcement Agency is in large part to blame since it was those drug warriors who first floated the notion of marijuana as a “gateway drug.” While it’s true that virtually all opioid addicts first smoked pot, only a tiny percentage of pot smokers went on to becoming addicted to hard drugs. Hell, every alcoholic I know started off drinking milk.

But alas, those facts don’t allay parental fears. They’ve become too ingrained.

What to do? The first reaction of most parents is to ground the teenager, which doesn’t really work since they can’t take them out of school — the place where most of the drug activity emanates from in the first place. The second course of action often is to engage school counselors, people that most teenagers consider to be dorks (Is that term still in use, or am I dating myself?)

My friend, at wit’s end, is considering a permanent grounding, which will only turn the home into a quasi-concentration camp, with him and his wife serving as the guards of the prison they have created, and the boy fiendishly devising ways to circumvent their authority — something all prisoners do. Another bad idea.

My solution would be a negotiated peace agreement, albeit one that most parents would be terrified of: I’d explain to my progeny that my concern is that the pot smoking will get out of hand and I’ll end up with a stoner, couch potato or worse, an addict on my hands. After all, weed is not a good study aid. But I would turn a blind eye to the use of a couple of joints on the weekends, as long as good grades were maintained. But if grades slip and the usage goes up, all bets are off.

The hope, of course, is that the behavior would run its course. All teenagers experiment a bit as they go through phases. Most grow out of them on their own sooner or later.

But if the behavior worsened I would go to the nuclear option: Military school. Yep, I’d ship my child off to a place where the availability of weed is virtually nil. And in the vast majority of cases this solution works, at least for the parents who can afford such an option. And I truly feel sorry for those parents who can’t foot the bill for this type of extreme corrective.

The fact is, my friend and his wife — in addition to the emotional and parental connection — have invested a substantial amount of money in this kid to this point, and they need to be willing to do whatever it takes to protect that investment … and more importantly, their child’s future.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at


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One Response to “MANSFIELD: Parenting During an Opioid Crisis”

  1. Peter Lawson Jones

    My friend, you’ve provided good counsel to your buddy. The worst thing the parent of a high schooler can do is to forget that he or she was once a teen. By the way, your analogy to “milk,” classic!

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