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When Entrepreneurial and Drug Culture Inspire Youth to Sell Drugs Early-on

October 26, 2018 - - 0 Comments

Teen Drug Dealer

Entrepreneurship culture and addiction. The 21st century has seen unprecedented pressure placed on the teenage, or adolescent, segment of our society. Adults often expect adolescents to:

• Stay in school and get good grades.
• Hold down at least a part-time job to help with expenses or generate some spending money.
• Get involved in some kind of after-school activity, often a sport.
• Acknowledge and cooperate with appropriate adult authority.
• Keep reasonable, age-appropriate hours.
• Stay out of trouble.


person wearing gray hooded topThe above list is, for many teens, justification enough in itself to turn to some kind of mind-altering substance. Sneaking alcohol from parental supplies is a popular method of procurement in some cases. Sometimes, though, alcohol is not enough to deal with trauma, PTSD, or a myriad of other mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, or anxiety, or depression. Even with the advances in understanding and treatment options that have been made regarding mental illness, there is still quite a social stigma attached to being officially diagnosed with any kind of mental health issue. Most teens especially do not want to be thought of as “not right in the head” and may resort to other than proper means to address perceived mental health issues. This may cause them to look elsewhere for help. Enter an accommodating peer, who either supplies the substance directly, or puts the teen in touch with someone who can.

Not just any teen would be inclined to go into the drug-selling business. Psychologically speaking, all adolescents have, to some degree, the mindset of being ten-foot tall, bulletproof, and immortal. They also tend to act as if any kind of mishap or catastrophe will not happen to them. Addiction and its ensuing issues always happen to someone else. Hence, some teens will take the risk of going into the business of supplying/selling drugs to friends and acquaintances.

If a teen decides to go into the business of selling drugs, the basic logistics are the same as for any other retail enterprise.


Young Hustler

man wearing white crew-neck top leaning head near white front-load washer

Young Dealer

The budding entrepreneur may decide to provide only, for example, opioids – prescription pain medications. On the other hand, a teenager may let it be known that they will supply whatever the customer wants – for a price. In which case, specific quantities, delivery dates, times, places, and payment terms need to be hammered out, perhaps on a case-by-case basis, perhaps a blanket policy. Or maybe the services offered fall somewhere in between. The teen may have a steady supply of Xanax, opiates, benzodiazepines (benzos), and/or ADD/ADHD meds available for customers, depending on what they can (semi) safely get their hands on.

The teen may decide, for example, to sell only prescription medications to friends and school buddies. At first. Inventory is a small problem. The medicine cabinets of family, friends, and neighbors is a good place to start. This way, the teenager does not need startup capital; the business is profitable right from the start.  Seductive to say the least. Even adults, like John DeLorean in 1982, have succumbed to some version of this type of business model.

To be successful longer-term, though, means keeping the illegal nature of the business in mind at all times. Taking only a part of the bottle’s contents makes it possible, if questioned, to use the suggestion that the person simply forgot how many pills were left in the bottle. Also, with mail-order prescription filling coming into more widespread use, that opens up a whole new avenue of supply.

After the supply source(s) have been established, it is usually a straightforward matter to get customers. Overt marketing or advertising is not possible, so word of mouth has to do the job. Luckily, it works well. Besides, once a customer develops an addiction to one of the products on offer, they become long-term customers.

However, after a while, customers may demand something different or stronger, like cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. If the young person wishes to keep this customer, there’s an even more risky aspect of the business to consider. The elements of supply have just become more criminal, and more dangerous. Too dangerous? Or just one of the aspects of doing business and therefore an acceptable risk? Only the individual teenager can answer this question for him- or herself.


Times and Places of Operation

Customers must be able to reliably and reasonably safely connect with their supplier. This gives rise to the questions: Do customers come to the supplier at X location on Y days at specific times, like office hours, or does the supplier go to his/her customers by appointment? Or is it a combination of the above? And what about “emergencies?” How far is the teen willing to go to meet the demands of clientele?

Payment Options

Straight cash is usually the expected/preferred currency. What to do, though, when barter is proposed, and it’s a “good” customer? Are special circumstances warranted? If it’s necessary to pass on (i.e., fence) the item(s) in question, how to determine if they’re stolen? By that point, would it even matter? By now, the teen is on a slippery slope to danger and can’t easily get out of it.


Staying Under the Radar

All of the above being said, there is always the overarching fact that, unlike other ways of earning money, the underlying business is not legal. This may add an aura of romantic adventure to the whole thing, which appeals to most adolescents. Romance and reality, though, are not compatible when it comes to drugs. The realities of selling drugs are:

Sellers should not also use their products. Running a successful business includes keeping a clear head. Even smaller doses of prescription medications can lead to cloudy thinking, which can put the whole enterprise at risk.

drug crimeLaw enforcement is everywhere. Not only are there the officers and detectives who are visible, both uniform and plainclothes, there are the undercover officers who could be anyone. Like John DeLorean back in 1982, even the simple act of expressing interest in a drug deal can have disastrous consequences. You never know who you may be talking to. Even experienced and career criminals don’t figure out who the undercover cop is. Whom to trust? Risk number one.

The local judicial system, once a teen is caught, may or may not prosecute the teen as an adult, which may mean stiffer penalties all around. All the details of the arrest, arraignment, trial or plea bargain, and sentencing become a matter of public record. Having such a record may prevent a young person from pursuing certain career paths, such as a profession (law or medicine), or military service. Risk number two.

Once in the system, the teen has a criminal record. Even if it is a juvenile record and sealed to protect the teen, the file’s mere existence is always there to be found and possibly exploited. In our society, innuendo and the court of public opinion are powerful factors that should not be ignored or minimized. Risk number three.

Making drugs available to a population that is both vulnerable, mostly by virtue of the stage of development they’re in (an adolescent’s invulnerable mindset as well as the not-completely developed brain), is fraught with risks for the customer – the teens who avail themselves of this clandestine approach to getting medication, or any mind-altering substance.

First of all, they are robbing themselves of an accurate diagnosis and a variety of potential treatment options and combinations. In spite of the above-mentioned advances, a great deal of ignorance and misconceptions still abound regarding mental health and addiction. By going the self-medication route, the risk of developing a dual-diagnosis (both mental health AND addiction issues) becomes a real one.


Getting The Right Kind Of Help

addiction treatmentAnything having to do with mental health and addiction is best addressed by a medical professional – a psychiatrist or psychologist, or an addiction specialist. Detox in an inpatient rehab facility, or some kind of hospital, has to become the first phase of treatment before anything else can take place. The suffering caused by the mental health issue may persist until the addictive substance is out of the person’s system. Only then can the right treatment and/or medication(s) to address the mental health issue that surfaces be figured out and implemented.

After a successful detox, the real work begins. In addition to any appropriate medication that may be needed, in order to have a decent chance at lasting recovery, a person must discover, identify, and come to grips with whatever underlying issues that may have brought about a desire to try using a substance in the first place. These might be unresolved trauma, PTSD issues, anxiety, social anxiety, depression – either situational or clinical, abuse, neglect, or anything else that causes mental or emotional distress.

Some kind of psychotherapy is usually warranted. This can be talk therapy, psychodrama, journaling, art therapy, group therapy, pet or equine therapy, or any combination of the above. One thing all these approaches have is that it is not a quick fix or brief solution. Some people find that therapy provides such relief, they engage in it for quite a while, sometimes years. Some people only engage in therapy long enough to address the issue of the moment. Both approaches can be successful, depending on the therapist, the individual, and the goals involved.

Developing an addiction to an illegally-obtained substance can severely limit treatment options. Harm-reduction therapy for alcohol or some prescription drugs may no longer be an option. Abstinence may now be the only way to go. Today, there are 12 step groups exist for almost any kind of addiction. These groups help willing individuals to work a self-directed part of a recovery program. They provide a time-tested framework a person can use to address a portion of the chaos and drama in their lives that are an inevitable part of addiction.


Recovery from any kind of addiction is a process that continues throughout the rest of a person’s life. If it looks like addiction recovery might be part of your or a loved one’s future, give us a call to explore the question. If it’s the right thing to do, we can start the process then and there.

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