Main Line Drug Ring: Youth Risk Taking Activities

April 29, 2014

Why do smart young people take risks and what can we do about it?

Why would a group of young adults who seemed to have every thing take the risk of getting caught in the “Main Line Takeover Project”? If they had been distributing and selling sports gear, for instance, the young people involved would be getting the real life practice of attempting to run a successful business. Society would view these young people as aspiring entrepreneurs who would be role models and contributors to our thriving economy.

Unfortunately, the 13 young people, ranging in age from 17 to 25, employed in this business venture were not selling sports gear. The purpose of the Main Line Takeover Project was to distribute illegal drugs to high school and college teens for money.

The title of the Mainline Takeover Project might give us a clue to understanding their possible motive. The name would give those in charge great power to “run” the business in a way they could control and benefit from without having to think about the consequences of their actions. They might also imagine that teens in these schools choose to do these drugs anyway, and so they are just facilitating activity that would take place with or without their help.

Research has recently shown that the teenage brain continues to develop well into the twenties and therefore, our capacity to reason and think through consequences is not fully developed in the teen years. While most teens know the difference between what is “right” and “wrong”, legal and illegal, the myth of invincibility that leads teens to take risks, at times overrides morality. In other words, as a teen therapist, I have heard teens say, “this is when I am supposed to be trying things and experiment… seeing what works and doesn’t work for me. I figure that the only way to learn is to try”.

Unfortunately, most teens do not realize that the decisions that they make now can have long-term life altering consequences. We see this again and again in stories of teens posting selfies partying on Facebook or sending naked pictures in compromising positions to their partners, only to find these pictures have been shared with the entire school.

According to media reports, this drug bust involved two “employers” or heads of the operation, Timothy Brooks (18) and Neil Scott (25) and eleven dealers or “employees”. Each employee was assigned to a high school and/or college and was expected to meet a quota; moving at least one pound of marijuana per week. They also allegedly sold cocaine, hash and MDMA (ecstasy).

We would be ignorant to believe that the buying, selling, and using of drugs only takes place in underprivileged neighborhoods. In fact, illegal drug use is widespread in poor, middle class, and wealthy neighborhoods in urban, rural and suburban areas all across the country. There is rampant evidence that drugs are coming into our country daily and that no one is immune to their reach. Instead of limiting our queries to why privileged youth would take risks, perhaps the more useful question would be, why do young people feel the need to escape from reality and why do some capitalize on the vulnerability of others?

This, I believe would be a much more useful discussion for our communities and for parents to have with their children.

Some tips on discussing drugs, and, in fact any risk taking activity with your teens:

1. Remember, your teen may act like he/she doesn’t care what you think but research shows that YOU are the most important influence on your child.

2. Your teen is watching everything you do- not to make you nervous but if you are talking to your child about the dangers of taking illegal drugs and your child watches you drink alcohol every night to “take the edge off” you are
sending mixed messages.

3. Do not lecture about the BAD things that drug use can do to you. Instead, ask open ended questions and LISTEN for their answers. For instance:

  • I read that story about the drug bust at all of those Main Line Schools. What do you think about what happened? What should be the repercussions to the leaders who distributed the drugs? What about the kids who bought from them? Why do you think drugs should/or shouldn’t be illegal? Which ones? Why?
  • Do you think that it is always best to be honest with your partner? What do you risk by lying? Is it ever okay to lie?
  • Who do you find it easiest to talk to in our family? Why? What would make it easier for you to be closer with me?
  • Is it ever acceptable for a parent to search a teen’s room? What do you think would be the best way to handle a situation where I found a bag of white powder in your brother’s pocket?
  • What is one of the choices that you made that you wish you could change? Why?

If it is possible, set aside time to talk to your teen when you won’t be interrupted. Try to find a regular time during the week when you can do an activity together such as cook dinner or food shop. Going for a walk or a drive is a great time to catch up with what is important to your child.