Yesterday, the world reeled to learn that Bon Jovi‘s teen daughter had overdosed on heroin in her dorm room at Hamilton College. While it was a little too real for most of us to imagine well-heeled nineteen-year-olds using heroin, it happens more than you want to think. Her friends called the cops–resulting in her arrest–but what other recourse did they have? Editors Jennifer Wright and Ashley Cardiff discuss the tricky business of dealing with a close friend’s drug problem.
Jennifer: So, Jon Bon Jovi’s daughter got arrested for doing heroin. What I find most surprising about this is that, supposedly, her friends turned her in? To the police? First of all, I cannot imagine being in a room with anyone doing heroin, because I am really dull. But I double plus cannot imagine, upon seeing, I don’t know, you, doing heroin, picking up the phone and saying “I’m going to let the po-po handle this.”
Ashley: You have to stop using “po-po.” Please. For everybody.
Jennifer: That’s what people in the know call them. It’s in Urban Dictionary.
Ashley: Also. I believe they called the police because they thought she had overdosed? As in, they called 9-1-1 because it was an emergency? Hopefully not because they felt it to be perfecting narking time? …The narking hour?
Jennifer: The narking hour is 7:52 in my house, because you can still get in a late movie afterwards!
Ashley: That makes a lot of sense.
Jennifer: It does. As does calling the police when you think someone has overdosed.
Ashley: Right. I don’t think they were calling the police to rat out their druggie pal. I think they were scared and didn’t know what to do? I mean, it would be a lot weirder if they were like, “Bon Jovi’s daughter’s eyes are rolling back in her head. Too bad we have all these narcotics around and have to just ride it out.”
Jennifer: Yes, that’s true! Good work, kids! But beyond that, if you thought you had a friend who had a substance problem, what would you do? I feel like this is tricky, because we are no longer in high school. We do not stage “interventions” because someone drank a quarter of a bottle of peach schnapps.
Ashley: You totally did that.
Jennifer: Nor are we in Lifetime television for women movies. I can’t multitask crying and forceful monologues.
Ashley: Your inability to do that has driven me to drugs.
Jennifer: STARTING NOW! WE’LL DRINK,WE’LL FIGHT, WE’LL FORNICATE!
Ashley: Also. I know this isn’t a crowd-pleasing answer, but, honestly, I don’t think I’d do anything if a friend had a drug problem? Like, I just can’t imagine staging an intervention. I mean, it should go without saying that if said friend asked for help, I’d do whatever I could. But actually shouldering in on their adult life? That doesn’t make much sense to me.
Jennifer: I imagine I would not either. I find it’s almost impossible to make anyone do things they do not want to do. I often find it impossible to make people do things they really ought to want to do.
Ashley: Well, yeah. Additionally, I have no idea how to have that conversation.
Jennifer: I think you grab a glass of scotch, drink from it in front of them, put on a fedora and say “I don’t care if you drink, but it’s beginning to affect your work.” That’s all I learned from every 1940’s movie about alcoholism. Meanwhile, Flight taught me that you should let people go to jail, it’ll be good for them. But that cocaine, maybe, makes you able to fly planes upside down?
Ashley: Is that what happens?
Jennifer: Well, it’s a question they never really address? Denzel Washington is a pilot who does some vodka screwdrivers and a few lines of cocaine before he miraculously manages to land a crashing plane (a portion of which involves flying it upside down). It’s frequently mentioned that no one else could pull off this daring feat, and they try, they put a bunch of pilots in flight simulators and tell them to do it, and they all crash the plane. But he was high on cocaine at the time, which is seen as a bad thing. They do not address whether or not cocaine makes you fly planes better. They do not, for instance, give any of the pilots in the simulators a few lines of cocaine beforehand, and I thought that was an interesting possible experiment that the movie did not address.
Ashley: Well, cocaine makes you superhuman–Tommy Lee will probably live forever. Also, our hypothetical situation is tricky because people (non-doctor people like us) have different understandings for drug abuse. I don’t even know how I’d begin to define drug abuse, but I suppose I’d identify a friend as having a drug problem when he or she is using every day, when it’s affecting their work life, when it’s subsumed their social life, when you notice physical differences. …Whereas you, Jennifer, would probably define drug abuse as “smoking the jazz cigarettes.”
Jennifer: I guess I have seen Reefer Madness, and you have not. No, I mean, anything seems fine to me if you can still put in a full workday. Although people who use harder drugs seem less able to do that?
Jennifer: Also, I know this is not very science-y, but people who have used drugs over a long period oftime just seem… dumber? They seem slower on the uptake of things. Which may have been their base level. Hell, I don’t know. They might have been slow to begin with. One of my main reasons for not wanting, say, my kids to do drugs is because I find it really hard to be around slow thinking people.
Ashley: That’s a weird angle, Jen.
Jennifer: I mean, don’t you find that generally, people you know who are heavy drug users, even when they are not using just don’t seem quite like the sharpest? Frankly, sometimes when I encounter people who seem really slow, and then they say “yeah, I did heroin in my 20s for a long time” I always have a moment where I think of saying “Oh, is that why?” I don’t because they can’t read my mind like a sharp person might.
Ashley: When does this happen to you?
Jennifer: At parties. With cool people.
Ashley: Fair, but I also find that some of the sharpest, most exquisitely talented people I know happen to be drug addicts. Moreover, I bet if you ran into Coleridge or Lou Reed or David Bowie, you wouldn’t find them slow and boring.
Jennifer: I sure would take a version of them before they’d been exposed to years of substance abuse, though. They’re just starting from a pretty high point, sharpness wise.
Ashley: That’s true. Maybe they did drugs to be more like us?
Jennifer: It seems to be one way of making yourself dumber.
Ashley: I wouldn’t argue that. But I think drug addiction can also be really hard to identify sometimes? Also, we can’t talk about drug abuse like there’s any one kind, right? I think the point here is that you should call 9-11 if your friend is overdosing (and that maybe cocaine makes you better at plane stuff?).
Jennifer: Yeah, you should definitely do that. But beyond that, there is no way to really stop your friends? I mean, I would hate to see you abuse heroin, because I think you are so brilliant. And it would be a shame to do anything that could damage that brilliance in the long run.
Ashley: Was this whole discussion an elaborate way of making me publicly promise that I’ll never do heroin? Because… if so… I’m definitely onto you.
Jennifer: OR REEFER ASHLEY, PLEASE DON’T DO THE REEFER. CRYING AND MONOLOGUING AND CALLING THE POPO NOW.
Ashley: Maybe if you stop calling them the po-po, I won’t need heroin to take the edge off.
Jennifer: You can do cocaine if you become a pilot, though.
Ashley: Sounds awesome.