Andy Reid tragedy causes a mom to ponder summer surge in drug use

As Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid copes with his troubled son Garrett's death, parents redouble their vigilance. A new government study says summer time is the best time to do that as teen drug use surges then.

Chris Gardner/AP/File
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid, right, reacts to the crowd as he and his sons Garrett, left, and Britt, center, walk off the field after a game in Philadelphia in this 2001 file photo. Garrett Reid was found dead on Sunday in his room at training camp at Lehigh University.

Last week I wrote about how more fathers are parenting through coaching, but today Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid stands before the world coping with the death of his son Garrett Reid, 29, who had a history of drug issues. Garrett Reid was found dead Sunday morning in a dorm room at the NFL club’s Lehigh University training camp where he often spent time with his father.

Moments of silence were held in major sports venues – moments that also belong to all parents, famous or not, no matter what race or tax bracket, who have lost the battle for their children once drugs entered the picture.

While police said the death was not suspicious, and the cause was under investigation, the history of drug use and issues of both Mr. Reid's sons is a heart-breaker. I know there are those who will seek to attack his parenting, wealth, status, and forget that in this one way, he is no different from every father or mother who has ever struggled to tackle the issue of a child scarred by drug use. By all accounts, Reid was the classic father-model as a man and coach, a tough-on-the-outside “teddy bear.”

“I knew Garrett when he was 14, 15 years old, all of his kids,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told the Associated Press. “The thing with Andy is he’s strong and rock solid, but deep down, he’s a teddy bear and the players who know him know that really well. All of us that know him know that really, really well. It’s why he’s so effective. Is he perfect? No. No one is. But that combination of, again, strength and tenderness is very, very special.”

According to a July 2012 US Department of Health and Human Services National Survey on Drug Use and Health report, summer is prime time for kids trying drugs for the first time, peaking between June and July. Why? Because they’re not in school and have more free, unsupervised, time.

Based on monthly averages between 2002 and 2010, the report states that on an average day in June, July, or December (which is the secondary peak time), more than 11,000 youths used alcohol for the first time; in other months, the daily average ranged from about 5,000 to 8,000 new users.

On an average day in June or July , more than 5,000 youths smoked cigarettes for the first time; in other months, the daily average ranged from about 3,000 to 4,000 new users per day.

On an average day in June or July, more than 4,800 youths used marijuana for the first time, whereas the daily average ranged from about 3,000 to 4,000 in other months.

That would seem to indicate that right now, as parents, we need to be trying to secure the barn door behind the horse. While it’s true that good parenting takes place year-round and should hold through temptations, it helps to know where the weak spots in the fence are located.

The report also tells us nearly 300,000 adolescents used cocaine for the first time within the past 12 months; this averages to about 800 new users per day. Also, 500,000 adolescents used hallucinogens for the first time within the past 12 months; about 1,400 new users per day. The daily average for first use of hallucinogens peaked in June and July, but has secondary peaks in October and January.

As the parent of four boys, I find those figures motivational. As someone who runs a free chess program for at-risk children in low-income neighborhoods, I have a deep and abiding contempt for drug dealers, against whom parents and I vie daily with chess and community and snacks as our weapons.

Reid’s son said in the past, according to AP reports, that he enjoyed being a drug dealer in “the hood,” which makes it hard for me to come to grips with this, but the sad fact is that drug dealers are somebody’s sons, too.

And Reid’s pain is written all over him and his team today.

We always ask, “Where were the parents?” My answer, today, seeing this tragedy, is that they were probably praying to be the best kind of parents they could be, working to provide for those children, coming home at night and asking those children, “So, what did you do today?” My guess is that the kids did not volunteer their drug use as an example of their activities.

Are there parents out there failing to ask? Yup. Are there parents not laying down rules, talking about the dangers and not doing all they can to provide guidance? I am sure there are.

However, the danger here is in assuming that because a person’s child is on drugs, selling or dying out there, that it is because that parent did not do all they could do to stop it. The path to the gateway drugs is spread before our kids right now, some may have already begun the walk. As we run after them, let’s pause to remember those who have gone down that path and lay a supporting hand on the shoulders of their parents.  

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