Dirty: A Search for Answers Inside America's Teenage Drug Epidemic

Dirty: A Search for Answers Inside America's Teenage Drug Epidemic

by Meredith Maran

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Venturing into uncharted territory, mother and award-winning journalist Meredith Maran takes us inside teenagers' hearts, minds, and central nervous systems to explore the causes and consequences of our nation's drug crisis. In these pages we get to know the kids, the parents, the therapists, and the drug treatment programs at their best and worst. We're face-to-face with seventeen-year-old Mike, whose life revolves around selling, smoking, and snorting speed; fifteen-year-old Tristan -- the boy next door -- who can't get enough pot, pills, or vodka; and sixteen-year-old Zalika, a runaway, crack dealer, and prostitute since the age of twelve. Combining powerful on-the-street reporting and groundbreaking research, Dirty is essential reading for every parent and professional who works with or cares about children or teenagers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061743313
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 690 KB
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Meredith Maran is the author of several books of nonfiction, including the bestsellers What It's Like to Live Now, Ben & Jerry's Double Dip, and Class Dismissed. She writes regularly for such publications as Self, Parenting, Utne Reader, Tikkun, Bride's, Mother Jones, Teacher, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The San Jose Mercury News.

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A Search for Answers Inside America's Teenage Drug Epidemic

Chapter One


Running on Empty

"Butler to Release! Butler to Release!" Mike heard the guard's voice crackling through the two-way radio on his teacher's desk. "You're out of here, Mike," Ms. Johnson called to him across the Juvenile Hall classroom.

Mike high-fived the boys, hugged the girls, then positioned himself in front of the locked unit door. Shifting nervously from one foot to the other, his pulse racing, he jumped when Ms. Johnson buzzed the door open for a short, stocky man in a blue Nike turtleneck, black slacks, and black tassel loafers.

"How you doin'?" Danny Ramirez asked Mike.

"Aiight," Mike responded.

Last week Danny had spent a couple hours interviewing Mike for placement at Center Point, a rehab program an hour south of here in San Rafael. But now Danny was looking Mike up and down as if he'd never seen him before.

"Ka-ching, ka-ching," Mike thought, watching Danny watching him. "I know that's all you care about: that money you think you're gonna get paid for keeping me locked up."

"Ready to go?" Danny asked.

"Sure," Mike answered. He stifled a grin, thinking, "Dude -- you're about to find out how ready."

Danny gestured for Mike to follow him down the walkway that led from the units to Release -- as if Mike didn't know the drill, as if he hadn't been through this routine ten times before. As they passed it, neither of them glanced at the Juvenile Hall "Vision Statement" posted on the wall.

The care of children today determines the quality of life tomorrow.

Our vision is that every child experience positive and successful
alternatives, safe surroundings, and caring support.

Since our actions and decisions affect children, our vision is to provide
opportunities for change and the support necessary for change to occur.

A guard buzzed the two of them through the first set of locked double doors and into the Personals office. "You're leaving us, Mike. That's great," said Nancy, the nice woman who worked there. She handed Mike a bulky manila envelope and the plaid short-sleeved shirt, size 42 blue jeans, and black suede desert boots he'd been wearing when the Santa Rosa cops had handcuffed him and dragged him in here, zombied out and crashing off a three-day crank run. Mike changed in the bathroom, gave Nancy the dingy white T-shirt, navy blue nylon shorts, and beige Converse high-tops he'd been wearing ever since. "I don't want to see you back again, you hear?" she said.

"Don't worry. You won't," Mike replied distractedly, shaking the envelope's contents into his hand. He stuffed the ten-dollar bill into his pocket, peering eagerly at the scratched-up screen on his pager. Eleven new messages. Mike's pager had been his lifeline while he'd been on the run from the law -- a long stretch that ended three weeks ago.

"You're gonna have to give me that pager and your money when we get to Center Point," Danny warned.

"I know," Mike said. "You wish," he thought. He turned back to Nancy. "Thanks for everything," he told her.

She nodded. "Just don't let me see you back here," she repeated. "That's all the thanks I want."

As Danny and Mike continued down the antiseptic-smelling hallway, they ran into Mary Graves, Mike's probation officer. "You're getting another chance, Mike," Mary said, waggling a finger in his face. "If you run this time, I swear I'll come and look for you myself."

"I won't," Mike waved her off. Of all the POs he'd ever had, Mary was the worst: old, mean, and -- just like the others -- full of empty threats. He followed Danny through the last set of locked doors and into the cramped room where parents were checked in, then searched, on visiting nights: first stop on the way in, last stop on the way out for every visitor and "resident" of the Sonoma County Juvenile Justice Center.

"Bye, Mike. Be good, okay?" said Alice, the woman who sat behind the glass partition there.

"I will," he said.

Alice pushed the buzzer and Mike burst into the hot, sunny June morning. Before Mike had even inhaled his first breath of fresh air, Danny grabbed him by the elbow and led him past the POs' cars in the parking lot -- ten identical Ford Tauruses with state license plates -- and unlocked his Ford Ranger.

"Your buddy ran on me yesterday," Danny said as they fastened their seat belts.

"I know," Mike replied. Within hours of his friend Garth's escape yesterday, word had traveled back to the Hall: Garth had taken off into the streets of downtown San Rafael as soon as he hit Center Point's front door.

"You're not gonna do that to me, are you, Mike?"

"Why would I run, man?" Mike answered. "I'm done running."

"You better be." Danny turned right out of the Juvenile Hall parking lot onto Pythian Road and cruised slowly past the sprawling Zen-landscaped grounds of the St. Francis Winery.

"If he turns left, I'll stay," Mike told himself as they approached the intersection of Pythian Road and Highway 12. A left would take them toward Sonoma, away from Santa Rosa and the safety of Mike's old stomping grounds. Experience had taught Mike not to try to outrun the law in unfamiliar territory.

"If he turns right, I'll bounce," Mike decided. A right would bring them straight into the Santa Rosa suburb of Rincon Valley, home of Mike's grandma and most of his doper friends. He wasn't sure how Grandma Myrtle would react if he showed up at her house on the run again, but he knew exactly what his friends would do: give him a place to crash ...

A Search for Answers Inside America's Teenage Drug Epidemic
. Copyright © by Meredith Maran. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

James Frey

“An accurate and realistic portrayal of teen-age drug use. Parents should read this book. Kids should read this book.”

Mary Pipher

“This book has the potential to transform the cultural landscape of America.”

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

“Dirty’s news is as necessary as it is devastating, all the while staying close to the complicated heart.”

Anne Lamott

“Meredith Maran makes us fall in love with the teenagers she writes about.”

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