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February 2, 2017

I always ask teenagers, when inquiring about their grades, “why are we going to school anyway?’ The usual answer follows this sequence:

“…to get into a good college” Then I ask why is that important?

“…so I can get a good paying job” Again I ask why is that important?

“…so I can live comfortably and buy the things I want.”

So….. is this the essence of our lives? …to live comfortably and buy the things you want? I certainly do not deny the pleasures of physical comfort, but there has to be more to our life than that.  So we accumulate all the comfort and material things as much as we can and then we die leaving all those things behind us.

It is like planning on robbing a bank with long term intricate planning, careful execution, grabbing the cash and then throwing all the money into the trash can.

It is simply not logical from a global perspective of one’s life.

So….. then Dr. Darden, why do we knock ourselves out trying to get super grade point averages, paying huge amounts of money for private school, college and graduate training? Where is the pay off?

It is at this point that I redirect the teens into thinking and listening. From high school to young adulthood, the cortex (the outer covering) of your brain is in prime condition to receive input from all sources. It is in its prime to analyze, compare and decipher. If the cortex is constantly working hard for you during this period of your life, it (like many other things) becomes accustomed to thinking

and actually gets upset if the thinking process is denied. Talk to a long distance runner and they will tell you even though the runs are hard work they LOOK FORWARD for the exercise. Talk to an obese person and they will tell you they very much LOOK FORWARD to that midnight snack even though they are denying themselves of valuable sleep. Talk to a cigarette smoker who knows the habit is bad but LOOKS FORWARD to going out in the cold Winter air to light up.

So if the brain is trained to study, memorize, analyze, compare, dream and create.  It will yearn for more long after you complete school. You will want to read books, listen to lectures, and seek all forms of information to satisfy your thirsty brain despite the fact that these are not required.

So now one could ask, ”what’s the value in filling up your brain with facts and great skill of analysis and talent?” ah hahhh !! this is the real question !!    So here is my answer: I start by asking why are we here? No one seems to know.

Now my AME church teachings tell me that we are here to fear God and obey His commandments. That may be the last sentence to the answer, but there is a lot more in the “text” that I want to know about. Our whole existence as humans is to simply learn. The brainstem was the very first thing that developed when the egg and sperm got together and the brain is the only organ that gives us “an existence’” Without the brain, we can live, but we become simply “ vegetable.”

Look at the stars at night, feel the wind, watch things grow from nothing, experience the emergence of a newborn from their mother’s womb, simply observe the miracles around you and inquire. You will at some point begin to understand that, although many questions are never answered, there is something beyond our ability to understand the coordinates this universe.

I don’t care what you call it, but it does force you into the spiritual world which is where we all need to be during our last chapters on earth.

I look around and observe people who don’t think but just go around doing what everyone else is doing. They don’t think for themselves. They are not of the living but simply in a semi-comatose state until they die. What a waste of miracle living! ….a disgrace to the entity that gave us life and a powerful brain. That is ungratefulness. Shame on you!! What a wasted life!!

We are supposed to be a species of high intellect; it seems to me that if we don’t achieve this goal, we too will become extinct, not from a meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, but from our conscientious stupidity that leads to wars of such intensity that we destroy the planet along with ourselves

…..Dr. D


June 28, 2016
  1. The pharmacist calls the physician and says the medicine that was prescribed for the patient can’t be filled because the insurance company has a limit on the quantity from the last prescription.
  2. A CT scan was ordered for a patient with cancer to see if the cancer has come back because the patient experienced symptoms. The insurance company has to give the final approval for authorization and says the process takes up to 5 days. Meanwhile the patient has to wait in fear and agony for those five days. And what happens when the request is not authorized?
  3. A doctor bills the insurance company for $120.00 for service that required 40 minutes of care in front of the patient since the patient’s medical history is complex. The doctor collects $20.00 as a co-pay from the patient and the insurance company pays the doctor $49.79. That is a total reimbursement of $69.79 for the doctor. The doctor has to “eat” the rest.
  4. The doctor prescribes an eye drop for a patient suffering from allergies and uses the brand that best suits the condition. The prescription is not covered by the insurance company because it is a brand product and cost too much. The patient asked how much it would cost to pay cash. The answer: $250.00 for a bottle smaller than the size of your thumbnail. Although the pharmaceutical company paid lots of money to get the drug approved, it now cost them $5.00 to make that bottle of eye drops.
  5. We have a pipeline of new drugs that have come to market; many of them are advertised on TV with names no one can pronounce but did you know most of those drugs are not covered by your insurance company because they cost too much? A class of drugs called biologicals (most end with the letters …mab ) are breakthroughs in science but their use will be limited because of their high cost. The drug Zolair used for severe allergic asthma and other debilitating allergic conditions will set you back about $3,000 per month. If these drugs are of limited use our feedback for further research is limited. I think we will abandon the use of chemotherapy and radiation therapy as archaic medicines to fight cancers and replace them with specific products that just fight cancer cells without destruction of healthy surrounding cells and the part of our immunity that fights emerging cancer cell all the time.
  6. Your health insurance company is extremely proficient at saving costs. They “penny pinch every outgoing expense. That’s fine; just good business sense. But did you know the average PERSONAL salary of your insurances’ CEO is not in the simple million dollar range but 200-300 million dollar ranges and that does not include stock options for those that are for profit corporations. There is an emerging club in the US called the billionaire’s club. These CEO’s along with hedge fund operators often compete as to who make more.
  7. In the sixties and seventies all healthcare insurance companies were non-profit; they did not have to answer to stockholders. When HMO’s emerged and later present companies like Aetna, Cigna, United Healthcare, WellPoint became commonplace, the for-profit healthcare industry emerged. Their PRIMARY interest is NOT your healthcare but satisfying the stockholders. MONEY is the GOD of healthcare in the US.
  8. The reason why most people are not satisfied with their doctor and why most doctors are not satisfied with their profession is because of medical insurance and pharmaceutical greed. In order for doctors or the companies that employ them are to survive economically, doctors must see 6-8 patients per hour. With phone calls or other interruptions, that means your doctor can only spend about 5 minutes with you per visit. It is not that they want to leave the exam room quickly; it is just that they are under economic pressure to survive their career. Now here’s the crazy part. Insurance companies know the doctor visit is 5 minutes and that’s their justification for low payments. So who loses in this cat and mouse relationship? YOU the patient.
  9. State agencies that dictate healthcare policy derive such policy without input from the doctors who actually perform healthcare services. They usually consult or hire medical doctors who are solely administrators and don’t see patients every 5 minutes. These doctors are paid well by their parent companies; many are not given voting rights during corporate board meetings.
  10. It is great to be a pharmaceutical representative; you get a free loaner car, car care and gas when visiting doctors’ offices or hospitals. The pay is good too. You operate on your own schedule. However, when the company’s product that you are advertising becomes generic, you may be suddenly out of a job. They treat the reps well when they are doing well and throw you to the trash when business is not good. It’s like being a coach for the NFL or NBA but you don’t have the financial cushion that millionaire coaches have. Again MONEY trumps everything in the healthcare industry.
  11. I remember during the Clinton Administration, Hilary published a handbook outlying a new healthcare system for the country that had many aspects of The Affordable Care Act that we have today. When that book was published, Hiliary’s life was threatened since her proposal would have upset the power of all those who owned the healthcare industrial complex. It was never mentioned again.

The above are a fraction of complaints that can be logged about our healthcare system. My contention is that healthcare is more about financial gain than care for the human body, mind and spirit. I was taught in church that there is only one God; paganism is an insult to God. Yet it is clear that the American way of life treats money as our primary god. It is the main purpose while we are living beings.

“ Well Dr. Darden what would you to improve the system?” one would say.

I would have to remove the premise that human health be put in the same category of goods and services that our economy is based on. Human health is precious and cannot be equated with a certain value. Just ask a person who just lost a child to gun violence or a drunk driver accident. Love ones would sacrifice everything to save another loved one from dying; material wealth has no meaning at that time.  That means that health be removed from our system of economics and consolidated into a right and not a privilege. Just as we have a right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness lets add in that part that says LIFE. So that puts healthcare solely in the lap of government and not in institutions that exist only to make money. If you visited India (much less wealthy than the USA) and got sick or required surgery or mental health care, your services would be free whether you are a citizen or not. If you went to Germany or France or Canada the same would be true. Now I know that to change our healthcare system that dramatically would never happen. So let’s begin perhaps with using our existing insurance companies but requiring health insurance to be non-profit. Those insurances that want to abandon this approach could do so and revert to life and indemnity plans not involving healthcare. Blue Cross and Blue Shield are non-profit so let those companies “take the lead.”

The other item of change would require a salary cap of the CEO’s of all companies now that they would be non-profit. The third leg of the triad would involve the pharmaceutical companies since they too are “fleecing” the healthcare business of trillions of dollars. Remember when new HIV drugs came out and only Magic Johnsons of the world were able to afford them?  Now those same drugs are available via Medicare and Medicaid. The problem with pharmaceuticals involves the high cost of research and development and drug companies say they must charge very high prices for new drugs to re-coup this cost. The ultimate solution to this problem would place drug research only in government institutions such as NIH. Private companies could still invent new drugs but there would be a cap on their retail price in line with the government based drugs.

Such a system would certainly lower healthcare cost in the USA; it’s just that no one would become billionaires working in the system. Where is the value in that amount of greed anyway?

Dr. “D.”


November 25, 2015

I was reading an article in Contemporary Pediatrics (Oct. 2015 p. 14) where 20 to 50% of mothers (N=1,000) were not receiving advise from the pediatrician about sleep position, sleep location, pacifier use and breast feeding. That’s a high percentage!!

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Practice, and the federal and state health departments would be very unhappy to hear this. The Academies are organizations to provide data and protocols for care to the federal, state and local health departments, private insurance companies and to the providers of healthcare themselves. The state health departments are responsible for the implementation and monitoring of these policies. If a state is doing poorly following advised national protocol, then someone in the health department is not doing their job well.

So the people that actually deliver the services are the “providers” (i.e. doctors, PA’s and nurse practitioners- we’re not called doctors by the insurance industry anymore). That means that the “providers are the end of the line service group. If they don’t do their job then the local, state agencies fail. If you have been to the doctor lately, you probably have noticed that the doctor is looking more at a computer screen than they are looking at you.

Computers are great but many times there are buffering holdups or problems the doctor has with the software that was recently installed. It seems that the doctor is having an appointment with the machine and not you.  Now here is something you may not know unless you are a physician or “provider.”

The requirements for the providers as mandated by the respective state health departments include a list “a mile long.’ In pediatrics there are over 50 questions that the “provider” must somehow get answers to, distribute various forms, perform a physical exam, review the chart, chart vaccine status, give injections or prescriptions, and answer questions in what the insurance industry feels should be done in 10 -15 minutes.

Doctors who work in large groups as an employee are generally expected to see 6 patients in an hour. Now if you do the math you can see there is a major disconnect; in ten minutes you have to perform what would ordinarily take 40-50 minutes. What’s also important is that the insurance company will pay you for just ten minutes of time. So the doctor may bill $100.00 for that ten minute visit and receive $10 from the copay and $34.95 from the insurance company. Now if the “provider” spends 40 minutes with you to achieve all the mandated tasks, the insurance company will still pay you $34.95.

I recently had a heating company come to my house to inspect and clean my furnace for the winter. The technician removed the cover, looked around with his flashlight, replaced the filter (that I purchased) closed the cover and charged me $119.00.  With a $200,000.00 tuition bill for medical school, the prospective doctors need to take note.

So this is where computers come in. They can memorize anything we put into them and “spit” gobs of information out at the push of a button. Electronic medical records (EMR) use expensive software that can store all the information that the health agencies require and “spit” it out at a moment’s notice.  Now it doesn’t mean that the doctor is going to ask all fifty questions but the computer will automatically assume that these questions have been asked and record them as being satisfied. Your doctor’s visit may have lasted only ten minutes but if an auditor asks to see a report the computer will produce 5 pages of “documentation” that everything has been satisfied, thus allowing the “provider” to move on to the next ten minute encounter.

So there is this chess game between “providers” and auditors. As long as the mandated requirements are documented that’s all the auditors are concerned about and you pass there test with flying colors. The doctor is happy that the audit went well but is concerned about the real quality of the encounter with the patient. “I didn’t go to medical school to pass audit surveillance testing,” one might say. Now if you ignore the mandated requirements and focus on real interaction with your patient, you may feel you are doing the right and just thing, but the reality is that you may not be able to practice medicine very long because of non-compliance with state regulations. So what happens is that the “providers” feel unsatisfied with their purpose and certainly the patient feels unsatisfied with the quality of service. Clearly there is a disconnect here. So patients, if you feel your doctor is not meeting your expectations, it’s not the doctor’s fault; they simply are complying with state mandates so they can keep their job.

So where is the solution? Healthcare may be good on computer hard drives but not in reality. Imagine it is the year 2022. Medical care in the USA is divided into two separate entities, preventive and wellness care and disease care. Providers who choose to deliver preventative and wellness care are nurses, nurse practitioners and those with master’s in public health (MPH). The medical doctors are not at all involved here. In a sense, medical doctors no longer practice “primary care.’ Their job is to fight illness, control or cure disease and to repair trauma. Using insurance terms, they are indemnity “providers” only.

Internal medicine doctors will treat cancer and control your diabetes but things like diet exercise, meditation, yoga, sexuality, happiness and stress will be handled by the preventative and wellness personnel. You are required to visit the health and wellness providers if you desire to have coverage for indemnity care. If you choose not to attend wellness clinics, then indemnity care costs comes out of your pocket.

In this system both sets of providers I feel would do a good, thorough and honest job that is satisfactory for the health providers and patients. If we don’t change the concept doctors will be VERY disinclined to go into “primary care” as we call it today and simply go into fields associated with major disease, trauma and fat paychecks.

The Affordable Health Act has revolutionized the coverage of healthcare from insurance companies; now it is time for the healthcare system to undergo its’s own revolution and deliver the care that people expect and desire.

….just a thought…….


See ya!!!

Dr. “D”


May 21, 2015

The other day I saw in my office a new patient for a physical exam. She was a nine year old girl from Sierra Leone who arrived here with her parents just three months ago. She came with her father and mother. Now, one would anticipate some shyness and reluctance from a nine year old girl from another country to visit the doctor and that he was a man. Remember in Sierra Leone, war has been a constant, Ebola virus has been rampant and nine year old girls are not always treated as nine year old girls; rape is common.

I was greatly impressed that she held her head high with direct eye contact. I was impressed that she extended her hand for handshaking even before I could do likewise. I was impressed that her command of English was perfect. I was impressed that she began giving me her medical history without my prompting.

After learning from her that the people of Sierra Leone speak in Creole, I became confused because I only associated Creole dialect with Louisiana and its French infiltration. She corrected my miseducation by saying that Creole was an African dialect and that the reason it hit New Orleans was because most of the slaves that came to that port were from Sierra Leone.  WOW!  Was I ever so impressed!

Well, I began to bring up an issue in my own head that I have discussed numerous times before. Why aren’t American children of that caliber? When attending graduations, I notice the valedictorians many times are kids from other countries like Viet Nam, Jamaica, India, Nigeria, Cameroon or China.

This nine year old told me with her father that “back home” in Sierra Leone, many of the children had fairly hard working chores such as collecting fire wood and hauling water sometimes miles away before the breakfast tea could be served and before the children started their long walks to school- all before 8AM!

So we buy our kids $180.00 sneakers and find they traded them with other students because after a month the shoes became boring. Our kids have to walk no more than half a block to catch the bus; that is if they don’t ride in air conditioned and heated cars and dropped off at the front door. I find that many children don’t have household chores anymore other than when the bedroom gets way out of control. In essence, in comparison with other cultures we spoil our kids. I am not exempt. I think it becomes a way of thinking that, assuming that we dearly love our children, we want them to have a “better life” than what we had as kids. I never had my parents buy outrageously expensive items for me; they bought me what was needed. Anything else we had to buy on our own accord. I will never forget a stereo system I bought in high school that I put on lay away for the entire summer until I was able to pay the balance. That stereo would last me all the way through med school. Christmas was the only exception; I got a real drum set that I still own today after 50 years!

I, like many of you, hate to see my kids suffer or go without. But are we doing the right thing by not balancing the value of working hard for the luxuries we have in life?

Here is the point; at some time in our children’s life, they MUST experience some level of struggle, of difficulty, of hard work. It may be painful for us as parents to watch but we must understand it is for their betterment in their adult lives.

Get your teenager to cut the grass and tell the lawn service you won’t need their services anymore. After thorough teaching, have them prepare Sundays’ meal and/or take care of the household’s laundry (not just their own). For those kids who are driving, get them to go on their own to the grocery store with your list for the family. Teach them how to use a sewing machine. Teach them how to change a flat tire. Teach them the basic tools of plumbing and carpentry. Don’t worry I am just as guilty as you for not pushing these things. But when I see such a mature and “ready for the world” nine year old from Sierra Leone, I get inspired to start changing my ways.


See ya in the summer!

Dr. “D”

MEASLES…………Oh noooooooo!!!!

February 12, 2015

MEASLES…………Oh noooooooo!!!!

I have learned since the Ebola crisis and now the measles outbreak how influential the media is on American society. So let’s talk about measles. I have heard many comments on talk radio and the news programs including the following:

  1. It causes autism
  2. It has mercury in it
  3. The vaccine doesn’t work
  4. It will cause brain injury
  5. “I won’t worry about my child being vaccinated because all the other children are vaccinated which keeps the incidence to a minimum”
  6. “All these vaccines are just a way to keep the pharmaceutical industry rich”

I remember seeing active measles cases when I was a medical resident in California. I will tell you those kids get very sick; there’s the 106 fever, the blood shot eyes and the malaise that scares anyone who witnesses the disease. If a child gets uncomplicated measles the child would be cared for at home, not hospitalized. The fact that it takes about 10 days to recover is challenging for those care givers who have to work. Looking at these children makes you wonder if the child is going to even “pull through.”

Well, what about the vaccine? The vaccine does NOT have Thiomersal (mercury) in it at all. The following ingredients are in the vaccine:

  1. Buffered salt solution
  2. Vitamins
  3. Amino acids
  4. Fetal bovine (cow) serum
  5. Synthesized Human albumen
  6. Sucrose (sugar)
  7. Phosphate glutamate
  8. Neomycin (antibiotic)

The viruses are grown in chick embryo and human fetal fibroblast cell culture before they mixed with the above ingredients. But notice: NO MERCURY! I have given MMR vaccines for over 32 years now and I can tell you I have never experienced any side effect from that vaccine (MMR).

The researcher in the United Kingdom who published the article in The Lancet medical journal is presently incarcerated and stripped of his medical license for falsifying data in his research. The fact that autism appears around the same time that the vaccine is given makes this a plausible hypothesis; it just did not “hold water.”

Does it work? Most current doctors have never seen active measles. It is rare solely because of the mandated use in most states. In Maryland for example, children cannot attend daycare or school if they have not had their MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months and again at 4-5 years of age. The use of the vaccine has made a huge difference in the incidence of the disease; so yes, it works!

Can your child get MMR vaccine if they are allergic to egg (remember the virus is grown in chick embryo egg)? Unless, the person has had a life threatening reaction to egg exposure requiring hospitalization and ICU care (anaphylactic reaction) all children including those with mild to moderate egg allergy tolerate the vaccine well. In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics states that most of those with anaphylactic histories to egg tolerate the vaccine well under close supervision.

Children who have any form of thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts) can still get the vaccine but monitoring of the platelet count is required.

So who CAN’T get it? Children under the age of 12 months or children with cancers with altered immunity should not get the vaccine.  Don’t let the media frighten you; if your child has been vaccinated, they are protected. If not vaccinated, it’s not too late- GET VACCINATED.

See ya in the Spring!

Dr. “D”


June 5, 2014

On May 17th at a local high school in Prince Georges County Maryland, a symposium was hosted by me and my wife to educate teenagers, young adults and their parents about avoiding situations that could alter their life. In response to the killing of Trevon Martin and Jordan Davis, we felt such a proactive program was needed for our kids.

We were fortunate to have the HBO award winning writer and director of the film THE TOMBS come from New York to participate in a panel discussion and to show his 20 minute film. Jerry LaMothe has won many awards for his thought provoking films but this film was pertinent in that it emotionally showed the story of a man going through the police station after being arrested and being detained until arraignment. It showed our audience the pitfalls of our legal system especially when one is devoid of money and resources. The other panel members included a pastor, a defense attorney, a representative from The National Action Network, police officers from the District of Columbia and Prince Georges County as well as representatives from the States Attorney office and a delegate from the State of Maryland government.

Often when attending discussion panels the question that arises is “what are we going to DO about it?’ Talking is fine but it gets you nowhere if there is no action. The action that I had to take before the program could emerge was exhausting. I had to find a venue, design and print flyers, pull together a panel of volunteers who would commit, and advertise. I starting getting the program off the ground about 3 months prior. Hitting the pavement to barbershops, salons, car washes, store fronts and grocery stores throughout the northern part of the county was hard and time consuming work. Talking to school counselors and principals, visiting the post office many times to send out posters and flyers were part of the commitment. Then there was the financial cost. Ever wonder why a budget always gets out of whack? I figured the total cost would be about $1000. The rule of thumb is to take your projected cost and simply double it. The $2,000.00 came out of my pocket and this event was FREE to the public. There was never any plan on making money out of this venture- it was a service to the community. Doing a little suffering never hurt anyone. Do you believe that it is better to give than to receive? Producing such an event will test your belief in this statement. In fact I would suggest you try a test on your morality: Instead of putting one or five or even ten dollars in the plate at church, just once, write a check for double or triple the amount you usually put in or write a check to your kid’s school PTA for any amount you can afford or donate some time to any worthwhile venture and see how you feel. I can tell you that the reward is a private one between you and your maker. It gives your mortality meaning in the sense that before you pack your bags and leave this planet, you know you have tried to do something GOOD. I am going to tell you another secret (and this is really weird) once you try giving without the expectation of receiving, it becomes addictive. You’ll want to give more and more.

So what did we take home from this symposium? I learned that the teenagers and young adults today live in a digital world. To make an impact on them YOU have to enter that digital world. The movie was very intriguing to the kids but once our panel of esteemed professionals began our discussion, you could see the kids tuning out. On came the smart phones and away began the texting and video watching. As the older generations, we need to connect to the young folks through the visual media; auditory connection is dead.

It’s the same reason your teens don’t want to place an old fashion phone call anymore. They need to see the communication either by the visual words or pictures. Hence, wouldn’t it be great for the social activists, politicians and community leaders to hook up with the new generation of movie makers and present messages via the visual-digital world. This may not necessarily be 90 minute movies (although that’s all good too) but shorts can go viral on Vines and U-Tube and Facebook and the like. Kids love comedy; even though our messages are more serious than watching Kevin Hart, we have to inject some comedy in our presentations. The nice thing about the internet is that to produce an influential piece of entertainment you don’t have to go through an agent and spend gobs of money.

There are some practical things we “took home” from the adult discussion however:

  1. It is not against the law to record any encounter with a police officer (Maryland law) although most of the panel thought this may provoke the officer and advised against it.
  2. After putting on blinkers and slowing down, you have the right to drive to a well-lit place when pulled over by a police.
  3. It is best to turn the interior lights on in the car when pulled over by police at night.
  4. If you are associated with a group and one member of the group is charged with anything illegal (drug or handgun possession) you will likely be charged as well and will have to report to the police station until the details of the individual encounter is straightened out. It does not mean that you will have an arrest record if you are released.
  5. It is not conclusive that oral sex (alone) can spread HIV.
  6. IF you choose to smoke marijuana, it is better to be caught on campus as a student than out in the community. However, it is important for the parents and students to know in depth the consequences of this action at student orientation. Even if you are in a state that has legalized the drug remember that if you are under 21 it is still illegal.
  7. Although criticized as almost “bowing down” to a police officer, it was agreed that teens exemplify respectful behavior when interacting with a police officer. Often, but not always, this may avoid harassing situations like auto searches or pat downs.
  8. Further discussion groups like this should include teens on the panel to keep their attention.
  9. Further discussion groups like this should have teachers on the panel. So start you own panel discussion groups at your school. I think the principal and PTA groups would be amenable.

Time restraint kept us from getting to other pertinent questions. Overall, (especially with the movie) most thought the program to be valuable and worthwhile. Many parents said to me “we have to do this again.”

So start you own panel discussion groups at your school. I think the principal and PTA groups would be amenable.

Until next time…….see ya !!

Dr. “D”

Marijuana and College Campuses

March 17, 2014

Many of my patients are now on college campuses throughout the country.  Certainly, as a freshman, they are almost always living in a dormitory; unless they attend a commuter college.

I have learned through feedback from college students that there is a subject that needs our attention as parents so we can better prepare our kids; smoking marijuana in the dorm.  Now, you noticed I said “in the dorm.”  Smoking, possessing, paraphernalia may pose different punishments if they are caught in the city off campus or even on campus outside the dorms.  Of course, this will vary from state to state and their respective laws;  but,  because most students are below 21 years of age, it would still be considered illegal.

Here, I’d like to focus on “the dorm” issue.  I know this will vary with the region of the country,  whether you are in a state school or private. Where I went to undergrad in a very small private New England college drug use and experimentation was a non issue; the college didn’t care as long as you didn’t burn down the building.  NO ONE was reprimanded or punished for such action. However, in large state supported schools there seems to be a no nonsense policy that if caught smoking in the dorm, them your right to reside in any of the dorms either that year or for the remaining time you are at the college is taken away. You are left with finding your own living space off the campus grounds. That may not pose a problem for the upperclassmen and women since they would probably welcome the idea and parents would relish in the cost savings.  It does pose a problem for freshmen who generally don’t have cars and can’t legally sign for rental cars and apartment leases. This is where the parents are brought in for the added costs and inconvenience of providing alternate living space falls on our shoulders.

I guess the philosophy is that if a student uses drugs in the dorm that such behavior may ”infect” or affect other students and possibly convert them into “druggies.” Generally college campuses don’t expose such behavior to the local police; they would rather handle the issue internally. Alcohol (equally illegal for those under 21) is handled differently. There usually is a “three strikes you’re out” policy for alcohol possession so it gives a little more allowance.  It would seem to me that drugs use should be handled in the same way since young students will make mistakes in their judgment. I would think since accepting the student in the first place that the school would have an investment in their students and give them warnings prior to being put in the “slammer.”

Here’s where the real problem lies: The issue of alcohol and drug use almost always is in any given school’s handbook regarding code of conduct. It is discussed (sometimes lightly) by Sophomore RA’s and not anyone of adult authority. Since the penalties can be grave, you would think that all students during freshman orientation be given a clear warning BY AN ADULT in charge of student housing.

So, what do you do? ……..   Kids on campus WILL take risk and use poor judgment with alcohol or drugs. It is unreal for a parent to tell their freshman son or daughter to “don’t do drugs or alcohol” and believe that will “stick.”  So my advice would be “If you must indulge, DON’T DO IT IN THE DORM!!”   “I can’t afford to pay for your dorm room AND an apartment.”

For any parent attending orientation for their child in college, I think it would be very important for you to clearly understand the school’s policy and have it in writing including the right for appeal process. It would be very valuable for you the parents and your child to talk to upperclassmen about this subject as well.


Dr. “D.”