The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, January 12, 2009. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's blog at The Huffington Post website.
Readers Quiz: Why Are Americans So Kooky About Drugs, Sex, and Rock & Roll?
I asked a British man what struck him about the United States. The thing he found most amazing about America was how many towns didn't allow restaurants to sell alcohol, and that some towns allowed no alcohol sales at all. I asked if this didn't occur in many places in Europe. He replied: "Nowhere in Europe!"
Question Set #1: Why is the United States infiltrated with dry towns and counties, with Sunday "blue" laws, and with the highest abstinence rate (more than half of Americans drink less than once a month) in the Western world?
My daughter, who turns 21 in February, celebrated the 21st birthday of her high-school friend, whose Greek-born parents return to Greece every summer. At dinner, while serving everyone wine, her friend's parents joked they were breaking the law by giving my daughter alcohol. My daughter laughed, "You first gave me wine when I visited you in Greece when I was 15!" They retorted, "Don't tell anyone here - they'll arrest us!"
Question Set #2: Why is the United States the only country in the Western world with a 21-year-old drinking age? Why is it a crime to serve children alcohol here? Why do Americans react with horror when they learn the drinking age is 16 throughout Southern Europe, but that in countries like Italy, Spain, and Greece, children of any age are served in restaurants? And why do all of these Southern countries have lower teen drunkenness rates than the U.S.? (Sorry, Arianna, you can't enter the contest.)
At a water park when my kids were young, I noticed a family speaking French. The daughter, who was about 11, was only wearing a bottom to her swim suit. The family was mortified as they realized this was totally verboten in the American context, where all females other than small toddlers must cover their tops.
Questions Set #3: Why are Americans shocked by the Freudian concept of childhood sexuality and scandalized when even small children don't exhibit adult prudishness in their dress and behavior? Why, do prepubescent American children nonetheless wear sexually-oriented clothing, and why do parents enter young children (remember JonBenet Ramsey) in adult-like beauty contests?
After initially attacking mainly gay males, HIV spread primarily to intravenous drug users. The United Kingdom immediately institutionalized needle exchanges and other clean injection programs and largely avoided the second wave of AIDS. They were joined by nearly every Western nation, with the notable exception of the United States, where HIV infections continued to climb.
Question Set #4: Why do Americans think that giving any assistance to drug users is the equivalent of encouraging drug use, at the same time as it ranks among the highest illicit-drug-using Western nations? Why does the U.S. imprison its citizens at a higher rate than any other country in the world and why is drug use a primary source of criminal convictions here?
The British are shocked by how frequently Americans diagnose children with psychiatric disorders - including ADHD, OCD, bipolar disorder, conduct disorders, and depression - and by how willing Americans are to prescribe psychiatric medications to adolescents and even younger children. Americans, of course, believe they are preserving children's mental health and keeping many young people alive this way.
Question Set #5: Why are Americans, who value sobriety so highly and who treat more substance abusers than any country in the world (utilizing only the goal of complete abstinence), so quick to treat themselves and their children with mood-altering drugs?
The reader with the best answers becomes Drug Czar!