L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 69, April 15, 2000
On the outside, Ann Leland (not her real name) seemed like a normal 16-year-old girl. In her sophomore year at Lakeside High School (not her real school) in Southern California, she was on the cheerleading squad and played tennis for the varsity team. Her grade point average was a 3.6, and her guidance counselor pegged her as someone with high potential. She attended services at her family's church every Sunday, and volunteered time at a soup kitchen in the city. Her relationship with her parents, Diane and Jim Leland (not her real parents), had its share of the usual teen difficulties, but she was still close to them.
But during her junior year, everything changed for the worse. She dropped out of her extra-curricular activities. Her grades dipped to C's and D's. She was sullen and withdrawn at family events, and became more and more secretive. Her mother, Diane Leland, confronted her several times, but to no avail.
Finally, early in the morning of June 16th of her junior year, after a graduation party she attended with some friends, Ann was rushed to the hospital, overdosing on heroin. She recovered, and spent a month in a clinic going through withdrawal. In therapy at the clinic, the truth came out -- she had been abusing hard drugs since late in her sophomore year.
What had led Ann, who seemed to have everything going for her, into the world of hard drugs? Police and drug abuse experts are beginning to suspect a factor which, until now, has been completely overlooked in the war against drugs -- food.
Food contains hundreds of different chemicals. Some of them are known toxins, such as the arsenic found in potatoes. Other foods, such as apples, contain alcohol. Glutamine, valine, leucine and several other amino acids, which are found in many foods, are capable of piercing the biological barrier keeping most substances in the blood from entering the brain. Thus, food can have a direct affect on mental states. The effect on the body of many of the other chemicals found in food is still unknown.
Captain Tom Kearnan, head of the LAPD's Drug Abuse Prevention Unit (not really), explains the growing suspicion among experts that food is a "gateway substance" that leads to hard drugs:
"Eating sets a mind frame, that you can ingest things that make you feel better, that if you don't feel quite right, for instance, if you're hungry, just eat something and your problems will go away." Captain Kearnan reaches into his desk (it wasn't actually his per se) and pulls out a report. He shakes his head as he points at some frightening graphs. "We've found the correlation between a previous history of eating and the use of hard drugs is very high, near 100%, in fact. No other factor previously thought to lead to hard drug usage has ever shown a correlation that high, not even marijuana use."
At first, her parents found it hard to believe that something as innocuous as food was really the root of Ann's problem. They remembered experimenting with food as teenagers themselves, and neither of them had gone on to hard drugs. However, the therapist at the clinic pointed out to them that food today was much stronger than when they were young. The combination of vitamin enrichment, better breeding techniques, and genetic engineering had produced progressively more potent food products. Gradually, the Lelands realized that the experts were right. Her mother reflects on Ann's history of food use:
"At first it was just milk. What could be wrong with a little milk now and then? But gradually she moved on to other food -- rice cereal, pureed bananas, mashed peas. By the time she was one, she had started on solid foods."
Among chronic eaters, the continued bombardment of the brain cells by amino acids may lead to a tolerance for food. To achieve the feeling of contentment they refer to as "full," users may need to consume increasing amounts of food.
Diane Leland continued: "Gradually, she worked her way up to chocolate and cola. We told ourselves that a lot of kids eat this stuff, and don't go on to anything harder. During her freshman year in high school, she was at a restaurant with some older kids. One of them, a handsome junior who was on the football team, offered Ann some pasta in a white-wine-and-garlic sauce. At first she was reluctant to accept. But he kept pressuring her. Finally, she took a bite. She liked it so much she immediately asked for more. Soon she was eating peaches cooked in brandy, onion rings in beer batter, mussels in sherry. We told her that we didn't approve, and tried to get her counseling, but nothing helped."
About this time, Ann's diary (not her real diary) recorded her increasing depression about her use of food: "Food is a scum-filled pond in which I'm drowning." Her use of food was now daily. She ate in the bathroom. She ate in the car on the way to school. First thing in the morning, she would have a bowl of cereal, "just to help her get going." Late at night, she would stand in front of the open refrigerator with a glassy look in her eyes. Her mother began to notice crumbs in her bedding and Ding Dong wrappers hastily tucked away in her underwear drawer.
Experts recommend intravenous feeding as an alternative to food consumption. Intravenous tubes attached to a plastic bag worn comfortably around the waist can supply all necessary calories and vitamins. Nutrition taken in this fashion comes in measured doses, and avoids the sudden rushes that occur when large amounts of nutrients cross the blood-brain barrier at once. And since intravenous feeding never allows hunger to develop, it avoids reinforcing consumptive patterns of behavior.
Finally, after her overdose, her parents were able to convince Ann that she had a problem. After her month at the clinic, her parents took her to stay in Florida for a couple of months, away from her food-abusing "friends." She straightened out, and since then, she's been food and drug free.
Ann still bears the scars of what she now refers to as her "days lost in the pantry." She points to stretch marks on her stomach that may never fade. And she says that passing an ice cream parlor is still an ordeal. But she is in her sophomore year at UCLA, maintaining a 3.4 average (not her real GPA), and again playing tennis. "I almost saw everything go up in a cloud of steam from a pressure cooker. Now I just take it one day at a time."
Incredibly there are otherwise intelligent people out there that believe food in moderate amounts can be "beneficial" or "healthful." They wield semantic tokens like "natural" and "fresh" as some sort of fetishes, shielding them from mortality and alleviating the stresses of everyday life. But they are only fooling themselves. There will always be another Ann, caught in an endless spiral of caloric intake and energy expenditure, until, one day, she "scarfs" her final "petite déjeuner."