Arlen Booth’s Cocaine Coma explores the effects of grief on a family torn apart by the tragic loss of their daughter to a prank cocaine overdose on New Year’s Eve. When an outsider to a drug free New Year’s Eve celebration sneaks cocaine into the punch as a joke, it takes the lives of a young couple, Susan and Victor, who have lived sober lives, free of drugs-in fact, fighting its use through a JSN (Just Say No) organization that advocates abstinence from illegal drug use.
Many grieving families allow things to fall apart at home after the loss of a child, and do not deal with the needs of their remaining children. So overwhelmed by the pain of their loss, parents often pull apart from each other, isolating themselves from the rest of the family. Susan’s parents, Mike and Carol Daniels, however, learn the necessity of drawing closer and supporting their son, Andy. He is having as much trouble dealing with the loss as are they. Andy does not want to return to school; he is hurting and doesn’t know what to say to the other children about his sister’s death-“he would not attend school again today. He said he didn’t know what to say to the other children. Andy knows it wasn’t Susan’s drugs but he doesn’t think anyone will believe him.” Carol attempts to make Andy feel better by giving him the present that his sister bought him on her vacation in Florida from which she never returned, and was never able to give him, but the shark’s teeth do nothing to assuage his grief.
Mike decides that to deal with Carol and Andy’s pain, they should attend family grief counseling for those who have lost their children to drugs or violence. Mike is willing to try anything to abate the grief of his wife and son. However, the amount of grief displayed at the meeting is too much for Andy to handle, seeing his own feelings reflected by many others, “All three attended the first meeting. There was so much grief expressed by other parents there; Andy couldn’t take it.” While grief counseling is an important step, it can often serve as a reminder of how widespread the illegal drug problem is for many families.
Realizing that there are too many families suffering from the heartbreaking results of drug abuse, Mike Daniels comes up with a genius plan to eliminate the demand for illegal drugs, and thereby the violence in our society-without hurting anyone. He and Sarcovich, who lost his son, Victor, to the same prank drugging, are able to treat much of the nation’s cocaine supply with xaphane gas, which results in a week-long coma in users, after which they awake unharmed, with no desire to use cocaine. While this is a valid treatment that pharmaceutical companies have discovered, no one is ready for the havoc and chaos that results.
Cocaine Coma brilliantly reveals how deeply the illegal drug industry has permeated society. Arlen Booth offers through this magnificent story an important social commentary on our culture, government, and justice system-leading the reader to ask some crucial and very pointed questions about the way the drug problem is being handled. This is a must read for anyone who has ever been touched, either directly or indirectly, by the tragic consequences of drug abuse.
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