Letters: Steroids, Teens and Songs of America

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Listeners weigh in on steroids and sports, parents with difficult teens, and songs that define America.


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

We hope to spend the majority of this hour talking with Christopher Hitchens about his book, "Thomas Paine's Rights of Man," one of the books that changed the world. We've been doing a series of interviews on that series of books from Atlantic Monthly press. Mr. Hitchens is evidently delayed on his way here to the studio, so the last shall be first.

It is Tuesday, the day we read from your e-mails and blog comments. Our show on the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in sports needed more information, according to a listener named Stephanie(ph) from Bryan, Texas.

You asked your guest how does it feel to take anabolic steroids, and his answer wasn't quite complete, she wrote. I've taken steroids under a doctor's supervision and I can tell you it feels near euphoric, combined with high aggression levels. Your body doesn't register pain. All your senses are somewhat dulled. Tactile stimulation is muted. You know you should feel pain, but it just doesn't register. You feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof combined with a lowered tolerance for nonsense. Sadly, I can fully understand how someone would become an addict.

Another listener had a suggestion for an incentive to stop athletes from doping. John(ph) in Rochester wrote: What if we declare events in which a doped athlete competed null and void? In other words, if Marion Jones competed in the race on some form of performance-enhancing drug, don't bump the medals up a position. Simply declare the whole race void. That would give every competitor a dog in the fight, and pressure the athletic community as a whole to cease their tolerance of the practice.

Our show on what a parent at their wits' end should do left listeners burning up our blog. Many of them were upset with our coverage. An anonymous parent commented: My son attended a caring, professional and therapeutic wilderness program. It was a positive intervention for our family. He's now attending a therapeutic boarding school and is doing well to date.

While I enjoyed hearing the perspective and experiences of your guest, and I'm heartbroken to hear about abusive programs, I was disappointed by the lack of distinction between unregulated boot camps and the kinds of programs that are well supervised, licensed and above all, dedicated to the growth of troubled youth and the whole family. Don't lump these programs together with those programs that should be closed immediately. The entire industry is not unregulated, heartless, abusive.

Another blog comment came from inside the industry and took issue with our guest, Maia Szalavitz. Sarah(ph) wrote: I am a licensed clinical social worker who has worked as a counselor in two different programs that provide emotional growth for troubled teens in a wilderness setting. I have integrity, compassion, ethical and moral values, great education and training, and several regulatory bodies that keep an eye on me, and the work that's happening in the field. Maya Szalavitz' comments always get to me, and I love that about her passion regardless of how intently I disagree.

Tragedy has occurred in our industry just as it has in placements that provide treatments that had been scientifically proven effective, studied inside and out, and approved through APA - that's the American Psychological Association - standards, in addition to being audited by a number of regulatory agencies. It's sad to discount the personal experiences of those students and families who have had life-changing, non-traumatic experiences in these settings.

During our show with former Attorney General Janet Reno on the collection she helped put together called "Song of America," we got hundreds of suggestions for songs that should be included. The one that won out by your vote was Woody Guthrie's, "This Land is Your Land." In fact, it is one of the 50 that was chosen for the collection. One listener, Rocky(ph) from the District of Columbia wrote: In fact, it should be our national anthem. Imagine how much easier it would be to sing at ballgames.

As always, if you want to reach us with comments, questions or corrections, the best way is by e-mail. Our address is talk@npr.org. And now, there's a new way to reach us. Tell us what you're buzzing about, whether it's the visit of the Dalai Lama, a new cancer study or you could admit it, Britney's latest arrest. Let us know on our blog. Go to the Talk of Your Nation category at npr.org/blogofthenation, and post a comment. Please let us know where you are writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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