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The Dealer in the Next Room

Monday, Sep. 5, 2011

Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate. Responses must be received by midnight September 11, 2011

Isaac moved off campus his sophomore year into an apartment with his friend Jason. Isaac and Jason met in their dorm during freshman year. Isaac always thought Jason seemed like a really cool guy until he discovered that Jason was into cocaine. Not only was Jason a user; he also distributed cocaine to others on campus. Isaac doesn’t want to rat Jason out because they’re friends, but Isaac doesn’t want to run the risk of being kicked out of his apartment, or worse, going to jail.

Should Isaac confront Jason and tell him that he knows he has been using and selling cocaine? Should Isaac tell a school counselor? the police?

 Here are some resources you may find useful:

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

Signs of Drug Use

College Drug Use 


Photo by International Relations and Security Network available under Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivs License.

Comments Comments

Katie said on Sep 6, 2011
There are a few things worse than having to find a new apartment to crash at, depending on your perspective. Living with the constant question of whether to tell or not, that seems worse. Knowing that there are people out there potentially ruining their lives with the use of hard-drugs, that seems worse. It seems like the guilt of knowing what was going on and not doing anything about it would be worse than being kicked out, or feeling like a rat. Sometimes, personal feelings should be pushed to the side for the option to help a greater amount of people. Telling a counselor about the situation would hand the problem over to the people who are meant to take care of things like this, and could probably take care of the situation in a smoother way than a call to the police station might. A calmer resolution might occur from a quiet investigation than the police knocking at your door (as I assume might happen if you were to call someone in on cocaine suspicions). Jason would most likely be upset with Isaac for telling on him, but the rules are in place for a reason, and Jason could be helping a whole group of kids develop harmful habits that could negatively effect their lives in the near or far future. Sure, Isaac might have to find a new place to stay, but that seems like a small price to pay for a guilt-free conscience. Plus, confronting Jason on his own might be dangerous; someone whose means of business and addictive habit(s) are being threatened could respond violently, and being injured and having to find a new place or being dead is worse than just having to find a new place to stay, or forever wondering if you did the right thing by keeping quiet. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Catherine said on Sep 6, 2011
I believe that it is important to deal with Jason with compassion and respect. Yes, Isaac may be worried about getting kicked out of the apartment or having a run-in with the legal system, but Jason is running the risk of that as well as the risk of landing in the hospital-- cocaine is the drug most frequently involved in visits to the emergency room, according to www .htm . Additionally, Jason has seemed like a "cool guy" which hopefully means no violent tendencies. If I were Isaac, I would do some research on cocaine to make sure I knew my facts, and then find some place private enough not to be overheard but public enough that if Jason did become violent, there would be others around. Ideally, I would have some trustworthy friends that I could tell about this, that would let me stay at their place if Jason threatened me. Then I would bring up the topic of cocaine with Jason as a discussion, not a debate or a lecture. If he understands that cocaine is dangerous to both his future and his health, but is simply addicted, I might encourage him to get help and offer support during the process. If he was ignorant, I might try to encourage him to seek information for himself. In either of those situations, I would also try to convince him to stop dealing. If he denied that cocaine had negative effects, or adamantly refused to listen, then I would tell him that it could hurt me as well, and that I was not comfortable with him hurting the lives of others. Assuming he continued to refuse to stop, I might try having some other friends talk to him about it in the hopes that peer pressure would have some effect, but I would next seek a school councilor's help. If at any point Jason seemed to be considering violence toward me, I would talk to a school councilor or possibly the police as soon as I reasonably could, and try to avoid Jason in the meantime. Even though this requires a lot more effort and courage than ignoring the problem or just telling a school councilor or the police, following this course will stop Jason from continuing to use and distribute cocaine, potentially hurting himself, Isaac, and others, while also respecting his power of choice and extending the possibility of ending the drug use without further harm to his future or anyone else's. - Like - 3 people like this.
Jeremy Geist said on Sep 7, 2011
The fact that Jason is distributing cocaine to others is enough to remove this case from the grounds of moral ambiguity. Besides the effects of cocaine (on Jason and his customers), there are other factors that lead to immediate or proposed physical danger on Isaac as well: For example, other drug dealers raiding the apartment because Jason infringes on their territory. (If if recall correctly, cocaine is one of the more expensive drugs, which leads to more of a motive for other dealers to remove their competition.) As much as Isaac likes Jasonand I am not saying that this is an easy thing to dohe needs to intervene, for Jason's good as well as his own. A counselor would be the best option: it wouldn't get Jason into immediate legal danger but it's safer than simply trying to confront him. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Tara said on Sep 9, 2011
It may be true that Jason is distributing a dangerous drug to the community, but the bottom line is that if Issac calls the police and Jason gets charged, those clients who were buying from him before will find someone else, probably in another community. This scenario will do nothing to change Jason's mindset, except to reject Issac as a friend. What Issac should do is to talk to Jason, repeatedly if needed, about what is going on, including telling him that he doesn't want this going on in their apartment where he had agreed to live. If talking to Jason about it doesn't work then Issac should construct an intervention with the people who matter most in Jason's life. The only way to fully change a drug dealer's ways is to get people who care about them involved. If the intervention doesn't work, then I would get the authorities involved as a last resort. - Like - 2 people like this.
Deepti said on Sep 12, 2011
I'm rarely one to go along with the line of argument that we should cover up for our friends when they do stupid things that could cause lasting problems for everyone concerned. I think Isaac needs to put his own security first. He shouldn't worry too much about compromising the friendship: the fact is, it's already been compromised - by Jason. Actually, I think the best thing Isaac could do for Jason as a friend is to confront him about this. While it's highly unlikely that he'll actually be able to talk Jason out of dealing drugs, he might end up limiting Jason's dealing by refusing to offer up a safe space where he can pursue it. If, after they talk, Jason continues to sell drugs in their apartment, I think Isaac will have to talk to a counselor or someone more equipped to deal with the situation. If he has to go to the police, he should. He's not getting his friend into trouble: Jason did that all by himself. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Cameron said on Sep 12, 2011
Isaac should try to confront Jason without getting the police or anyone else involved. As Jason's friend and roommate, Isaac owes him at least that much. Isaac should tell Jason that he is uncomfortable with Jason storing/selling/using coke in the apartment that they share. Hopefully, if they really are good friends, Jason will take his business elsewhere. As long as Jason doesn't implicate Isaac or put him at risk for a police investigation, I believe it's none of Isaac's concern whether or not Jason is dealing/doing coke (although maybe he should be a little more discerning in choosing whom to live with). I'm sure Isaac is no angel either. Chances are he has smoked weed, drunk alcohol, or done any number of illegal things that college students do. It's not Isaac's responsibility to rat out his friend, but it is his responsibility to make sure he is safe and comfortable in his own home. The only way to ensure this is to talk to Jason. If Jason ignores his request, Isaac may have no choice but to go to an authority figure. But until then, Isaac should try to deal with the situation internally, which is better for everyone. - Like - 1 person likes this.
David DeCosse said on Sep 12, 2011
One of the great ethical fictions of the present day is that all sorts of things are no one's business but my own. I like to get high: What's the harm to you of what I do in the privacy of my own home? Take this case: It's easy to think of Jason as risking his own future by using and dealing cocaine. But that way of seeing things, true as it is, doesn't nearly probe far and wide enough for what's so wrong about what he's doing. He's exposing Isaac to criminal liability and physical danger: The drug trade brings in tow many violent people. He has a callous disregard for the well-being of all of the people who are buying drugs from him: Sure, they make a decision to buy the cocaine; but that doesn't absolve Jason from the responsibility not to harm their lives by selling the drug. And he's harming the common good of the university. How does a drug-selling operation like his NOT introduce destructive incentives for other students to sidestep their purpose for being in school? One of the oldest ethical maxims is "do no harm" - especially when the harm is spread far and wide. Isaac should open his eyes to that fact, stop worrying about "ratting" Jason out, and do everyone a favor: Move out of the apartment and call the police. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Miriam Schulman said on Sep 16, 2011
Catherine took the prize for "The Dealer in the Next Room" for her compassionate response to Isaac's dilemma. This case presented a lot of strategic questions about how best to handle the situation, but Catherine focused on the ethical issues in terms of how Isaac should respond to his friend. - Like - 1 person likes this.
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