I don’t know if you know any opiate addicts, specifically heroin addicts. I met a lot when I was in rehab for alcohol and was enlightened to a hidden world of pain and sadness. Being addicted to heroin is as crazy a lifestyle as one can imagine. I say lifestyle because it’s an all-consuming job to keep from getting sick. They tend only to have friends who are fellow addicts because they are figuring out how to get more drugs all day long. Their mood ranges from overly docile and derpy to incredibly nervous and panicky. They don’t eat. They get sores all over. Their veins collapse and they end up trying to inject in awful places that I won’t go into. They are poor because drugs are expensive. And they get felonies for possession of tiny amounts. It’s sadness and madness all in one.
So what might lead to this awful lifestyle? Well adjusted, happy and contented people don’t randomly start using heroin one day. Typically their lives are sad and filled with tragedy to begin with. I say typically because in rehab I met some very successful heroin addicts with rather mundane stories, but they seem to be in the minority. For the average addict, life has been or is very tough and they are desperate to shut out the world to experience some peace. The heroin also tends to be a self-reinforcing substance. It disables you so much that you can’t manage your life, next you get more depressed, and then you need more drugs.
Addiction is a foul social curse, and we as a nation treat all addicts like criminals whether or not they have committed some non drug-related crime. In reality they are likely just self-medicating. Wealthy people in America have access to better drugs with less side effects, and then these members of society lead the charge with the moralizing of drug abuse. We automatically give users felonies for possession, giving them a scarlet letter for life, and then we teach them how to be professional criminals in prison.
It’s a terrible and unforgivable failure of our supposedly great society. We spit on the poor and unfortunate. We chastise them with this archaic, non-scientific morality. And then we don’t guarantee access to mental or physical healthcare when they need it most. One can forget about getting into a residential treatment center unless you have lots of money and/or great insurance. As a further insult to injury we offer little assistance in trying to navigate the world of finding a rehab while you are at the complete bottom of functionality.
This is one of the prime reasons that we have the highest number of prisoners in the world by far. I suppose you don’t always go to jail for possession of schedule I narcotics. You could be lucky enough to be a rich banker, get addicted to something, and then jet off to Malibu for treatment by the sea, only to be praised for your courage and honesty upon your return. Why don’t these dumb heroin addicts do that?! They’re so silly.
So yeah, opiates, specifically heroin are horrific, and basically we just double down on the awfulness as a society. But the nightly news just repeats the toxic and tired mantra of “won’t somebody think of the children!” Then the good people of America let their fear and paranoia perpetuate the miserable failure that is the Drug War. If we took the $15 billion that we spent on fighting drug users in 2010 and each year, we could easily get these people medical treatment, counseling, anti-addiction medications like Buprenorphine, and into sober living facilities. But no, we’d rather spend the $15 billion and then spend an average of $34,000 a year on incarceration. Also, we miss out on the tax revenue of having more productive members of society. But those prisons don’t boost their stock values on their own! There’s big profits in prisons for people like our friend the rich banker.
If you’re not mad about this situation in supposedly the “greatest country on earth,” you are a failure of a citizen, a useful idiot, and probably too busy reading the new issue of People Magazine. Khloe Kardashian is getting so fat! I know! Gross!
I have friends that are suffering in this sociological meat grinder, and I’m pissed about it! America used to be a country with this thing called the 4th amendment meaning SWAT teams dressed in the newest Stormtrooper fashions couldn’t burst into your front door with guns drawn because you are using a non-sanctioned psychoactive drug that doesn’t make big pharmaceutical companies any money. Well America used to be kind of interesting and different than all of the wonderful police states of the world, but that didn’t help the bottom line, so gradually, we “evolved” into a more caring country. Won’t somebody think of the children!
And yet, things might be changing, however slowly. Just yesterday the Obama administration said it would have a mostly hands off approach to states experimenting with legalization of marijuana like Washington and Colorado. Also, these wonderful privately run prisons that sprung up over the last few decades are proving to be quite expensive to the state and county governments, so some areas are looking at reducing sentencing guidelines for nonviolent “criminals.”
I won’t even delve into the racial disparities for convictions and sentencing that I refer to as Jim Crow 2.0. Minorities have a special relationship to the drug war in general as many early drug laws were passed to keep evil, lurking black men high on marijuana from raping our white women, because that was a thing, right?
But America can just turn on Monday Night Football on their brand new 60 inch TV and drink their Bud Light while the million dollar, focused grouped commercials program them into thinking that everything is alright and wonderful. “Did you know there is a new kind of taco at Taco Bell consumer? It’s got extreme flavor explosive tastations!”
Things have been bad in America before, and we’ve gotten together and protested for change. We’ve recognized our faults and decided enough is enough. It can happen again. What we need for this to happen is for the people who really know what’s going on to speak up! Spread the word. Evangelize for common sense.
To quote Langston Hughes: “Let America be America again.” We’re getting to the point where many of us have little to lose. It’s time for Americans to act like Americans and demand change.