The war on drugs
(This week’s Addiction & Recovery column is hosting a guest article written and contributed by Mary Warner.)
If only the symptoms of a disease are treated, the victim may feel better for a while, but the symptoms will eventually return because the disease was not cured.
One cannot cure the dis-ease of illegal drug use by trying to eliminate drugs. The cause must be found and eliminated. “The real question is why are millions of people so unhappy, so bored, so unfulfilled that they are willing to drink, snort, inject, or inhale any substance that might blot out reality and give them a bit of temporary relief?” (Ann Landers, syndicated columnist)
The cause can be discovered by talking respectfully and nonjudgmentally to drug users and listening to how they feel (perceiving the feelings behind the words) and to what they believe.
The cause and cure can be discovered by caring and by putting ourself in another’s place, imagining what we would do if we had the same experiences, the same educational background, and the same beliefs as the illegal drug user and then treating others as we would want to be treated if we were in someone else’ shoes.
Drug abuse by young people could be eliminated by respecting our children, paying attention to them, treating them the way we want them to treat us, and educating them about using drugs – telling them what to expect, letting them know the consequences of their actions (aside from being punished) and trusting them to make the right decision, and by setting the example that we want them to follow.
Children learn the right way to live by watching the behavior of the older people whom they respect and look up to and following the example that is set for them. If they see these people using cold medicine, painkillers, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, diet pills, alcohol, and tobacco, they learn that using drugs is the right thing to do.
If children are not trusted to think for themselves, after having been told what to expect, the consequences of their actions, and after observing the right example set for them by their respected elders, they feel powerless. They may deliberately use something that they know will harm them. They might think that if they do, then at least they will feel powerful and accepted for a moment, or they won’t care, or they will hope that someone will understand how they feel and make their life all right for them.
A feeling of powerlessness often leads people to rebel and deliberately choose the very thing they have been told to not choose (at best) or it leads to violence. It has been said that over half of the murders committed in this country are committed by people between the ages of 14 and 21.
The cause of the dis-ease of selling drugs is the mistaken belief that money and material things will bring power, happiness, and satisfaction. This belief is the result of an education that is lacking in spiritual values, such as the kind of education that is forced upon children in public schools. The belief is further fed by advertisements and TV commercials.
Making it illegal to sell drugs is not a cure, obviously. It makes the problem worse, just as it did with alcohol prohibition, by creating the opportunity for criminal hangs to make huge profits. Then gangsters kill each other (and many innocent bystanders) to protect their territories/markets and pay police and judges to not prosecute them. They adulterate their drugs in order to make more money, consequently causing injury and death to the users who will not protect themselves or get help because they know they are breaking the law and are afraid of punishment.
Putting people in prison for using drugs is not a cure, obviously. According to an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, drugs are readily available in prisons.
Punishing people for trying to make it in life the best way they know how – trying to pursue happiness – is against the Declaration of Independence and is inhumane. “If even a small fraction of the money we now spend on trying to enforce drug prohibition were devoted to treatment and drug rehabilitation, in an atmosphere of compassion, not punishment, the reduction in drug usage and in the harm done to users would be dramatic.” (Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize Winner, Economics) Today’s illegal drugs were legal before 1914. Cocaine was in the original recipe for Coca-Cola. Drugs were not a problem. Addiction was treated as a health issue and not a crime.
(Mary Warner is an aging (or perhaps “aged”) flower child/”hippie.” She lives with her husband in a 420-square-foot cabin in the woods with a black and white fur-ball and a black lab where she is creating a garden paradise.)