By Susan Callaway, RN
To paraphrase what I’m told is an old American Indian saying: Don’t judge someone unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
I’ve walked in those shoes. Both as a nurse and as someone who has lived with chronic pain most of my life, I’ve seen this thing from both sides. I’ve worked with “addicts” who were dying of AIDS, and many others. I took high doses of prescribed narcotic analgesia for years, though I did learn how to eliminate the medications.
In my case there was no “addiction,” and the physical dependence was easily overcome with a logical program of tapering off over a few days. It was not always completely comfortable, but it was manageable because I understood what was going on and was in control of both my body and mind. Ignorance and fear make the process painful and frightening, not necessarily the drug.
The whole notion of some uncontrollable, overwhelming “addiction” is mostly nonsense, but very few people – including doctors – have any real understanding of it at all. The incidence of true addiction is very low, and it takes real time and work for most people to become even physically dependent on a drug, let alone “addicted.”It doesn’t happen overnight, or after a few doses. The usual “addict” is addicted to the sensations, the euphoria itself, and the fact that they no longer remember their actual situation or feel responsible for themselves. They want only to crawl into a hole and pull it in after them. Some do it with drugs, some with alcohol and some with a whole host of other things. Many choose even more destructive combinations.
Addiction is of the mind and spirit, not just the body, and it is most certainly within the control of the person involved in most cases. Taking charge of our minds and bodies, and taking full responsibility for what we choose is not always easy, but it is almost always possible. That the mistaken idea of involuntary addiction is commonly used as an excuse for self destructive behavior does not change this fact.
Is it not, then, incredibly hypocritical to throw some drug users into jail, yet maintain others in their habit, both at taxpayer expense? Neither approach solves anything and both are destructive to “society” in general and to the individuals involved. Why do either one? Why not rather leave each other alone to abide by the consequences of our choices? Who is really better qualified than YOU to decide what you will do with your own life? If you choose destruction, how is it anybody else’s business?
Many people – even some who call themselves libertarians – voice the fear that uncontrolled drug availability would lead to increased crime, child abuse and general indolence by an increasing population of users. But these fears completely ignore the reality of economics and human nature. They also often ignore the reality of the police state response to these things, and the increasing death and destruction resulting from them. And there are certainly non “state” solutions to the problem of children and other family members caught in this tangle.
Generally speaking, those who choose to take drugs, or indulge in any other destructive habit indiscriminately, tend to become ineffective and unhealthy, unable to support themselves or their families. Instead of letting nature take its course, with the individual bearing full responsibility – therefore being faced with the choice of reform or starvation and death. All too often that reform is not actually an option because they are murdered in street action or midnight police raids, or incarcerated and actively prevented from having any kind of normal life afterwards.
There should be no barrier to helping those who are willing to receive it, either through private charity or the usual fee for services on a voluntary basis. There is no need to abandon people to fight this thing without recourse if they truly want help. In reality, the voluntary approach gives us the only honest chance to help them. Those who do not choose to seek help usually can’t BE helped anyway. They simply must not be enabled to continue destructive behavior at someone else’s expense.
Supply is determined by demand. The “war on drugs” has been a signal failure in reducing either the supply or the demand. Instead, it increases the price by increasing the risks associated with production and distribution. The high price simply encourages those who are willing to take the risks. Since they operate outside “the law,” they have every incentive to settle disputes violently, and their customers have no recourse if they are sold impure or false products.
The only appropriate response to aggression, real crime, is for the intended victims to be vigilant and defend themselves. The reason the criminal chooses aggression does not alter the required response. Locks on our doors, and tools to defend ourselves make a lot more sense than prison cells and SWAT teams.
Utopia is not an option. There will always be people who insist on making poor choices and imposing on their neighbors. Some will choose to damage their lives and families this way, no matter what anyone else says or does. It seems obvious that it isn’t possible to prevent anyone from making such choices or to remove every dangerous object and substance from our world. The only world of perfect safety lies in the graveyard.
Far too many people weigh in with opinions (and vote accordingly) without having the slightest understanding how drugs (any kind) affect the human body and mind, or the realities of economics. They have been told that all “illegal drugs” are evil, always bad, and the CAUSE of crime and poverty. So, the only logical thing to do, they believe, is to ever ramp up the efforts to eliminate the drugs and punish those who use or do business with them.
We can see that this approach is really improving all of our lives…
No? Well, perhaps it is time to learn the truth and try something else. As has been stated many times; the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. The results of the current “war on drugs” are always the same: more crime, more corruption of government, more people – users and innocent bystanders – with their lives and property destroyed, and lost liberty for everyone. When are we going to face the fact that this war on drugs “cure” is many magnitudes worse than even the most inaccurate estimation of the disease?
There are many good and learned articles and books on this subject, and I’m not qualified to rewrite any of it. I’ve included a good list of references below, and urge everyone who has questions to read as much as they can – until they get the answers.
The Other War By Thomas DiLorenzo
The Egregiously Destructive War on Drugs By Gennady Stolyarov II
Lies and Myths About Opiates by Randal Cousins