The Drug Holocaust 2
A year ago I tried to make the argument that the attempts to control the supply of illegal intoxicants led primarily by the U.S. Government for the last 100 years has been incorrectly characterized as a "drug war" and should and perhaps someday will more accurately be characterized as an "addict holocaust." After all doesn't a war require that both sides fight to some extent? The war on drugs while sold as a war on suppliers has been a war on minorities and on the poor. While pictures of sad and unkempt dealers on the news followed by pictures of cellophane wrapped products sitting on a table with uniformed law enforcement standing at attention behind continue to be commonplace we never see videos of captured cops standing next to armed addicts being forced to read a manifesto denouncing their role in the war. It is the government that attacks and the poor who suffer, the poor and addicted who suffer most of all. Sometimes it seems like we are finally ready to try something else. There are programs popping up here and there attempting to replace the ineffective punitive models of the past and present that were effective enough to lead us to what might be the worst addiction epidemic ever. Everyone knows that heroin use has increased dramatically but few know so has alcohol use as has death from alcohol related diseases. Hard to blame that on pain pills. But even as these new encouraging models appear the dehumanizing effects of the old (and current) way are so powerful that progress may be impossible.
Consider this headline from npr.com
Doctors Consider Ethics Of Costly Heart Surgery For People Addicted To Opioids
You may have to cut and paste the link to read the article and if that doesn't work there's a link to it on the Grey's Recovery Facebook page.
The article is not as terrible as the headline makes it sound. The ethical guidelines discussed are more about connecting a patient with drug treatment than leaving them to die because they continue to shoot heroin.
"Daly says that the guidelines are not some kind of moral test. Instead, they are meant to help doctors connect patients with a primary care physician or set them up with addiction counseling."
"This is not the patient proving to the medical team that they are worthy of a new valve, that they are worthy of the surgery," Daly says. "We wanted to make sure that that could not happen."
But it could happen. It does happen, it will continue to happen. For those of you working in the field ask your clients what their last emergency room visit was like. If you work in a traditional abstinence based program the treatment your clients receive will shock you. If you work in a methadone clinic you will be appalled. See you can't wage a war on a substance. A substance can't be your enemy. You can only wage a war on the people who use that substance and the enemy in any war must be less than human.
Why isn't the answer to the question "How many times should you replace the same heart valve?" as simple as saying "as many times as you can"? Why isn't a cheaper more effective solution to the problem even discussed? The cardiac problems of IV opiate users aren't caused by the drug they are caused by the "war" on the drug. Impure products and dirty needles cause the infections mentioned in the article. A cheap solution that would be more effective than any surgery would be to make needles free and easily accessible and to provide a safe supply of opiates.
The new administration has made it clear that not only do they plan to continue the failure of the drug Holocaust and plan to make matters worse by resuming the prosecution of cannabis users. I expect minimal resistance by those affected with the addiction disorder as the sit in the recovery group I run and argue for even harsher drug policy. The holocaust has not only devastated individuals, families, and communities across the globe, it has produced Hitler's willing executed and the end no longer appears to be in sight.