Contributed by John Green
Why can’t you just quit?! You’re going to die! - So many of us have said those words thousands of times to a person we love. But, the truth about the addicted mind and how it has been reprogrammed by the drug and the power it has taken over rational thought for the user, is that even death, fear of dying or being punished and going to jail is muted by the fear of the torture from withdrawal. That is the scary truth.
The death merchants and profiteers that manufacture, smuggle and market illicit drugs make it their business to understand what drives their market, how to expand it and all factors that help them become more effective, efficient and profitable while increasing their market share without any concern for their collateral damage. You can be sure that the drug lords make it a priority to understand addiction better than anyone.
If we were able to set aside our judgment and stigma, and make the effort to understand addiction with the same zeal as them, and make available the detox, recovery and rehabilitation services in real time, in those fleeting moments when an addict has that moment of clarity wanting to change, we would be light years ahead of where we are now controlling this epidemic, its causes, consequences and its solutions. Until we do, the death merchants, profiteers and marketers (dealers) will defeat us in our own home and continue to kill our children at every turn, while we point fingers in the opposite direction and condemn the afflicted and their families.
- Prevention- “No more customers!”- Gov. Bill Walker. Prevention should be our priority. The message needs to be delivered by those that have been there. Not as a scare tactic, but as truth. Truth about what addiction is, its consequences and what withdrawal really means. Definitely not a vanilla, “Just Say No” campaign. We need to educate the 80 year old as well as the 8 year old. As well as understanding and reacting appropriately to the drivers of illicit behavior, including mental health issues and traumas. Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, told me once, “It is not the message, but the right messenger, that will have the best result in getting the point across”.
- Detox/Rehabilitation Services- Everyone and every community needs to support and encourage a recovery ready community. This includes safe detox and other immediate services for those who are reaching out for help, and should also support job placement, housing and transportation services. If you ain’t got no job, a way to get there, nowhere to live and no support system once you’re on the road to recovery, it won’t be long before you find yourself in the same ditch you were once in. The earlier someone can get into recovery, in most cases, greatly improves their odds of staying in long term recovery and giving back to their community.
- Safe Jail Detox with Dignity and Recovery Programs Beginning in Pretrial Facilities- One of the main problems with drug treatment in our facilities is that “Treatment is not offered soon enough.” Pretrial and local jails don’t offer treatment, so inmates have to wait until they are in prison, before they are considered for treatment. “For some inmates, though, it’s a much longer wait than that.” Why?
If we don’t have the resources for recovery before someone commits a crime and we are going to jail mostly those with substance issues, it makes sense that we would then use that time served to provide the pathways that would lead an inmate to becoming a better citizen for them that want to change, and ultimately safer communities. I can tell you with 100% certainty that those conversations about how to change are happening behind the walls. The current problem is that there are no real pathways or programs when those discussions take place. Or the public support for them. Everyone wants their pound of flesh. I get that. But, punishment without the tools for change, changes nothing.
- Complacency and Compassion Fatigue- The drug merchants are counting on this happening to you. It’s good for business.
- While addiction may have started with a choice, once addicted, it is a disease. Period. The science is there. Any other thought is just an uninformed opinion that perpetuates stigma and the inability to solve the problem.
It’s by our own ignorance and stubbornness to accept the truths about this disease, that allows this epidemic to keep killing our children. Over 72,000 dead in 2017. At some point OUR choice in how we deal with this tragedy and everything that goes with it is the only choice we should be talking about.