We must declare a war on addiction



New York state is not alone in its drug inundation. We’ve all been watching the heroin scourge threatening to drown us just as surely as the rising water levels in our oceans threaten the same thing.

We really don’t understand why our children too often turn to drugs. I recently went to an emergency room where a staff member told me that they could hardly keep up with all the young people coming to the facility, some of whom could hardly be understood, so slurred and incomprehensible was their speech.

The politicians hardly know what to do about the problem. One simple answer for so many of them is to call for the availability of Narcan for those who overdose. That, of course, is important but it is just treating the symptoms. It hardly gets to the problem. It’s important but it doesn’t help me understand why any thinking person, clearly having been warned about the consequences of heroin addiction, would put that stuff in their bodies. Obviously, many of them are in great mental or physical pain. Many feel hopeless. They have no hope for jobs or advanced education or even for places to go in their daily lives. So, they turn to drugs.

Many experts insist that instead of criminalizing addiction, it should be treated like any other health problem. Of course, that may be true, but all too often, members of the patient population have themselves become part of the criminal enterprise. That’s why so many end up in prison. Of course, law enforcement should certainly be doing everything in its power to incarcerate the thugs who earn their criminal livelihood on the backs of others’ suffering.

Unfortunately there is so much money in drugs that the temptations are tremendous for all the players in and around the system. It only takes a few bad apples in law enforcement to make it easy for criminals. The people at the top of the heap are murdering scoundrels who care little about the misery they spread. Their leaders in the Mexican cartel are often lionized as folk heroes and Robin Hood-type figures. Tell that to a family who has lost someone to a drug overdose. Believe me, these are really bad people.

We know that the new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has followed the old Chinese system that developed when that society was confronted by opium addiction. The Chinese were alleged to have put an end to drug dealing by killing people who were addicted. Duterte has been quite clear that his is a war on drug pushers and a lot of them have been ending up dead.

It is doubtful that we will do the same thing but going hard on the dealers is exactly what we should be doing since this stuff is poison. Both Governor Rockefeller and Mayor John V. Lindsay tried the medical model during their terms and it didn’t seem to work. That’s when Rockefeller came up with the onerous Rockefeller Drug Laws which put a lot of people in prison where they did not belong. President Obama seems to be sending a message by commuting the sentences of many people who were incarcerated in federal prisons for drug related crimes. We’ve tried methadone and other such strategies but they don’t seem to have made much of a difference either.

Sadly, we really don’t know how to put a stop to the nation’s drug epidemic. I resort to the cliché that we can send people on the moon but we really are nowhere when it comes to this. We must declare a major war on addiction and spend a lot of money to cure the problem. Our scientists need to create chemical solutions lest we leave whole generations without any hope at all. We can do it, but we need to get going now. Too much is at stake.