An article in Tuesday’s N&R opinion page reminded me of a topic I have been mauling over for some time now: drugs in America and what we have been doing wrong since President Nixon declared his War On Drugs in 1971. Yes, you youngsters out there, it certainly has been that long since our tax dollars been going to fighting the drug war all over the world and the battles just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger, with no let up in sight. The article compared the deaths in the Iraqi War that the public seems so up in arms about with the huge numbers of deaths from drugs in our nation during the same time period and wonders just where our priorities are. Well, it is not priorities, it’s memory. The War on Drugs is old news to the point that when drugs are mentioned most people just shake their head, frown and go on to the next topic unless their family or someone they know is affected. Well people, don’t look now, but EVERYONE is affected.
Society in the Caribbean Islands, that paradise just south of the United States, has been totally destroyed by the drug culture. Drugs have corrupted the governments and the police departments and the people. Especially the police departments have been corrupted because police officers are our first defense against drugs. They see and hear and know what is going down on the streets, and if they choose to look the other way then the defense is gone. And in the United States as in the Islands a police officer can make a half a years salary just by looking the other way one once. It is also a fact that Drugs and violence go hand in hand. Last year Jamaica, a favorite tourist destination for Americans, had 1300 murders in a population of only 3 million. Most of these murders were drug related.
Why am I telling you about the Caribbean Islands problem? Because it is our biggest problem too. Most of the drugs that enter the United States come thru the Islands first. The Caribbean Islands are like Greensboro, a handy crossroads for the drug traffickers.
Did I really say Greensboro and drugs in the same statement? Indeed I did. Greensboro has a large and growing drug problem. Greensboro’s location in the middle of the state where major interstate highways converge makes it the perfect point of delivery to all points in the north east and north central states. The drug culture is alive and well and very active in all parts of our society, but in Greensboro, like in all cities, it is the Black and Hispanic communities where the drug dealers are more likely to hide and operate and therefore it is in these same minority communities where the most violent drug related crimes take place. Greensboro has a large and growing minority community. And, I hate to think this, but it is a fact that drugs are seen as a minority problem. Perhaps that is the reason there is no great public outcry for more and better drug enforcement laws.
I am also afraid that the fact that most drug user are seen as being from the minority groups that the public can overlook the problem. This is not in fact the case. Drugs use pervades all social levels almost equally. The difference is one of money with which to procure the drugs. The better off can afford their habit and seldom get caught and prosecuted and sent to prison, whereas the less well off financially are often arrested for crimes to obtain money to feed their habit.
Which all brings me to my soap box: Why the War on Drugs is Failing!
It is so simple: dry up the market and you will dry up the supplies. The entire drug production system from the grower to the dealer on the street corner is in place because there is a market for their product. If there were no market there would be no profit and no production of the product. And yet for soon going on 40 years, and centuries before that, the user has taken the brunt of the punishment. It is insane!
Only a miserable 6% of the federal budget for the War on Drugs is marked for rehabilitation. While the hefty 94% is used to try to keep drugs out of the country and to go into other countries and spray the fields from the air killing not only the plants that produce drugs but everything else it touches.
Although I am against the all inclusive medical programs such as Medicare and the new Senior Drug Bill and would advocate a means based system instead, the treatment of mental health problems whether induced by drug abuse or some other source should be, I believe, entirely a state controlled and delivered system. These people need in-patient care, forced if necessary, and much, much attention if they are to succeed. First they must be gotten off of the dependence on drugs, and then they must be taught how to cope and stay off of drugs. AND THEN, after they are released they need more help in returning to the community and shaping a different life for themselves than the one they had previously. Perhaps some sort of groups homes with councilors available where recovering addicts can live while getting a job and a new life back. This last is all important. If this last is missing the person will go back to the friends and places he knows. The state is the only entity able to provided these kinds of services effectively at a cost we can afford with salaried personnel.
We in Greensboro did have a limited facility that was publicly operated, but it could only take patients for three days, which of course did nothing but get them off the street for a time. The counseling services however were deemed invaluable by people who used them. This was the RIGHT way to care for people with mental health problems, and merely needed to be expanded. Instead, the state with the federal governments direction has thrown these people out and onto the private (that is commercial) psychological services.
Private medical services are for profit people! Profit is their primary reason for being whether it is the family doctor, the local hospital or a mental health clinic; if it is privately owned and operated they must make a profit to stay in business. And in business time is money. It is therefore imperative that a psychologist see as many patients as possible in a day. A nurse friend who works in a private clinic in another state told me the patients are scheduled every 30 minutes no matter how much time they really need. Thirty minutes once a week and then put on drugs for the rest of the week is beyond insane, it is inhumane.
What then is the other method of controlling these mentally ill people; we put them in jail. Sheriff Barnes has again and again told us he would have no over crowded jail if it were not for the overwhelming number of drug addicts who are incarcerated. And, of course getting no help whatsoever. So instead of expanding a mental health clinic that was working we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars for a new jail where in Greensboro which will be overcrowded BEFORE it is finished.
What do you do? Just what do you do? Shake your head and walk away probably. Or, like me get on a soap box and make a lot of noise hoping some younger people will take up the baton and run with it because my running days are over. I can say with pride that many of the causes I worked with others to bring about have been successful. Small things like traffic lights on dangerous intersection, senior centers in communities where one was needed, van services to take needy elderly and disabled people where they needed to go, clinics in communities that had none and even getting corrupted elected officials out of office. And the big ones like Civil Rights for all men, women and children has been assured with laws and changing attitudes concerning the status of all people. Battered Women and Children now have shelters all across the nation where they are protected from abuse. There are even programs in force where families are moved and given a new identity to get them out of harms way. We still have far to go in both areas I admit, but we are on the right path. So you see it is possible to change laws and attitudes if you are persistent and dedicated. It has been done in the past. BB
http://www.dea.gov/pubs/states/northcarolina.html for facts on the increase of drugs sales and usage in North Carolina.