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We need to act to solve addiction problem

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:40 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Have we arrived at the dawn of the 21st century having become a nation of addicts?

I don't know about you, but I find it less significant that the number of black Americans doing time in state prisons for drug offenses has fallen and the number of white Americans who are doing time for the same crime has increased, than the fact that that there are more than 180,000 Americans in jail because of drug-related offenses. Drug offenders, we are told, make up a quarter of the total prison population.

This new information about the prison population is based on a report by the Sentencing Project, which was based on data compiled by federal Bureau of Justice Statistics that covered six years and ended in 2005.

When we couple those numbers with the fact that we are said to be the richest, most technologically advanced country on the globe, it seems that we didn't get something right. Most of us have always been led to believe that being smart and having money were goals worth striving for, so does this mean that our attempt to gain these advantages has left us so stressed out and emotionally drained that we don't get to enjoy the rewards we have earned?

One of the worst habits we have acquired as a government is that we tend to allow things that are harmful to society to get out of hand before we make an effort to curtail them. Sometimes this is because we are reluctant — and rightly so — to interfere with individual liberties.

Our failure to act can often, though, be laid at the feet of the members of the two-party system who tend to weigh their attitudes about solutions to problems on whether or not they are favored by the other party. By batting the problem around for a year or two, we find we have lost control.

The so-called War on Drugs was lost years ago not just because of the number of individuals who get hooked on them every year, but by the fact that new drugs continue to come on the market every year or so. Drug use was already out of hand in the 1960s.

As a society, we have to begin to look at our lifestyles and find ways to reduce the stress and strains because they are evidently taking their toll on all of us. Those of us who are not drug users ultimately find ourselves paying the cost of Social Security Disability payments for those whose mental or physical health has deteriorated from use of drugs and alcohol.

We need to identify the elements in our daily lives that cause us to escape the pain and agony that we feel we must endure. In the past, the labor movement and others have addressed the workday to alleviate some of the stress of long hours on the job. They have established the five-day workweek, the eight-hour workday, and the morning and afternoon coffee break. Some workplaces have added exercise rooms and equipment to help relieve the pressure of the work environment.

Most individuals take responsibility for finding ways to reduce the stress in their own lives by taking on hobbies, participating in sports or finding some other outlet to counter the anxiety in their lives. But some people look for easy fixes for whatever ails them and if they can't find one in their medicine cabinet, then they look elsewhere.

The number of prisoners confined for drug offenses certainly does not represent the entire drug-using population in the United States. According to the 2006 National Household Survey on Drug Use, 12 million Americans age 12 and older said they had used drugs at least once in their lifetime and 15 percent admitted they had used drugs within the past year. Some individuals feel that decriminalizing the sale and use of drugs will free up law enforcement officers to pursue those involved in violent crimes and ease the overflow in prison detainment.

Personally, I disagree and feel that decriminalization will only add to the problem by creating more dependency on institutional health care to deal with the situation. Furthermore, I think, the free access to drugs would encourage more children to participate in drug activity. I think the answer lies in sociological studies to find out why we have such a compelling need to break the law and risk losing everything for the sake of a few minutes of feel-good.

If we seriously intend to solve the drug problem in this country we are going to have to start behaving like grown-ups and face the fact that many of these addicts are members of our own families and some of our close friends. I suspect that we haven't succeeded simply because we don't want to look the problem in the eye and move on it. Time is not on our side. We need to act.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.

 


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Comments

Ayn Rand April 28, 2009 | 6:53 a.m.

"Those of us who are not drug users ultimately find ourselves paying the cost of Social Security Disability payments for those whose mental or physical health has deteriorated from use of drugs and alcohol."

They shouldn't be receiving those payments. Cut them off.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 28, 2009 | 7:34 a.m.

All drugs and or alcohol addictions are is a way to self medicate from the underlying symptoms of the Mental Illness itself.

Correct the two above do not help one bit but all they do is provide a way to self medicate due to the ongoing discriminatory stigmas in this entire society that if you suffer or were born with a Mental Illness of any kind that it makes you less of a human being.

I think the lesser human beings are those who have forgotten their humanity or are just Atheistic by nature.

Those are the types most dangerous to society as a whole.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand April 28, 2009 | 8:29 a.m.

The lesser human beings are those who choose drugs for whatever reason and then become burdens to society.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 28, 2009 | 9:40 a.m.

Ayn Rand if society and the traditional family unit actually took care of their own as they claim to alot of people in this society who turn to drugs as a way to self medicate would not have to do as such.

Once again we take this issue as others back into the base of existence it belongs and that is rightly traced back once again into the home and the parental upbringing.

Deny it if you want that is your choice in life.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand April 28, 2009 | 11:43 a.m.

As in, children of drug and alcohol addicts have a high chance of ending up the same way -- which is why programs such as Pathways have patients draw their family trees -- so they shouldn't be reproducing.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 28, 2009 | 2:09 p.m.

Ayn Rand why do you remind me so much of Hitler and his quest for the perfect race at the expense of eliminating all others who did not fit his idealism.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 28, 2009 | 2:30 p.m.

Wow Chuck, I'm invoking Godwin's Law now.

(Report Comment)
KEN GERINGER April 28, 2009 | 2:37 p.m.

Once again we take this issue as others back into the base of existence it belongs and that is rightly traced back once again into the home and the parental upbringing.

What does this mean?

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich April 28, 2009 | 2:49 p.m.

"Furthermore, I think, the free access to drugs would encourage more children to participate in drug activity."

So why do the Netherlands (where a section of Amsterdam allows the regulated sale and consumption of marijuana) have a lower rate of drug usage than our country? Half of our country's rate, actually.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich April 28, 2009 | 2:57 p.m.

Really, none of your reasoning for decriminalization is sound, Rose. "Free" access to drugs would get more kids hooked? Who said anything about free access? Do kids have free access to alcohol? Can they get a free pack of cigarettes?

" I think the answer lies in sociological studies to find out why we have such a compelling need to break the law and risk losing everything for the sake of a few minutes of feel-good."

Don't you think you're unnecessarily simplifying and lumping all drug users into a single group? Regardless of how stupid of a generalization that was (edit me if you want, editors, that WAS a stupid statement by any definition of the word) do you think there haven't been studies on this topic? Just because the author was too lazy to look up any studies on this issue, doesn't mean such a ridiculous rationale against decriminalization should have been included in the article?

Also, if the author could link to any studies that say that decriminalizing certain drugs would lead to "more dependency on institutional health care to deal with the situation" (what situation, again?), then I will appreciate it! Thanks, Missourian!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 28, 2009 | 3:04 p.m.

Portugal's decriminalization of personal drug usage in 2001 also saw significant declines in drug use, deaths due to overdose, and HIV infections:

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/...

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 28, 2009 | 3:13 p.m.

KEN GERINGER because all of these domestic issues discussed across these subjects have a commonality factor.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich April 30, 2009 | 2:15 p.m.

"Also, if the author could link to any studies that say that decriminalizing certain drugs would lead to "more dependency on institutional health care to deal with the situation" (what situation, again?), then I will appreciate it! Thanks, Missourian!"

So no studies linked yet? Encouraging communication between readers and writers as usual, Missourian.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 30, 2009 | 2:57 p.m.

Rose M. Nolan:
Go to this site and check out "Bullets for my Beast Brain."
http://www.rational.org/html_public_area...

(Report Comment)

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