Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 900-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 30th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Lost War

Since I was a teenager in the sixties I've been hearing about the "war on drugs."

Countless politicians have been elected because they promised to "do something" to rid our communities of this plague.

Some work to pass tough new laws. Maybe strengthen the borders.  Some are so radical as to suggest funding treatment, which most addicts can't afford even if it is available. During the so-called  "opioid crisis," the president even suggested executing drug dealers as they do in Singapore.

But so far, nothing stops - or even slows down - drug availability. If you have a few dollars you can go in almost any direction in our country and find your drug of choice in a short time. Young, old, rich or poor it's pretty easy to get high in our country.

But if spending millions on drug enforcement, courts and prisons don't work what will?

At this point in history, no one knows for sure.  The only thing we do know is what doesn't work.  And radical, expensive enforcement has just burned piles of money over the years to no effect.  A huge amount of resources are wasted on a giant drug enforcement bureaucracy that is the definition of impotence. Yet we keep spending and supporting insane policies because we're afraid to take risks that might solve - at least partially - the problems of addiction.

My suggestion would be to focus our attention and our billions on all-out treatment and drug education initiatives that would dwarf what we're doing today.  Education starting in early childhood as part of school curriculums and mandatory treatment for drug offenders at their first encounter with the justice system.

If we stopped viewing drug use as a moral failure rather than the disease that it is we might have a different outcome.  Addiction is bad, but so is cancer and heart disease.  The difference is that we don't treat those with other diseases as morally corrupt.

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