People who are addicted to drugs are human beings. These are humans who have been through trauma and are trying to cope. They aren't evil people just because they are using drugs. Sometimes people get addicted because they physically hurt themselves and had to use pain killers. Once they heal, they end up addicted to the pain killers and have to keep finding more. Sometimes it's not from a physical trauma. Sometimes people use drugs to cope with some kind of mental pain that might not be obvious to us from the outside. These people are going through something that we cannot understand. These people didn't choose to get addicted. These are our friends, our family, our lovers, our mentors, and people we love. They are good people who need help.
Drugs might turn a good person to doing things they wouldn't normally do. It's not because they are evil, it's because the drug has a physical hold of their body. It takes over their minds so that they only care about getting the drug again. They have to be in the mindset that they have to steal and cheat just to fulfill this craving. Some of the most amazing people I know have had their lives stolen from them just because they were trying to cope with some kind of trauma by using drugs.
These people need help.
They need to be treated with compassion. It seems as though our society just wants to treat these people like monsters who don't deserve a chance. It is easier just to lock them up than to get to the root of the problem. Do we really want to just punish people or do we want people to stop using drugs? If we really want addicts to quit, they need to be treated with respect.
When my best friend was on drugs, it was like her soul had left her body. A once lively, energetic, and loving person turned into someone I didn't recognize. She didn't lie and steal before she did drugs. The addiction took over and made her do things she wouldn't normally do.
She doesn't abuse drugs now and she is back to the person I remember her as. She has a great job, a great life, and she seems happy. Why is this? It is because she was treated with compassion when she was addicted. She was treated as a human being who needed help. She wasn't locked in a cage with violent criminals. She wasn't seen as a criminal or a bad person. She was given love. She was given space to express herself and take care of her mind, body, and soul. This is the real way to end addiction. People use drugs in the first place because something is wrong in their lives. They are just looking for support but they are looking in the wrong place when they use drugs.
We need to give them the support that they were lacking when they decided to use drugs in the first place.
I have used drugs in the past so why didn't I get addicted and abuse them? Perhaps if I had the same kind of trauma as someone who was addicted, I would be addicted too. Perhaps, if I had their same genetics and same experiences, I too would be seen as a criminal "druggie". Just because I didn't get addicted doesn't mean I'm just a good person. It just means it didn't effect me the same way that it effected someone else. Everyone is different, everything effects people differently.
What is addiction?
Being addicted to drugs means that you will physically get ill when you don't use them. This is obviously a health care problem and not a criminal problem.
Arresting people for using drugs is causing them to go back to drugs
Imagine you are a drug user who started using drugs as a way to cope with childhood trauma. You didn't mean to get addicted, you just wanted the pain to go away. You just wanted to escape from your own life just for awhile. Your mental anguish was making it hard to keep a job and you didn't have a support system of people to lift you up. You just wanted to forget about your problems and drugs was a way to do this.
Imagine you get arrested for putting drugs in your own body. You now have a criminal record. You get out of jail but now its even harder to find a job, no one wants to hire a felon. You have no choice to now sell drugs as a way just to put food in your belly.
They lock people up for coping with trauma and then they make your life harder, forcing you to go back to drugs. It is a vicious cycle that needs to end.
Fear of prosecution will keep people from seeking help
"When we criminalize drugs and drug users, we ensure that the context of drug use habitually turns the brain toward shame, illegality, secrecy, and depravity. Do you know what else drives relapse to drugs of abuse? Stress and social isolation. We reinforce jails. We reinforce drug dealers. We reinforce violence. We reinforce the associated contexts of every other criminal enterprise that accommodates drug use. We habitually recreate a tragedy where the so-called solution causes the problem." (Finkelstein. 2016)
Prohibition on something that is addictive, will never work
Alcohol prohibition didn't work so why would we think it would work for other drugs? We need to learn from history.
Why do people use drugs?
- They might get addicted to drugs after physical trauma by using pain killers
- Coping with childhood trauma
- Coping with sexual abuse
- Feeling hopeless and alone
- As a way to connect with other people
"More and more, we are understanding that children who are traumatized during their childhoods grow up to become adults who are at risk of mental and physical health problems. In fact, if you are an adult who was abused or neglected as a child, your chances of developing heart disease, of being obese, and of abusing substances is much greater than for a person who was not maltreated. Early trauma reverberates throughout our adolescent and adult years." (Ungar. 2012)
Rat Park Experiments
An experiment in the 70s called the Rat Park experiment, found that rats with a stimulating and social life were less likely to get addicted to drugs. Rats that were isolated from their peers and locked away in an unstimulating environment were more likely to seek drugs.
Using drugs is a way to cope with loneliness and isolation.
Portugal is proof that decriminalization will lower drug use
Portugal has shown that decriminalizing drugs has many benefits. Decriminalizing drugs means we are giving the person a chance to get help from a physical addiction. With decriminalization there are less deaths, less disease, and more people entering drug treatment. If its working in Portugal, we should give it a chance all over the world.
The War on Drugs: A Fourty Year Failure
The war on drugs has cost a Trillion dollars and thousands of lives over the past forty years. Yet drug use has stayed consistent and deaths from overdose are increasing. We gave the war on drugs a shot and obviously we can see that it is not working. I could understand how they might think that making stricter laws would cut back on drug use but all the evidence shows that it doesn't work. We have a heroin epidemic. We have ten of thousands of people dying from drug overdoses every year. Half of our prison population houses people with nonviolent drug charges. All of this is steadily increasing every year that we continue the war on drugs. We now have the data to show it is not working so it is time to try something new.
According to the Bureau of Prisons, there are 207,847 people incarcerated in federal prisons. Roughly half (48.6 percent) are in for drug offenses.
The war on drugs is a war on people.
It is a war on people with trauma.
It is a war on mental health.
"The Drug Policy Alliance envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, in which people are no longer punished for what they put into their own bodies but only for crimes committed against others, and in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more."
"In 2002, five police officers founded Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit composed of police and other criminal justice professionals dedicated to educating the public about the harms of drug prohibition. In January 2017, while reaffirming our commitment to ending the War on Drugs, LEAP became the Law Enforcement Action Partnership in order to advocate for solutions across a broader range of drug policy and criminal justice issues."
-Go to local city council meetings to voice your concerns
-Vote and get involved with local initiatives for safe injection sites and decriminalization
-Tell your story- remind people that addicts have a story behind their use
-Make blogs, videos, shout it from the roof tops!