As parents of addicts we all understand the symptoms and consequences of addiction. We see our children involved in illegal activity and then ultimately prosecution for the crimes they commit. It is easy for us to see and understand the symptoms of this disease and recognize what is happening with our addicted loved ones. These thoughts are not about prosecution for crimes. There are consequences to ones actions. Fitting the consequences to the actions is another article for another day.
My point today is about persecution versus prosecution.
It is easy to marginalize someone or a group when they don't fit into our view of the world and how it should be. Most of us can relate to persecution when we think about racial, religious or persecution of peoples with different backgrounds. History is full of examples that we remember or learned about in school. In hindsight, we all wonder how did so many people allow this happen to so many people?
Addiction is an epidemic in our nation and the world. A recent study estimates that over 10% of the US population is involved in addiction in some way, either active or recovery, that is over 30 million people! My point is not to argue the numbers, my point is that it is a real problem and it's not getting fixed doing what we are doing today.
Not so long ago I remember as a nation we persecuted people in this nation because they contracted a disease. In the 1980's we became aware of people with a disease and the lack of understanding of that disease lead us to persecute a massive group of people. What did we think in the '80's when we saw letters strung together, HIV+ and AIDS. Does the name Ryan White ring a bell? We persecuted the person instead of dealing with the disease.
I feel this is where we are today with addiction. Too many people are feel more comfortable with persecuting the person versus understanding the disease.
There has been progress in treatment for HIV+ and AIDS. There still is no cure or vaccine but no one can argue that there has not been serious inroads into treatment for these diseases.
Research and treatment for addiction is painfully slow. For a while we have had a chemical treatment, methadone. More recently there have been other chemical treatments such as Suboxone. There have been many alternative behavior modification models developed. Separately, in the 1930's the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step model was designed and has helped millions of people with alcoholism. AA has proven to be the most successful model to help alcoholics worldwide. NA, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon all adapted from AA likewise has helped millions. In my opinion even with all of this we are not where we need to be.
Until there is a more enlightened and educated population I believe we as a nation will continue to struggle with the epidemic of addiction.
Persecution of the addicted will not cure the disease of addiction.