Friday, July 26, 2013

The Impact of Drugs on Us

Next week I leave for New York. I have been asked to take part in some special training for a few Parent Support Network volunteers. I feel proud that I have been asked to take part in this program. I’ll give you all a complete report when I return.

I have been doing some thinking lately about the impact of drugs on our nation in a real life scenario. Truthfully, the more I think the more disturbed I become. However, I am beginning to understand more clearly our current national drug policy and beginning to realize why it isn’t working.

Feel free to disagree with me. I’m going to be sharing observations and self conclusions but most of all a bunch of opinions. I’d love to hear any dissenting opinions or observations you have noticed.

In no particular order are my thoughts based purely upon anecdotal evidence. I’m not going to dig up a bunch of empirical data and studies. (I’ve never been one to let facts confuse me or get in the way of my beliefs.  lol)

Friends and acquaintances in law enforcement tell me, with frustration, that probably 75% of their work involves people using or abusing drugs and alcohol. What impact on law enforcement would it have if there were suddenly no more issues with drugs and alcohol? Imagine 75% less law enforcement, 75% less attorneys, judges and courts. Imagine 75% less people in prison and 75% less prisons and correctional officers. Imagine 75% less parole officers and no drug testing centers. What happens when drugs are no longer smuggled into our country?

What happens to the DEA and all of the other alphabet soup federal agencies devoted to drug and alcohol interdiction, regulation and prosecution? How dependent has our nation become upon the tax monies brought in by the sale alcohol and drugs? What about all the monies we give to other nations to help extinguish the supply of drugs to our addicts, how much do we save?

With 75% less crime would we feel security systems and monitoring companies in our homes were a requirement along with security bars on our windows? How much less would our home insurance cost?

Without drug and alcohol issues what happens to the recovery community and recovery industry? How many less hospitals would be required? I know a person that is an ICU nurse that says at least half of her patients are overdose related. How many less prescription medications would be produced if they were only used for legitimate purposes? How far down could we drive health care costs?

With no driving while impaired or under the influence how many less automobile accidents would happen? How much less would our car insurance cost? How many less body shops and auto repair centers would be required?

I’ve always been told that when you see something that doesn’t make sense to “FOLLOW THE MONEY”. If that cliché has any validity what does our current methodology for dealing with drug and alcohol issues in our nation say to you and me? Are we so vested in our current system and war on drugs that it becomes impossible to seek other strategies in working the problem? Are there sectors of our economy so dependent on our war on drugs and war on drug addicts that it is in their vested interest to maintain our current failing system? Is that what makes it so hard to explore other trains of thought besides legal versus illegal?

There are a whole lot of questions here, not many answers. All I know is from my experiences what we are doing now isn’t working well. We can’t throw out an entire system without something else in place and it is impossible to turn this ship on a dime. Maybe it’s time for a bunch of people a whole lot smarter than I to take the helm.

This is a problem that affects us all no matter if you are a parent of an addict or someone that is lucky enough not to have this monster visit your family or friends. This is a problem that is so devastating on the personal level it is nearly impossible to view it in a holistic manner. The tentacles are too large and touch too much.

All I know for sure is that as long as addiction and alcoholism is stigmatized and shamed in the manner it is now we will be in lockstep to the methodology currently employed to battle these monsters. 

What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Dear Ron,
I wish that I knew the answer to the questions you raise. Like you, I know that our society's responses and treatments of addiction are not working. To throw an addict into our justice system is a crapshoot as far as the outcome goes. Likewise, our commonly accepted treatments (such as AA, rehab or psychotherapy) have limited success. Sometimes they work and very often, they don't. I'm sure that you can hear my deep frustration. You used the word, "devastating", to describe addiction. That has been my experience too.


Addiction-A Mothers Perspective said...

I'm so glad that your were chosen for the Parent Support Network training. You are a perfect choice. The things you wrote about the war on drugs is definitely food for thought. I had never really thought about the money aspect of the drug war. I agree that the enormity of the problem is disturbing, and the fact that there are no easy answers just compounds the problem. It's all so frustrating. I hope the training goes well, and I look forward to reading about what you learned.

2hope4 said...

thank you for continued support. I reread and reread your blog; it gives sooooo much hope.

Dad and Mom said...

2hope4, thank you so much.

Bristolvol said...

Have a safe trip! When my daughter was in jail, the warden told me once on a visit that 95 % + of the women are in here on some drug related charge, whether it is possession, distribution, theft, DUI, etc....

Jim said...

Hi Ron,

As the father of a son addicted to heroin, I have followed your blog for some time. The pain of addiction on the addict, their loved ones and society is immeasurable. As a country, our current drug policies are clearly insufficient. My son's addiction has caused him to be cycled through our judicial system over and over. There has to be a better way to address the overwhelming core issue plaguing our country. I find it particularly interesting that our medical community has recognized drug addiction as a disease....and yet our criminal system deal with it as a crime.

Here in California, last year the amount budgeted for corrections surpassed that earmarked for higher education. (The cost of incarcerating one person for a year costs tens of thousands of dollars, exceeding the costs of some of our most elite universities!)

If we’re trying to reduce overall levels of victimization, it seems like you’d want to do something that makes it less likely that people are going to continue being cycled through jail/prison system. Society is going to incur the cost of drug addiction one way or another. It makes sense to change what isn't working and to spend more on rehabilitation than incarceration.

Where does it end. Time will only tell but clearly our criminal justice system, with respect to drugs, is broken. Perhaps it is time we look to some of the European models of decriminalization of drug use (such as the Netherlands) where they have stabilized the increase of heroin use. Controversial doubt, but if we can't recognized the inefficiencies in our own system, drug use and the its impact to our society will continue to worsen.


Brandon said...

Hello Ron,

It's my 3rd visit here. I'm lucky enough not to be a father of an addict but I am once an addict my self. It's hard to change the system we already have to fight drugs in our Country but the best way at least to prevent our kids from using drugs is proper education, guidance and support. I think it is not enough to just tell them to avoid drugs. We need to be always be there for them so that they won't resort into these things.

Ming said...

Oh, like so many others, my son's addiction to heroin certainly is devastating on the entire circle of family. You are so on point when you say the justice system is broken... BADLY broken when it comes to addicts. Instead of jailing these people, they need a comprehensive statewide (meaning costs rest with the states, not federal government) rehabilitation program. My son is now doing yet another stint in the local prison/jail due to his addiction. He wasn't properly rehabbed on any of his previous rounds through the juducial system nor do I think he'll get the treatment and rehabilitation he needs this time around.

There is so much inefficiency within the prison system too. Not only are these addicts being placed in the incorrect type of places, the places in which they are being locked up in are so inefficiently run that our tax dollars are totally being wasted.

I hate that I have been brought into such a horrific world through no fault of my own execpt that my youngest of four children decided one day to shoot up heroin.

And that folks... well that sucks!

Good luck and thanks for appearing and telling a side of the story that never gets told.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Thank you for your thoughts. I have thouht this many many times. I heard somone addressing the problem once, stating, it is time to start treating it as a disease, not as just a criminal . The jail sentences are ineffective. They are working on the medical aspect of sddictions but it does not seem to be a popular" disease to invest a lot of money and research into. The impact on society if we could get a handle on the addiction problems would be phenominal!!!!

Her Big Sad said...

There is a facebook page called The Addict's Mom that posted this today, and I found it interesting, to say the least.


In 20 years since the first Drug Court was founded, there has been more research published on the effects of Drug Courts than on virtually all other criminal justice programs combined.

The scientific community has put Drug Courts under a microscope and concluded that Drug Courts work. Better than jail or prison. Better than probation and treatment alone. Drug Courts significantly reduce drug use and crime and are more cost-effective than any other proven criminal justice strategy.

+ Drug Courts Reduce Crime
• FACT: Nationwide, 75% of Drug Court graduates remain arrest-free at least two years after leaving the program.
• FACT: Rigorous studies examining long-term outcomes of individual Drug Courts have found that reductions in crime last at least 3 years and can endure for over 14 years.
• FACT: The most rigorous and conservative scientific “meta-analyses” have all concluded that Drug Courts significantly reduce crime as much as 45 percent more than other sentencing options.

+ Drug Courts Save Money
• FACT: Nationwide, for every $1.00 invested in Drug Court, taxpayers save as much as $3.36 in avoided criminal justice costs alone.
• FACT: When considering other cost offsets such as savings from reduced victimization and healthcare service utilization, studies have shown benefits range up to $27 for every $1 invested.
• FACT: Drug Courts produce cost savings ranging from $3,000 to $13,000 per client. These cost savings reflect reduced prison costs, reduced revolving-door arrests and trials, and reduced victimization.
• FACT: In 2007, for every Federal dollar invested in Drug Court, $9.00 was leveraged in state funding.

+ Drug Courts Ensure Compliance
• FACT: Unless substance abusing/addicted offenders are regularly supervised by a judge and held accountable, 70% drop out of treatment prematurely.
• FACT: Drug Courts provide more comprehensive and closer supervision than other community-based supervision programs.
• FACT: Drug Courts are six times more likely to keep offenders in treatment long enough for them to get better.

+ Drug Courts Combat meth addiction
• FACT: For methamphetamine-addicted people, Drug Courts increase treatment program graduation rates by nearly 80%.
• FACT: When compared to eight other programs, Drug Courts quadrupled the length of abstinence from methamphetamine.
• FACT: Drug Courts reduce methamphetamine use by more than 50% compared to outpatient treatment alone.

+ Drug Courts Restore Families
• FACT: Parents in Family Drug Court are twice as likely to go to treatment and complete it.
• FACT: Children of Family Drug Court participants spend significantly less time in out-of-home placements such as foster care.
• FACT: Family re-unification rates are 50% higher for Family Drug Court participants.

Ron, I can't vouch for the accuracy - but it is thought provoking.

Send good thoughts my daughter's way - she is not doing well.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your blog, and you are right, what are the answers. we can only pray

Syd said...

Ron, these are excellent questions. And the idea of following the money is huge. Drugs are big business for the bottom feeders in which I would include rehabs and attorneys as well as the drug cartels. Soon, the world will be filled with walking zombies who are zoned on drugs. No answers but perhaps if drug use is predicated on genetics as well as those mental and learning disabilities, then there might be hope for a "cure". I see it as the great "plague" of the world right now.

Dad and Mom said...

I do not allow commercial comments on this blog simply to advertise your business.

Beth Brand said...

I know that if drugs had not been so illegal, I would have reached out for help for my husband (and our family) much sooner.

AddictionMyth said...

Drugs are big business, no doubt about it. The Obama admin's recent attempt to decrease prison sentencing is a step in the right direction. Drugs should be decriminalized (though not necessarily legalized.)

But drugs don't cause crime, although they are often used as a tool for it. If a criminal wants money, he may decide to rob a liquor store. Before entering, he takes meth to screw up his courage. Later he may claim to be an 'addict' but this is doubtful. Not everyone who does drugs is an addict, and people like this have a long history of criminality and other sociopathic tendencies from before they ever started using drugs. Getting rid of drugs or even addiction will stop some crime but not much. People will still rob.

But in my opinion, the treatment industry with the help of 12 Step organizations (like AA/NA) are actually the real culprits here, by propagating the Myth of Addiction. Currently the main treatment for addiction is to admit that you are 'powerless', and then you have to find a god and pray to it to remove your cravings. This has the perverse effect on young people of exacerbating the addiction because they have little interest in spirituality, and much more interest in other things, like sex, fun, and drama. So it can takes years before they finally grow up, if they survive.

Then there spring up alternate treatment methods, like SMART or CRAFT. But these really are little more than AA deprogramming operations, in my opinion.