There is no doubt we have a problem in the United States. That problem is drugs. What would happen if we solved this single problem? The United States is one of the worst countries in the world as far as the drug crisis is concerned. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It affects all families regardless of income, social status or any other factor that people see as making them immune to the problem.
In the United States we spend in an average year more than 78 Billion dollars on drug related issues, healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement. The is overwhelming and in most American families an insurmountable expense. There is much research on how to fix the issue. But importantly, drugs are an economic issue.
To solve the problem, follow the money. We all know that the massive crisis we now face was largely precipitated by pharmaceutical companies and the bottom line. Once in active addiction, people are thrown off addictive substances and turn to illegal means to feed that illness. This in turn, as we know leads to a bevy of social problems and the ongoing expense to our country, states, communities and families. The massive amount of dollars flowing in and around the drug trade in the country is unacceptable.
My ideas, based on years of observation and research, on how to fix this issue are pretty simple.
- Stop the stigma. You can’t fix this monster creation when you affix blame to each person for their part in the creation. This problem was homegrown and is perpetuated by media, criminal justice and a lack of empathy for an individual’s circumstance.
- We are not at war with addicts. The goal is not to take every day people with addiction issues, lock them up and throw away the key. Fifty years of this mentality has led to the United States having the largest prison population in the world, and spending the most tax dollars on those efforts.
- We can’t continue to separate physical and mental health as two different species of healthcare. Taking care of physical health is viewed as noble and right, mental health is stigmatized and treated as a personal choice. WRONG.
- In Washington, write clear and purposeful legislation. Stop making ambiguous laws that are open to interpretation. You want to combat massive incarceration with the “First Step Act.” Exactly who does that apply to and when is is to be used. State that clearly so that those who should receive the benefit conceived by this act are the ones who do. Stop giving the prosecution and judges the ability to individually decide who they want to benefit.
- Be clear in your intent in adding programming that benefits inmates and helps them to return to their families and communities as productive members who’ve been able to get the help they need to lead a life of recovery. Are they to get time off the sentence or extra phone minutes. Don’t make stupid promises you have no intention of keeping.
- Stop letting organizers go who offer substantial government assistance. Why do they have the most information to offer? Because they are the ones who move into communities and recruit addicts to grow their own drug business. Why are you letting them off and jailing those same addicts for years and years? What do you think happens when you do this? They move to new communities and new addicted people and start all over again.
- Use the dollars you can save by decreasing the incarcerated population for recovery and treatment services. That seems like something any simple minded politician could figure out.
- Make addiction and mental health treatment a priority. Support the cost of that treatment for the generation of people we are losing to addiction every single day in this country. Bring these treatments into the criminal justice system. Make them the first step for every single person who is arrested for something related to addiction.
- Stop advertising your arrests. You perpetuate the stigma by putting names and faces in the media for others to bully and make into monsters. You are wrong. No one grows up wanting to be an addict and people don’t need to judge those who fall into that.
- Accept your responsibility for the monster you have created. This goes for all in Washington and to the companies who hid results and watched people die or be lost in this cycle with no way out.
- Try listening. Listen to what people say. Listen when someone has ideas that are different than yours. Try to make an effort to ensure government is working for you and not the ones who line their pockets. We hired them, if that’s how they want to do their job, they should be fired. From legislators, to any employee that steals money for you.
- Try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. How would you feel? What would you do?
We have lost the ability to practice any sort of compassion or empathy in this county. We have lost an entire population because of that. We can’t go back and change for some of those, but we sure can get off our ass and try to make a difference for the next ones. It’s time to start doing that. It’s time to reach out the those who can help to affect these changes.
Stop running on fast forward all the time, slow down, look around you. This place is bigger than our business and complaining about others is not making anything better. If you can’t be the change, sit back and shut up while I do it.