I am in the process of articulating a clear philosophy about addiction and its causes and cures. This is a first draft of that philosophy.
1. People take drugs for a variety of reasons — especially to feel or function better. So many Americans (more than half) use legal or illegal drugs that drug use is now the norm.
2. The medical society (not the legal system) should be the first responders for those who overuse or get in trouble with alcohol and other drugs. Medical care, not punishment, is needed.
3. Earlier and better care and earlier — and better education — is needed. Useful education, not just warnings, and not punishment, will help drug users make better-informed and safer decisions about their use of drugs. Better care includes recognizing and responding to the brain health needs of our citizens.
4. The explosion of drug use, which started in the 1950’s and blossomed in the 1960’s, reflects societal angst and biopsychosocial needs. When human needs are met, drug use decreases. A reduction of drug use will only happen when our citizens are happier and feel more secure.
5. Not just dealers make money off of drug users. Pharmaceutical companies promote drug use and make billions, as does the liquor industry. Many others owe their living to drug users, especially within the legal and forensic systems, including judges, lawyers, parole officers, privately owned prisons... The same goes for treatment centers.
6. The War on Drugs is a misnomer; it should be called “The War on Drug Users” because it is a war on half of American citizens. War is an alienating activity. It requires making some group the enemy — in this case drug users. We alienate drug users by labeling them as criminals and putting them in a cruel and unusual environment called prison. Prison is a highly stressful environment that causes PTSD and teaches anti-social behaviors. Prison sentences for drug use damages not just individuals but families and communities. Racism is often an element in who gets punished for drug use.
7. There is evidence that a stressful infancy or childhood creates changes in the brain that predisposes many to drug addiction and other diseases. Unless basic societal changes are made — including redistribution of wealth, access to education, meaningful employment, recreation, and safety — we will continue to have rampant drug problems throughout society.