I had a harsh run-in today with an ex friend. I love this friend dearly, and we were inseparably close. I lost touch and fucked things up, and she logically moved on. She laid into me about drugs and the person I’ve become. There was nothing I could say in defense.
A note was left on my car a few days ago saying something to the extent of “death to junkies.” It indicated that I should consider a new career path of going to Iraq to be target practice for soldiers. I don’t know who left it.
I’ve encountered harsh judgment from a lot of people. The above Iraq comment is used frequently with reference to drug users. Another common one is that we should be sent to the Middle East to be blown up by terrorists in an attempt to appease their call for blood. I would never move to argue with anyone about the complete worthlessness of my role in humanity. If the military accepted enrollment of junkies to better serve troops in target practice, I might consider it, if I weren’t inclined toward pacifism. However, the more I get familiarized with the world of drugs, the more I see that the true targets should be the distributors, not the users. It’s not an attempt to shift blame for the problem from myself. Most days I feel the weight of the entire drug problem on my shoulders. However, chasing down users and throwing them in jail does little to solve the problem because it’s not a deterrent, and in fact, it plays a hand in inflaming the problem on a societal level (think taxes, overcrowded jails, the propensity for nonviolent criminals to become more rebellious upon serving time). The farther up the chain the problem is targeted, the more effective the solution will be.
According to the Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics for 2003 (the most recent year I had) for dispositions conducted by U.S. attorneys, the total number of suspects for all offenses totaled 128,518. Of those, drug offenses made up the largest single bracket by far at 28,537. This included all drug offenses, including marijuana. Drug offenses had the highest percentage of prosecution (82.2%). In contrast, the prosecution rate was 72.8% for weapons offenses, 61.3% for violent offenses, and 60% for property offenses. The average rate of prosecution for all offenses was 62.3%, so the rate for drug prosecutions of 82.2% is disproportionate.
I always assumed the consumer creates the need and the supplier fulfills it. Therefore, eliminate the demand, and you eliminate the supply. It would just dry up. However, a friend recently offered a differing viewpoint that maybe it’s the suppliers who create the need, and the consumers who fulfill it. It’s food for thought. China’s history is a case in point. Certain illicit drugs are destructive enough that they cannot seem to be handled by any society no matter what. Opium and its derivatives seem to be one such group of drugs. China fought wars to keep opium out, but perhaps the richest and most aggressive drug cartel of all time– the British Empire– defeated them and overtook Hong Kong to keep the opium flowing. Over 25% of China’s adult male population subsequently became addicted. Had the Empire chosen to push their booming campaign on a different nation, what would have stopped the outcome from being any different?
Like most other social issues, this problem is best analyzed from a host of angles to arrive at the most effective solution. Different individuals or groups will try to cook the problem down to one specific origin, which is effective in the same way that a bipartisan system is effective in politics to ensure that the scales never tip too far in any one direction. Blame can be attributed to individual choice, genetic propensity, societal disadvantages, institutionalized inequality, or a host of other views. Like most things, the truth is often somewhere in the middle, or an amalgam of all viewpoints. Prevailing winds carry social attitudes. Right now, I think the perception of drug use is in a fascinating transition from individual weakness to a certifiable disease. The DSM-IV classifies drug addiction as a treatable disease. The medical field is heading such a viewpoint, and society seems to be sluggishly embracing it. It matters because the question of who or what is responsible dictates how the problem is approached and solutions are pursued. So far, the “war on drugs” has had no qualms about heavily targeting the lowest bottomfeeders– the addicts who use but don’t sell– along with the rest of the drug chain. It has been largely ineffective, and has caused collateral damage at all levels of society. As one of those bottomfeeders, I can practically vouch that stopping me will not go far in taking a sizeable chunk out of the problem, but it will go far in burning taxpayer dollars and tying up governmental resources better spent stopping my supplier, or those who supply him.
I was friends with my dealer long before I started using. I don’t blame him for my choices, and I have a hard time judging him when it’s my arm his product goes into, but he’s an exceptionally destructive person toward individuals and society. I’m just a small piece of the puzzle, and he hurts me constantly. Better me (a lowly bottomfeeder) than anyone else, but I presume I’m not a unique case. A couple of months ago, I walked in on him. He grabbed his gun, clocked me twice, and I went down bleeding and half unconscious, but he didn’t stop there with the pummeling. I had a seizure that night. Another time he dropped me to my knees, grabbed my hair, put his gun to the back of my head, and switched the safety off. He said, “I hope you’re ready to meet your maker, because you’re about to fucking die.” What was I going to do after that, call the cops on him? He has forbidden me to get treatment, and when I try to quit, he ropes me back in with plenty of free drugs. It’s a business to him, sine qua non. Knowing that I am not an isolated case, I bear witness to the significant violent threat he poses to society. I use, but I’ve never committed a peripheral crime to maintain my habit. Drug fighting forces should drop nonviolent users of all kinds to the lowest priority and instead focus their time and money on bigger fish.