Addiction. It’s a moral failing. It’s a disease. It’s a choice. It’s genetically predisposed. Whatever one’s position, the reality remains, addiction is a problem that isn’t going away. If anything, it’s growing worse. A decades long attempt to curtail drug use by criminalizing addiction has only led to greater mass incarceration and a global black market dominated by violent criminals.
The news is filled with stories of people dying from overdoses, families crippled by addiction and loss, and more and more street-level enforcement. Politicians offer platitudes. Others talk tough about how other countries employ capital punishment for drug dealers. Narcan has become commonplace with first responders. Our prisons are filled to capacity, and still we march on with the same old approach.
The futility of the War on Drugs is evident in the growing Heroin Epidemic. The bulk of black market heroin originates in the poppy fields in Afghanistan; a country plagued by decades of conflict, that includes some form of American occupation for over a decade, and who’s infrastructure and terrain make vast portions of it almost inaccessible, yet somehow heroin is being produced and exported in record amounts.
Add into the equation the additional layer of pharmaceutical opiates, and it becomes even more difficult to defend our current approach to this epidemic. No one questions why their stock holdings are reaping them greater rewards, even when some of those monies are derived from legal addiction. No one asks themselves, “where are all these opiates going?” They simply scan to the bottom line of their of their financial reports to count their dividends.
Addiction is horrible, but prohibition seems to be a failed approach. Examples exist where other counties have taken a more holistic approach with measured success, but for some reason we, as a society, remain reluctant to even consider non-punitive measures to this issue. In the end, we fail ourselves when we refuse to learn from these examples, and certainly paradigm shifts of this scale are hardly ever easy, but how many more lives need to be ruined before we at least try something new?