In any crisis situation, it is difficult to maintain "balance" and the tendency is to either overreact or under-react. This is true of the opiate problem facing N.H. Of course, abuse of heroin and other drugs are nothing new in the U.S.A. but historically, it usually only gets called a "crisis" when it shows up in lily-white, middle class communities.
But, a crisis it is. The heroin now is stronger and cheaper than ever before. People are overdosing and people are dying. People who are "cut off" prescribed pain meds are turning to the illicit market. Narcotics need to be controlled and their medical use monitored but hopefully the current problem will not result in irrationality.
One cannot help but wonder if the war on opiates will result in doctors being reluctant to manage their patients' pain for fear they will get into trouble. Patients in pain who cannot get prescribed medications will simply turn to illicit sources. Doctors do and should monitor patients taking these medications and there is room for improvement.
In a previous op-ed in The Sun, this writer pointed out that the drug business is like any other capitalist economy. There is a demand side and a supply side. As long as there is a demand, someone will take the risk to manufacture or sell drugs.
Previous "wars on drugs," which focused primarily on the supply side and the busting of dealers and the eradication of drug crops (which hurt farmers in developing countries where growing coca or opium is more lucrative than other crops) were dismal failures-at U.S. taxpayers' expense. A sane drug policy addresses both supply and demand.
We should treat manufacturing and dealing of large amounts of dangerous drugs harshly. But, many people doing time for low-level sales are simply people who are supporting habits. It is easier to bust the user than the big suppliers.
As for the demand side, addicts need treatment. In spite of a Sun writer calling it "liberal claptrap," addiction has long been classified as a disease by the medical and therapeutic professions. Removing the stigma of addiction is a part of solving the problem.
Twelve-step programs like A.A. and N.A. are great but there also needs to be professional, medical intervention and more public funding for the same. There also needs to be more control over the private, for-profit rehab industry, which sometimes operate their facilities like cults and use scare tactics to bilk money out of families.
There also needs to be realistic drug education and this starts at home. As with sex, kids need the facts and not what adults wish them to think. They do not need D.A.R.E. cops telling them to turn in their parents if they smell pot. Nor, should they be told "all drugs are the same." While it is likely that most crack addicts smoked marijuana at some point, it does not follow that everyone who tries pot will smoke crack.
As for cannabis, medical marijuana should be legal in every state and the Feds need to remove it from the list of "Class I" controlled substances. Naturally, there would have to be rules. Perhaps even recreational use should be legal for adults as it is in two states.
Legalizing pot might actually result in less use because this might take away some of the "thrill." As for other drugs, perhaps we should follow the example of Portugal where mere use is decriminalized without legalizing trafficking. This might give the police more time to concentrate on more serious crimes.
But historically, it is usually police organizations that have lobbied the hardest against changes in our marijuana laws. Many even oppose medical pot. They say that medical pot will be diverted to the illicit market.
Of course, that can happen but doesn't the same thing happen with other prescribed medications? Or, they say if pot is legal for adults, some will get to the kids. But doesn't that already happen with booze?
People seem to forget that our two most dangerous and most addictive drugs, alcohol and tobacco, are completely legal. Alcohol is celebrated in our culture. But, these substances are responsible for more deaths, directly and indirectly, than all the other drugs combined.
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford.)
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