Addiction is clearly an issue in the US, but it also relates to addiction double standards.
On one hand, it is an open secret. The highest levels of government are calling it for what it is: a public health crisis. Both sides of the isle are calling for someone, somewhere, to do something—anything—to resolve the problem. If we do not, more tragedy awaits.
However, almost all of these calls are absent of specific details. Those that do include them, while well meaning, are woefully lacking in true, long-term solutions.
That said, these almost-solutions are far cries beyond those backwards calls for more punitive actions against addicts and alcoholics. Some are going so far as to suggest increasing the severity of punishments.
We know that does not work—overwhelmingly so. What does a mandatory two years of prison for possession of any amount of heroin without the possibility of parole accomplish that current laws do not?
On the other hand, we know what the solution is. The overwhelming majority of Americans favor treatment over punishment. Addiction is such a pervasive problem that no one is left unscathed. It affects friends, family, loved ones, and the community—and that is just at the most basic level.
It is not just the addiction itself. It is the aftermath. It is the broken homes and the overburdened correctional system, flooded with addicts who simply do not know a better way, thrown into an environment in which escape in one form or another is a constant fantasy.
Drug policy has become a national game of darts. Take a throw and hope someone lands on the magic, cure-all solution that does not exist. It is not going to happen.
Part of the addiction double standard is that remarkably few are willing to take the risk by “looking soft on crime.” The hope of the majority is that one day, with the right combination of “resources” (of which no one knows what exactly is necessary aside from funding), some day things will work out.
But that is the sunk-costs fallacy: continuing to throw money, time, effort, or what-have-you at something we know is not working, but hoping that it will, rather than accept what is and cut our losses. Which, all of us know, is the very definition of insanity. What many of us would give to have the opportunity to not go down that road again!
Perhaps that is the ultimate irony: the ones in charge of making the policy decisions are falling into the same trap as the addicts and alcoholics who ended up in the insanity in the first place, but did not have the benefit of past experience and foresight to keep us from careening off the cliff.
To be clear, attitudes have changed remarkably from what they were, even just a few years ago. That does not mean we have reached the end of the line, though. We still have a lot of work to do, and there is always hope, but now is not the time to rest on our laurels.
We know where that leads us, too.
Addiction Double Standards
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