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On one hand

October 12, 2006

There are millions of addicts all over our country…all over the world more accurately and due to the nature of addiction people make unsafe sexual choices, use dirty needles and reek havoc among the “free” medical system in our country. Addicts cost our country millions of dollars each year due to health care costs, treatment and rehabilitation. If you are an addict you are considered suffering from a disease that may be curable if you have the will to take on recovery. It is extremely difficult for most addicts to recover and recidivism rates are very high for drugs like heroin, cocaine, MDMA and crystal meth as well as other drugs like barbituates, pain killers, speed and alcohol. My uncle drank and did hard drugs for almost 30 years and hit rock bottom, went into a live in rehab for 9 months and has not had drink in the last 8 years. My uncle is unusual and I am extremely proud of the difficult road he has so successfully traveled down. I myself have taken lots and lots of drugs and felt very lucky that I was able to walk away and not look back. I don’t know why I was so fortunate and my uncle was not. I am not a better or stronger person than he is and most addiction specialist don’t know why addicts become addicts only that brain chemistry may be changed therefore changing the ability of the person to make the choice to not do something that makes them feel really great. I do remember that drugs made me feel pretty fucking good.

The one thing that differs in the disease of addiction when compared to other diseases is that the addict made the choice to first do drugs. I got to thinking about this listening to a local call in radio show hosted by our former chief of police while they discussed a needle exchange program that is trying to get off the ground in a city neighborhood where I live. There is already a successful needle exchange program in one area and I originally thought that I am all for it. Legalize drugs and alcohol. Why is it a crime to do harm to yourself? If it were legal like alcohol we would simply be arresting people who abuse it and then hurt others. While I do not think all drugs are equal as far as their affects I do believe that it is a choice made by an adult and the only thing currently “wrong” with it is that it is illegal. The governments way of protecting the public because the drugs are considered so dangerous that an adult can not make the choice for themselves to use or not.

I admit, drugs are pretty bad for you in most cases. If you become addicted your body, mind and well being are in jeopardy and you may become so incapacitated by your abuse that you can no longer take care of yourself. Drug addicted people contract AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, liver damage, lung damage (depending on your method), malnutrition, immune suppression and many others that complicate the recovery process. So I get it. It is a horrible disease and because of the nature of the illness other people directly related to the drug addicted person may become affected either from physical abuse if the addict is a family member or partner, disease from infected person are among the most dangerous.

But here is the thing I have been thinking about regarding this needle exchange program that up until yesterday I was totally in favor of. Two callers voiced their thoughts and began to make me think about this dilemma in a different way. The first caller described her diabetic mother who developed her disease as a child and is insulin dependent. No one gives her free needles and she did not choose to be ill. I heard that and thought, huh. That is an interesting point. The second caller was a county school teacher who made $1600 dollars a month after taxes and was given a $50 a year allowance for supplies for her classroom. She described how she ate cheap box mac and cheese for dinner many nights and had no extras in her life because a large portion of her personal spending money after her bills were paid went toward crayons and paper for her students. The current allowance given to a city school in my state is about $8,000. My son goes to a charter school and the school was told by the city that as an independently run public school they would only receive $5000 per student because the rest of the money would have gone to administration costs that his public charter school was not using. So each student basically pays the city where I live $3000 a year to attend school. In buildings they own. Being taught by teachers that make crap salaries.

So back to the drugs and needles and money..oh my. The state will pay millions of dollars for needle exchange programs but schools in most cities in our country are well below the standards that would allow for President Numb-Nuts “No Child Left Behind” to actually succeed. People who did not willing choose to be diseased but must use needles everyday in order to stay well see no benefit from this needle exchange program. Diabetics and such just have to suck it (as my friend Debbi would say) and shell out the dough to keep themselves in the necessary supplies to keep themselves alive.

So who are we saying we care about? Do we care that it is proven that education itself will be a factor in the success of most children today? Do we care about the people who through no fault of their own develop diseases that require specific medical care that their insurance (if they have any and/or are not “lucky” enough to be poor enough to qualify for medi-care?) may or may not cover?

It seems like , nope, we only care about people after they are already poorly educated, living in poverty AND addicted to drugs. Then we will give you free needles in case you happen to have sex with some unsuspecting person who is not aware of your condition or disease. And then we only care alittle. We don’t care that you get well and recover from your addiction but we will make sure you don’t pass on your other possible illness to “innocent” people. We will still keep drugs illegal so that no only are you addicted but also must face extreme violence and crime in order to live your addicted life. But at least you will have clean needles.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2006 11:21 pm

    I’m currently studying for a community education degree where I’m meant to understand who we’re supposed to be working with – drug addicts, alcoholics, single parents, religious minorities… I still don’t know anything other than the fact that I can’t forgive my family for breeding an entire generation of alcoholics.

    I’ve worked for needle exchange units, where people give me their dirty needles and I give them clean ones. I’ve worked with alcoholcs where I’ve cut short the meetings at 9.45 so I can get to Victora Wines before it closes for a few bottles of wine… Maybe I’m not in the right career.

    I agree with you completely, but don’t tell anyone. I’d lose my job 😉

  2. October 20, 2006 1:35 am

    I was just thinking about needle exchange programs today (there was a story on the radio) and how I support them, so long as they’re accompanied by the opportunity to get into treatment…

    But I never thought about the diabetic. As for the teacher, I easily spent $1000 per school year out of pocket on supplies and books when I was teaching in the public schools.

    So now…I just don’t know where I stand. Thanks for the interesting perspective.

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