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blue above, green below when I'm far away

Posted on 2009.03.06 at 19:50
where am I: cloudy, muggy tewksbury
How I feel about it all: soreback is kinda sore-ish
Soundtrack: Pete Seeger - Well May the World Go
Tags: , ,
I disagree with this editorial on about a million levels:

Lock up the addicts until they're clean.

So this guy, Ethan Baron, writes:

"Here's some logic: Take these addicts and lock them up until they're clean.

Make them stop breaking into our cars, breaking into our homes. Make them stop visiting the emergency room dozens of times a year. Make them stop turning downtown Vancouver into a showcase of urban blight.

Make them become the people they could have been had they not become drug addicts."

In my job I work with addicts on a daily basis, and that's not the way it goes. Plenty of my patients have been in jail, many for years at a time. Then they get out and use again. That's not to say that there aren't those who DO get clean in jail and stay clean after they get out. There just aren't that many of them, and certainly not enough to justify mandatory jail time for drug addiction.

Sure, while they're in jail they won't be breaking and entering and stealing to feed their addiction. But jail isn't rehab. Drugs are still available in jail, for one thing, and even if an addict/inmate has no access to drugs at all, this only takes care of the physical end of it. Addiction is a physical AND mental illness. A dry addict is still an addict, and no amount of jail time will change that. And as far as coercive rehab, there's no evidence that it even works. And don't even get me started on the idea of court ordered participation in AA/NA, when 12-step groups are at their very CORE voluntary, and to mandate attendance flies in the face of the entire 12-step philosophy.

Sai Baron goes on: "Many addicts, as well, have mental illnesses that make them even less capable of making responsible decisions.".

So okay, let me get this straight--if someone is mentally ill they should be forcibly locked up? Erm. Also no. That doesn't work either, and pretty much went out of style about the same time as lobotomies and megadoses of Thorazine. Besides, in most cases, it's illegal.

What does seem to be working, and quite well, is Insite, North America's first (and so far only) Supervised Injection Site. I've been following its progress and struggles for funding since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. I really wish we'd introduce a site like this in the US; currently the only other site in the world like it is in Sydney, Australia. There's talk about the possibility of opening one in San Francisco, but right now it seems to be in the early discussion stage.

There's a lot of controversy surrounding Insite, but so far study after study shows Insite to be cost-effective as well as preventing disease from needle sharing and other unsanitary practices. The clients are given clean needles, sterile water, and are observed afterward so if they overdose or have a reaction to bad drugs they have immediate emergency medical attention. In other words, they're treated like people with an illness instead of something scraped off the bottom of a shoe. Which is probably why there's a waiting list for a bed at Onsite, the detox arm of the facility.

Something about the way addiction treatments are handled by governments and law enforcement reminds me of how birth is handled by the obstetrics industry, and how both are looked at by mainstream society as a whole. It seems that when people are treated with dignity and respect, they become empowered to change their lives, and outcomes improve. If they're not, they become victims. In the case of addictions, it seems pretty obvious that throwing someone in prison isn't the way to go.


the_antichris at 2009-06-04 05:39 (UTC) ()

The thing that works, as much as anything does? Decriminalisation and treatment. Kind of the opposite of throwing them in jail.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2009-06-04 15:15 (UTC) ()
Yep. And hey, that would leave the cops who chase around heroin addicts free to, um. Go after the heroin dealers.
Fistful of Lightning
darkgods at 2009-06-04 12:55 (UTC) ()
My mother was a heroin addict for years untile she committed suicide in December of 05. I agree with you completely: 12 step programs are voluntary and do NO ONE any good at all when attendence is mandatory. The first step (and I've reiterated this time and time again to addicts) is ADMITTING YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. Until THEY are ready to face down their demons, it's a waste of the court's time and money.

I like the program that you've listed here. My mother would have greatly benefitted from something like that. In fact, she was living in San Francisco at the time of her death. It's a shame that people refuse to understand what addicts endure. I don't have a lot of sympathy for junkies, but jail is no solution at all.
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2009-06-04 15:13 (UTC) ()
There's not a SIS in San Francisco yet, but the process of trying to bring one there seems to be moving in the right direction. According to this blog post, the SF facility will be modelled after the Vancouver one because of Insite's success. I just hope it gets to happen. I honestly never expected the US to ever have one because of the way our drug laws are and the general American "not in my back yard" attitude. If it can work anywhere in the US, it can work in SF, though.

I'm sorry about your mom. The fact that suicides happen so often among addicts is says a lot about how the assumption that addicts want their lifestyle just ain't true (and also how depression/bipolar disorder and addiction go hand in glove--addiction is definitely a comorbid illness).

Edited at 2009-06-04 15:13 (UTC)
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