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Themes in Chemical Prohibition

Themes in Chemical Prohibition.

I thought this was a very interesting (if not older) article about the War On Drugs and how different things drive drug policy.  Things that shouldn’t have anything to do with the why’s and how’s of treating addiction; things like race and social standing.

Many people would be interested to know that when opiate addiction first became a “problem” in the US, it was mostly seen in WHITE middle/upper class wives and mothers.  When that was the population of addicts we treated them with the kindness and caring we would bestow on any ILL person.  Women went to see their DOCTOR’s for treatment.

It wasn’t until Chinese and Irish immigrants started being associated with opiate use (opium dens) that people started to see it as a SOCIAL problem, rather than a medical problem.  People associated the use of opiates with the poor and “unsavory” parts of society.

This is when the United States started it’s war on drugs, which many times is really a war on ADDICTS.  How sad that our policies about addiction are driven not by the harm that comes to addicts,  but by the race and economic standing of those that we ASSOCIATE the use of drugs with?

For instance a man caught with a CRACK cocaine rock will likely do two times the amount of prison time that a man with the same amount of POWDERED cocaine will do.  Why?  Because when we think of CRACK, we think of poor black men in ghetto’s, selling in corners and being in gangs.  When we think of powdered cocaine we think of  white men in business suits who just tried it because they needed more stamina to work harder.

It also drives how we think about treatment.  We think crack users are “hopeless”, but cocaine users just need “time and patience”.  When we think of Heroin addicts we think “they will never get better”, but when we think of OxyContin addicts we just think “there’s hope, they just need the right rehab”.

It’s all the same drug when you look at what it does to the person who is addicted to it, so why should it matter so much who uses what?


  1. February 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Isn’t that part of the problem! Makes me crazy! Even the people who are in charge of helping us get better don’t know what they are doing or how to do it!

    The other sad thing is that they don’t understand that someone can be in RECOVERY without being completely recoverED. We set the standards too high and then we give up when people can’t live up to them.

  2. Lou
    January 29, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Interestingly, I just read this in the book “Heroin” by Humberto Fernandez.

    I recently had a “former” substance abuse counselor tell me heroin addicts never recover. Nice.

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