The U.S. Love Affair With Addiction

Potby Matthew Ernst   3/6/14
When President Obama made his “Pot is no worse than alcohol” comments, he revealed one of the main underlying problems with the arguments posed by marijuana advocates. Said the president: “We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”

President Obama is likely referring to congressmen like Trey Radel, a Republican from Florida who recently resigned due to his arrest for cocaine possession. On the surface, the president seems to be making a valid point.

But is this the standard we should be using to make our laws?

Should we legalize domestic abuse, prostitution, or DUI, since some of our lawmakers and government officials have committed those crimes as well?[pullquote]We all make our mistakes. But, should we admit our faults, and work to improve our own personal behavior so that it conforms with societal standards? Or should we rewrite our laws in order to justify our own personal mistakes?[/pullquote]

We all make our mistakes. But, should we admit our faults, and work to improve our own personal behavior so that it conforms with societal standards? Or should we rewrite our laws in order to justify our own personal mistakes? By choosing the latter option, we are simply redefining and weakening the standards of our society so that marijuana users can justify their habit.

A Culture of Tolerance

The underlying problem is that we have become a society so accepting of addiction. Think of the endless list of celebrities with addiction problems — Whitney Houston, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and the list goes on. There is the never-ending list of athletes with addiction problems. Even the U.S. military is not immune to drug addiction.

Recently, Houston Astros player, Jon Singleton, publicly admitted to his major marijuana addiction. Most notably, Singleton blamed the start of his marijuana use on “the culture growing up in Long Beach, CA”.

There is a notion that a treatment program will solve everyone’s addiction problem. But over 2/3 of states report that their treatment centers are “at or approaching 100% capacity” while at the same time only about 10% of people with drug and alcohol problems receive treatment. In other words, 90% of people with an addiction don’t seek treatment nor do we have a system that can accommodate them.

So why are we encouraging more use of an addictive substance instead of discouraging it? More importantly, before we worry about building more treatment centers why don’t we first take a look at the “culture” that promotes drug use?

The Fallacies of the “marijuana is harmless” Argument

It seems that many people have adopted the mindset of: “Well, when I was in high school/college I smoked a little pot, but I turned out alright, so I guess if we make small amounts of pot legal, then what harm is there in that?”

When it comes to marijuana, we seem to drift into this sympathetic mindset, and then think we should apply that mindset to making public policy. In no other policy area do we develop policies to conform with our own past personal mistakes. So why do we do it with marijuana?

There are certainly many people who adhere to the findings of researchers like CNN’s Dr. Sonjay Gupta who supports legalized marijuana.

But there is much this research does not address. For example, in 2009 marijuana use was reported to be the contributing factor in over 376,000 Emergency Room visits. One study reported “the toxic effects of cannabis on the brain may result in impaired neuropsychological functioning, poor academic performance, and subsequent school dropout, which then results in further neuropsychological decline.”

Drugs and Crime

Pro-marijuana research also doesn’t address the issue of K2, which is synthetic marijuana. K2 is an emerging new drug that has killed people in Colorado, Iowa, and Nebraska.

This is a perfect example of people who first started using marijuana but then needed a more intense high so they developed another way to achieve that. Legalizing marijuana encourages more of this cycle.

Pro-marijuana research also does not address marijuana use and crime. In a 2012 study, 37%-58% of people arrested tested positive for marijuana at the time of their arrest. Two cities reported a significant increase in the percentage of arrestees who tested positive for marijuana.

The most revealing findings were:

1. “From 62-87% of male booked arrestees…tested positive for some drug in their system at the time of arrest, but fewer than a third…had ever been in outpatient or inpatient drug or alcohol treatment.”

2. 19-38% were arrested on drug crimes.

This reveals that most people who are being arrested are engaged in other criminal behavior — not just drug use. Moreover, there is only a small percentage of those people who seek treatment.

But let’s also analyze this issue on a personal level. One recovering marijuana addict offered this: “…it is alarmingly clear to me that the issue of molestation and the disease of addiction were born dangerously close to each other.” The author went onto describe how she had been groomed by her molester through the use of marijuana: “No like this” John said, showing me how to inhale the smoke that would alter my consciousness, my life, and my brain development for years to come. Marijuana is a gateway drug.” The author then goes on to describe how her life spiraled out of control due to her addiction.

As a law enforcement officer, I have been involved in many investigations of child abuse and sexual assault, and in nearly every case there exists a past history of drug abuse. It is also very common to find that a person being investigated today for child abuse, has a history of drug use and was also previously abused by their parent(s), who also had a history of drug abuse.

Regardless of where you live, hardly a day passes where you cannot read about a drug-related crime. One good example comes from Lincoln, NE. As one of the teenagers was sentenced in a drug-related shooting, his life was described as follows: He started smoking marijuana and stealing to eat at age 5. His mother was an alcoholic and worked as a prostitute.”

These examples show the impact that addiction can have on our society over the course of two, or more, generations. And this type of impact is very hard to put into statistical perspective. But due to this ‘generational impact’, legalizing marijuana does not bode well for the future of the U.S.

It has simply become too easy for politicians to state that the solution is increased funding for drug-rehab programs. We’ve heard this argument for decades. While I would always support an addict entering treatment, the reality is that only a small percentage seek treatment. But, before we develop more rehab programs why don’t we first develop a society that says drug use is wrong and a crime?

As Dr. Samuel Wilkinson from The Yale School of Medicine wrote: “If legalization is certain to decrease the power of the drug lords in Mexico and other countries, then this is certainly a favorable outcome. However, if the trade-off is that more people suffer from schizophrenia — and thus more Americans are homeless and debilitated — then this must be recognized and discussed by the public.”

[First published at American Thinker] __________________________________________________
Matt Ernst is a law enforcement officer and also a national security and criminal justice analyst. Matt can be reached at ernst1997@hotmail.com • (5859 views)

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9 Responses to The U.S. Love Affair With Addiction

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    That sound you hear is the screaming of libertarians. 😀 But I really liked your article, Matt. Right on.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    The mainstream culture can’t discourage drug use because so many people used illegal drugs when they were young and ended up all right (if you leave out the fact that so many of them became liberals, which they don’t realize is a very bad result). They also see all sorts of statistics on both sides and have no way of knowing which side has the better case. So the most reliable argument is the one based on moral judgment, which modern culture can’t bring itself to do. (This applies to more than just drugs, of course, which is why pedophilia and bestiality will eventually join homosexuality as liberal norms.)

  3. LibertyMark says:

    Witness the fruit of the Libertarian tree…

  4. Rosalys says:

    The legalization of pot will become ever more popular when politicians see the enormous amount of tax revenue flowing into the public coffers. At that point the government is likely to become the biggest King Pin of all. But I don’t see that the war on drugs has produced anything but billionaire drug lords and an explosion of drug use. Pot was not made illegal until the late 1960s. Perhaps decriminalization is a better way to go. Mere possession and personal use should not be enough to send someone to the big house. If someone is determined to fritter away his life in a drunken or drug induced stupor I haven’t seen any evidence that there is much anyone can do about it unless and until that person decides he wants to change.

    I grew up with an alcoholic father. My mother told me that she was on the verge of leaving him and was seeking advice from her parish priest. It was late fall and he counseled her to at least wait until the the holidays were over. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it was just a desperate attempt to gain a little time for some intercessory prayer; but it turned out to have been good advice. Not too many months later my dad came home one day and said he and one of his drinking buddies had come to the conclusion that they couldn’t handle alcohol and they were going to stop. I don’t know what happened to the drinking buddy but my dad came home two days later, drunk again but with a difference. He was very apologetic, saying over and over and over again how sorry he was. He went cold turkey and never touched another drop of the stuff in the remaining 35 years of his life.

    I don’t know about drug treatment centers and clinics. I’ve been doing some reading lately and it seems they are revolving doors. I have a close relative who suffers from a prescription drug problem and she has been in and out of the local clinic dozens of times the past few years. This is HUGELY expensive and if it weren’t for medical insurance paying for it her family would be in the poor house. (BTW, she got started on this when her obstetrician put her on Effexor for post partum depression 20 years ago!) Treatment consists of trying to find a drug or drugs that works better without as many side affects. Not working. Her husband has been trying to get them to try to get her off of all drugs and they have refused because, “She needs them!” His thought is how does anyone know that? Since she has been on them for so long the reason she needs them is because she is addicted!

    These men, “doctors”, are quacks! There is HUGE money in drugs! So there is very little real incentive to do much about the problem. The real concern is who is going to profit? The Columbian drug cartels or the pharmaceutical-industrial-congressional complex?

    Sorry about this rant. This article is about marijuana in particular and I’m going on and on about alcohol and psychotropics. To me a drug is a drug and it is all related. I think there is too much money in it for the gubmint to be serious about doing anything real. I’ve been reading about Dr. Punyamurtula Kishore who came up with an effective wholistic approach to drug rehabilitation which has a documented 37% success rate – success being defined as sobriety. His clinics have been shut down by the state of Massachusetts and he is being persecuted by the Attorney General on trumped up charges. You can read about him here,

    http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/massachusetts-protects-medical-industrial-complex-derails-pioneering-revolution-in-addiction-medicin/

    I just don’t think you can help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. And apparently no one will be helped unless they do it Uncle Sam’s way! I’m waiting for ObamaCare to really get going – it’s going to be a wild ride!

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Rosalys, even if I don’t completely agree with you, it’s wonderful to have another thoughtful person here at StubbornThings.

      One of my guiding principles when dealing with these issues is to keep in mind the dynamic that LibertyMark so eloquently stated on another thread:

      Libertarianism is a form of Utopianism, just as Marxism is. It is a fantasy, because it is the carousel of seeking the brass ring. “If only we could eliminate laws of personal behavior” (couched as “victimless crimes”) “then we would have the perfectly balanced society.” The Marxist says, “if only we could manage all personal behavior” (for the good of society) “then we would have a perfectly balanced society.”

      That is to say, there is no utopia. There is probably no set of laws which can save us from ourselves. Even the Ten Commandments didn’t save the Hebrews from self-destruction and misbehavior. But we still need law.

      I thoroughly disagree with the libertarian single-note notion that because people break a law we should therefore get rid of the law. I would not raise “Thou shall not get stoned” to the 11th Commandment. But being “stoned” morally is what leads to so many bad things.

      But what about liberty? That is a value we have to factor into the equation, for we are being mothered to death right now in our arguably liberal fascist society where cranks and Little Napoleon wannabes are trying to tell us how large a soft drink we can buy, for god’s sake.

      For example, when Hillary Clinton says “It’s takes a village” she means “I’m smarter than you and you’ll do what I say because I’m going to run this village.” But in most areas of life, man should be left alone to chart his own course, to follow his inclinations (within reason) and to suffer the consequences of his own mistakes.

      But drugs are a special case. They take away man’s reason. They literally debilitate him and take him out of the loop of The Free Man — guided by reason, experience, and the sting of failure — to a realm of clouded dependency and irrationality.

      What we do not need in this society is one more mind-altering drug. I see no good case for it. And even if eliminating pot is not a cure-all and can not stay the course of societal destruction that we seem headed on now, I say that we should at least go down with some dignity.

      • Rosalys says:

        Oh, I’m no Libertarian. I have NEVER been a Utopian! I am totally with Calvin’s first point – total depravity! I have been almost Libertarian for a few stray moments during my political life but have always pulled back; because, when all is said and done I do believe in laws – real laws that codify punishment for real crimes. But I think if some one is smoking or drinking himself into a stupor night after night in his own house and manages not to bother anyone it may be best to leave him there to bear the consequences of his lifestyle. I suppose that would be a difficult thing to do; eventually he (or she – don’t want to be P in-C here!) will probably be doing something heinous and at that point you the law should go after him.

        Also, is it really marijuana that leads these people down the path to destruction or is this just one more vice that they’ve added to their repertoire? Most of these people have multiple problems. Dad went to AA for years after he became sober and part of the program is to help others. I remember one woman who Dad thought he could help. She was a manipulative psychopath and believe me, alcoholism was the LEAST of her problems!

        I’m not sure what the answer is. I only know that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped; and that a politician, when he smells money, will knock down civilization itself to grab what he can. That’s also true of an awful lot of “we the people”.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          One of the conundrums, Rosalys, is that the state can’t fix what it is partially responsible for screwing up. But my point of view is that more sobriety, rather than less, should be encouraged. What is made legal is a very plain statement to children in regards to what it is okay to do. And in regards to drugs, that is a very serious thing. I think we owe them a responsibility to set a better standard than that.

          • Rosalys says:

            You’re probably right, but I’m mixed. I still lean toward letting folks hit rock bottom so that they’ll have nowhere left to look but up – if they have the inclination.

            Nancy Reagan’s “Just say NO!” wasn’t a bad idea either.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I consider myself a conservative with a strong libertarian bent. In essence, I think libertarians are usually right, but that libertarianism is an absolutist ideology, which would require that it always be right (which it isn’t and can’t be). But I would note that minarchist libertarianism (I had to type the first word twice because the auto-correct assumed I meant “monarchist”, which is VERY different) is compatible with some degree of social conservatism. For example, the Libertarian candidate for the 1997 New Jersey gubernatorial race ran on a pro-life platform because he opposed a pair of pro-aborts (Whitman and the Democrat — I think it was McGreedy).

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