The War on Drugs

Like the War on Terror, the War on Drugs depends on breaking down doors in the middle of the night, dragging people off and putting all the bad guys out of commission.   The war metaphor underscores the idiocy of this massive program which has locked up tens of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders in American prisons. [1]  War is a violent reaction to a thing that can most often better be addressed in other ways.   Most war is waged, let us be frank here, for the profit of certain powerful parties who have others die for them in noble battle.  When war is not profitable anymore, the lion will lie down and let the lamb snuggle against it.   In the meantime, locking Americans up in privatized prisons is lucrative for the owners of those private prisons.   We need to keep the beds full, or the entire industry could collapse.

Speaking of war as the answer to all problems, at one time we had a War on Poverty here too, until, as Ronald Reagan cracked, “poverty won.”    It did indeed.

This is a somewhat random rant, as I have opined here several times about the moronic nature of this somewhat random War on selected criminalized drugs.   As a society America is very fond of drugs, we are dependent on a host of medicines.  If you have any medical condition whatsoever, we use drugs to cure it.  Ads for various drugs are ubiquitous on television: Ask your doctor if Asseffex is right for you.   If you are depressed: antidepressants.   Anxious: anti-anxiety drugs.   Can’t sleep: sleeping pills.  Need to unwind after a stressful day: alcohol or a tranquilizer. Do you fart?  take this.  Does your leg sometimes shake?  This drug cures RLS.  The list is endless.  

Let us be fair– which would you rather do, take a pill or delve into painful things and make hard choices about your life?   Chronic sleeplessness cured by a pill or by doing the unpleasant work involved in understanding what is actually keeping you sleepless and making needed changes in your life?   Go for the pill.   I’m no-one to talk, I’ve been convinced to take a daily blood pressure lowering pill and a statin to control borderline high cholesterol.  Would I need these if I lost the twenty pounds I need to lose?   Hard to say, and something I may never know.  A doctor friend convinced me to take these medications, she and her husband do.  She made some convincing arguments and I was convinced.   It’s very easy to take the two small pills every evening.

The War on Drugs is a war against certain mood-altering substances that the law chooses to criminalize.   The prevailing attitude among national lawmakers about drugs that only serve to get a person high is that folks should talk to their doctors, or bartenders.  Liquor stores are also a legal and readily available option.   Meanwhile, countless poor bastards have been locked up for the crime of procuring or selling illegal drugs, including marijuana.  The annual price tag for this lost War on Drugs was over $15 billion as of 2009.   When you’re preventing evil, the sky’s the limit, I suppose.    

Why do people become dependent on drugs?  Despair, difficulty with feelings of hopelessness, anger, worthlessness.  People take mood-altering drugs in an attempt to make themselves feel better.   The moment when the effect of the drug is felt is a moment of relief for the drug user, the only time in their day when they momentarily feel OK.   The moment when the effect wears off it’s back feeling shitty again for the user.   It is not hard to identify these impulses.   The hard thing is to be in the middle of a war on the thing that makes you feel a little better, in addition to all your other problems.    Not to say people who get addicted to drugs don’t need help managing their pain, they certainly do, but being hunted and locked up does nothing to help nonviolent people who take something everyday because they feel shitty.

In the case of the futile, destructive, perpetual American War on Drugs, the efforts of our government to use criminal laws and punishment as the only cure for a deep psychological problem only reinforces what right wing extremists have been saying for years: shrink the government and drown it in a bath tub.

We have a fairly shitty medical system here in the U.S., almost nothing as far as our medical records is standardized.  That’s because private enterprise is in charge. Our medical records are considered by these private corporations as proprietary information.   The company that provided the service owns them, may charge you for copies of your own medical records in some cases.  Here’s a hilarious, if also somewhat sour, note in our American medical records song and dance.  

I went for a pre-colonoscopy visit to a gastroenterologist’s office.    The first thing the person interviewing me asked was if I’m still taking oxycodone.   That prescription popped up immediately on the screen when she put my name in.

I’d had the side of my nose sliced open in December, by a surgeon removing a basal cell so tiny it could not be detected by the dermatologist.  I didn’t really understand why the eyebrow length incision was necessary, but I immediately understood, once the anesthetic wore off, that I was in considerable agony.   The surgeon called in a prescription for tylenol with codeine.   I took a pill and the pain quickly subsided.  I took another one four or six hours later, whatever it said on the label, and a third before I went to sleep.  I felt no appreciable high, but the pain was gone.  I felt fine the next day and put aside the bottle with the remaining tablets in it.

“Are you still taking oxycodone?” the pretty receptionist asked.

No, I said, and explained about the intensely painful incision on the left side of my nose.   The opioid prescription was the only medical information that popped up about me when she put my name into the medical database.   I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I am thinking of it now:  good old Jared Kushner!   The president had appointed him to cure the Opioid Crisis (which killed more Americans last year than military veteran suicides [2], homicide by firearm and many other common causes of American death) and, by God, Jared is on the case!  

God bless these United States!


[1]  Almost half of all federal prisoners are locked up for drug offenses.  

“Among sentenced prisoners under the jurisdiction of state correctional authorities on December 31, 2015, 15% (197,200 prisoners) had been convicted of a drug offense as their most serious crime.”


[2]  Check out the shockingly high number of suicides among female veterans, almost 600% the rate of female civilian suicides 2000-2010


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