For those of you old enough to remember, I want you to think back to the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1990's. Remember how political leaders held press conferences every few days saying the government had to do something to help the people who were addicted to the drug kick the habit and get their lives back together? Can you recall how state funded treatment programs were set up--and how first responders and even just plain old people on the street were trained to administered anti-overdose drugs? Remember counties establishing "drug courts" so offenders who were high on crack wouldn't be sent to prison or jail--but instead would receive the counseling they needed while only on probation?
It's okay if you don't remember any of that happening--because none of it did. The response to the crack epidemic was to make more arrests of those who were not only dealing the drugs--but the users as well. And the violent and property crimes that increased greatly because of addicts trying to get their next fix and gangs fighting over sales territory were met with longer and longer mandatory prison sentences. So why are we treating the current heroin and opioid abuse epidemic with kid gloves and so much "concern" for the users? You need look no further than who is involved in this latest drug wave.
Crack cocaine was the scourge of urban inner cities and the minorities that lived there. The gangs that ruled the streets and controlled the supplies were everything that scared suburban America. There were no daughters of state lawmakers committing multiple crimes to pay for her addiction. It wasn't son of the local business owner who died from an overdose in his home. It was "those people" who were dying and stealing and seeing their communities decay--and the only proper response was to crack down (no pun intended) hard--and to teach them a lesson. But now that it's "all of us" who are seeing the effects of opioid abuse, well now it's time for "us" to do something to help these people.
Once again I was disappointed by Attorney General Brad Schimel's "Dose of Reality" program announcement on Tuesday. Nowhere did the AG say that the time has come to end the "legal" practice of over-prescribing opiate-based painkillers--the leading source of eventual heroin addiction. There was no suggestion to doctors to stop prescribing those pills to people who are not suffering from debilitating pain. There wasn't even a recommendation to tell patients "I'm going to give you this prescription for your sore foot--but you will probably end up becoming a heroin addict--so you may want to think about just how much that actually hurts before you fill it". That would be a real "dose of reality".