Monday, September 20, 2010

How to deal with drug abuse in a society

This is an article from the Boston Globe decrying the epidemic of drug abuse in Massachusetts. I think the tone of the article is right on; it doesn't dwell on the moral failings of drug users or how they should just quit, but rather assumes the problem as one that the collective must address together. After all, even if I have no problem resisting the temptation of drug use, if too many of my neighbors are using, there are consequences that I'll have to bear--higher crime, widespread death, existential despair, breakdown of values, and the failing schools, dilapidated infrastructure, and flight of local businesses that result from an imploding tax base and the collapse of community. Furthermore, there is a good chance in a drug-ridden society that some of my family members will turn to drugs, which will of course be something that I would want to address, even if I'm not a user. So the pitiless stance of either incarcerating drug users or waiting for them to OD and die just isn't very viable, at least not if I want to live in a somewhat pleasant, functional environment.

This other blog, the Ghetto Intellectual, bitterly notes that the article describes white drug use as an epidemic, while blacks continue being punished for their part of the drug epidemic. This is a fair observation (though the Boston Globe article doesn't specify what color the drug users are, and I'd wager that there is a fair amount of black folk taking Oxycontin and shooting heroin, too), but I think the bitterness is unproductive. Ideally every state should be looking at the drug epidemic as Massachusetts does. Only if we recognize that drug use is a problem that affects us all (and implicitly that we are all part of a collective, whether or not we're the same color as our neighbors) can we effectively address it. Perhaps this is what the blogger is really getting at--that it would be a mistake to regard white drug use or any problem prevalent among white folk with a sympathetic eye, while casting only blame and hostility toward black problems. Like it or not, we're all in this together, and even if we're loathe to admit it, the problems affecting one ethnic group in the US affect us all.

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