Chasing El Chapo

Now that the election is over, how about another change of focus. Now that the shouting is over for awhile we need to focus on many ongoing needs

How important did you think El Chapo was?

Stay Tuned!

El Chapo was a celebrity drug lord. In the news constantly, he showed the extent of his power by who he corrupted and how he escaped. A long television program was devoted to his most recent escapades and recapture. At the conclusion of the show I did not feel like celebrating. All I could feel was “what a waste”.

Chasing Illusive Suppliers

Once again we had wasted huge resources chasing a criminal. Year in and year out we spend billions in this form of “The War on Drugs”. And right behind El Chapo stands a long line of men ready to take his place. We did nothing to stop this trafficking. It makes headlines but little more.

Lack of Vision

It seems we have learned nothing. And it all demonstrates a monumental lack of vision. Our first prohibition was a failure. The supposedly noble effort to end the use of alcohol led to the creation of a large network of criminal gangs which then metastasized into many other illegal enterprises. Then we did it again with the second failed prohibition of the more recent war on drugs. We decimated vulnerable citizens with invasive searches to find small quantities of drugs, gave them long sentences  and swelled our prison population for 1 million to 2.4 million while we destroyed the future of young minority men and the hopes of their families. At last we are bringing that under control and must now contend with healing the wounds created in police/community relations.

Facing Reality

So what are we to do? Drug use is a complicated matter whether you look at the numerous suppliers and profiteers or the victims in the form of users. We do not spend adequately to create the range and levels of treatment programs. What I learned as a clinical consultant in a drug program is that there needs to be a range of flexible options to help move people toward stability. They are probably not mentally ill but more likely disadvantaged in many different forms. They need help rebuilding lives, fighting addiction, gaining job skills and on and on.

It Isn’t Dramatic

But there is a broader front which is often called prevention and includes social intervention. We had  another very damaging drug called tobacco which we fought and it taught us lessons. These kinds of problems do not lend themselves to short term or easy solutions. 

It Is Multilayered

Anyone who has been through addiction knows the complexity. I wrestled with my nicotine addiction and was working on quitting (for the umpteenth time) when I received painful and unexpected help. Someone drove his SUV in my driver’s door and I was flown into Shock Trauma. They do not pass out cigarettes in the intensive care unit. I don’t recommend that solution but it helped.

Overall addictions in general represent a long road including prevention, incentives to quit, changes in social attitudes. We spent decades in campaigns against smoking and the results are interesting. We have decreased usage and have in place social restraints and legal restraints regarding availability of purchase and acceptability. We are now beginning the same process with marijuana. 

Social Commitment

Where are the ad campaigns regarding all forms of drug use and abuse? They are few in number and rarely heard. Where are the social sanctions and attitude statements about not using drugs. Television is flooded with ads for big pharma products with notations of often terrible side effects but the campaign to reduce drug abuse is almost nowhere to be seen or heard.

The lessons from the war on drugs, from our interdiction efforts and what happened with tobacco is clear. We need a great deal more efforts on prevention, treatment and tending to social attitudes. It will not stop overnight but we can make a significant difference. 

What have you found to be effective?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Chasing El Chapo

 

dreamstime_m_35287236

How important did you think El Chapo was?

Stay Tuned!

El Chapo was a celebrity drug lord. In the news constantly, he showed the extent of his power by who he corrupted and how he escaped. A long television program was devoted to his most recent escapades and recapture. At the conclusion of the show I did not feel like celebrating. All I could feel was “what a waste”.

Chasing Illusive Suppliers

Once again we had wasted huge resources chasing a criminal. Year in and year out we spend billions in this form of “The War on Drugs”. And right behind El Chapo stands a long line of men ready to take his place. We did nothing to stop this trafficking. It makes headlines but little more.

Lack of Vision

It seems we have learned nothing. And it all demonstrates a monumental lack of vision. Our first prohibition was a failure. The supposedly noble effort to end the use of alcohol led to the creation of a large network of criminal gangs which then metastasized into many other illegal enterprises. Then we did it again with the second failed prohibition of the more recent war on drugs. We decimated vulnerable citizens with invasive searches to find small quantities of drugs, gave them long sentences and swelled our prison population for 1 million to 2.4 million while we destroyed the future of young minority men and the hopes of their families. At last we are bringing that under control and must now contend with healing the wounds created in police/community relations.

Facing Reality

So what are we to do? Drug use is a complicated matter whether you look at the numerous suppliers and profiteers or the victims in the form of users. We do not spend adequately to create the range and levels of treatment programs. What I learned as a clinical consultant in a drug program is that there needs to be a range of flexible options to help move people toward stability. They are probably not mentally ill but more likely disadvantaged in many different forms. They need help rebuilding lives, fighting addiction, gaining job skills and on and on.

It Isn’t Dramatic

But there is a broader front which is often called prevention and includes social intervention. We had another very damaging drug called tobacco which we fought and it taught us lessons. These kinds of problems do not lend themselves to short term or easy solutions.

It Is Multilayered

Anyone who has been through addiction knows the complexity. I wrestled with my nicotine addiction and was working on quitting (for the umpteenth time) when I received painful and unexpected help. Someone drove his SUV in my driver’s door and I was flown into Shock Trauma. They do not pass out cigarettes in the intensive care unit. I don’t recommend that solution but it helped.

Overall addictions in general represent a long road including prevention, incentives to quit, changes in social attitudes. We spent decades in campaigns against smoking and the results are interesting. We have decreased usage and have in place social restraints and legal restraints regarding availability of purchase and acceptability. We are now beginning the same process with marijuana.

Social Commitment

Where are the ad campaigns regarding all forms of drug use and abuse? They are few in number and rarely heard. Where are the social sanctions and attitude statements about not using drugs. Television is flooded with ads for big pharma products with notations of often terrible side effects but the campaign to reduce drug abuse is almost nowhere to be seen or heard.

The lessons from the war on drugs, from our interdiction efforts and what happened with tobacco is clear. We need a great deal more efforts on prevention, treatment and tending to social attitudes. It will not stop overnight but we can make a significant difference.

What have you found to be effective?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Addiction Realities

 

dreamstime_m_62757460

A New Mission

How successful do you think the response to opiate addiction will be?

Congress has gotten religion in the form of dealing with the national opiate addiction problem. I listen to their concerns and it is touching. Reality will be far different and we will see how far the compassionate concerns go.

Heroin addiction was an issue when I went to work in the inner city of Baltimore. But it was not our job to deal with it because we were doing community mental health. Drug programs were starting and we could see that the problem ran deep. But I did not delve into it until I left the program.

Not So Simple

Not being impressed with the state or national leadership when it came to mental health, after I left the program, I chose not to seek employment with either the state or the federal government. I found various consulting activities. One day I got a call from the man who had been our lead community organizer. He had also left the program and had taken a job as the administrator of a drug program. His line staff was mostly recovering addicts who served as counselors and social workers. The program was administered by psychiatrists and they were oriented to psychotherapy. It was not a good match with the line staff.

Finding a Way Back

I agreed to being a clinical consultant since I was closer to the line staff after my work in Baltimore. I did not find what I expected. I thought the main emphasis was on methadone dispensing to hard core heroin addicts. Yes, they were there but drug programs attract much greater diversity. I interviewed one young man who had been taking hallucinogens from age 13 to his present age of 19. He had missed his adolescence and needed to be raised through an adolescence he had never had. Intensive psychotherapy the psychiatrists loved was not at issue. One hard core junkie told me that he knew if he wasn’t clean by age 35 he would be dead. There were people of all ages who abused a bewildering array of drugs for an equally bewildering array of reasons. What they all had in common was that they had lost their way and it was the job of the clinical staff to help them find a way for their life.

Facing Diversity

The long and short of this story is that Congress simplistically thinks they will authorize funds to combat an opiate addiction epidemic. Of course a lot of their dedication is nothing other than political fodder. The way they put it sounds easy enough and is supposed to indicate their dedication. Not so fast. People have to be given resources, education, hope, training, purpose and on and on. Each person is different. They can’t be fed a given drug to manage their addiction and plunked in a group discussion. Even if there was a way to focus purely on opiate addiction, the needs and stories will be highly diverse.

Reality at the Door

We have to change the medical climate where opiates have been too readily dispensed. We need to educate the public about the alternatives available to deal with pain and change their expectations. Part of the process is educational of diverse kinds at all levels, meaning professionals and the public at large. In Appalachia, for example, opiate addiction is a major problem. People have been injured in the mines and suffer form chronic pain. But they also do not have suitable job possibilities. Dealing with addiction means many things including providing educational and job opportunities along with training.

The statements of concern and compassion are touching. Reality is waiting just outside the door and it requires flexibility, assessment and addressing a bewildering reality. Shoveling money at the problem is not going to manage the epidemic.

What have you seen?
Gaia’s Majesty: Discovery Amazon page

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page