July 29, 2010 |As a person in long-term recovery and a drug treatment professional, I know a thing or two about drugs, addiction and the drug war. As a mother and a grandmother, I know more than I care to about how all of those things affect families - including my own. Addiction is a particularly painful health issue for any family to struggle with. Like most other chronic health conditions, like cancer and diabetes, it can be treated and managed. But unlike other chronic health conditions, our government is at war with it.
The sad truth is that the war on drugs is a war on people, and they can be people you love.
Twenty five years ago I was lucky enough to find sustained recovery after struggling with my own addiction. Now I'm a grandmother of seven and am watching my youngest son struggle with his own addiction. I am hopeful that he will find recovery as I have. Until then, he struggles against decades of stigma and harmful policies. We aren't just battling addiction; we're battling the barbaric policies that continue to criminalize this medical disorder that I share with my son - and tens of thousands of other Californians. In tight economic times, it's getting harder and harder to find a place where my son can access drug treatment.
Why is it so hard to find treatment, when - somehow - there always seems to be room in jail? Why, when our state has to cut spending, it cuts drug treatment but not incarceration spending? (Drug treatment costs less than $5,000 per person; a year in prison costs almost $50,000 per person.)
Our government's response to drug addiction has moved in the wrong direction. A century ago addiction once was something handled by one's private doctor and family. By the 1980s, somehow we had decided that people who struggled with drugs, including my younger self and my son, were criminals?
Unfortunately, our drug policies are still stuck in the stone ages of the drug war-crazy 1980s. They have the veneer of compassion, but, in the end, even when you've done no harm to any one else nor posed any significant risk (like by driving under the influence), the criminal justice system will incarcerate you because of your health problem. (click headline to read more)