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Sat Oct 31, 2015, 12:04 PM

In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs

"NEWTON, N.H. — When Courtney Griffin was using heroin, she lied, disappeared, and stole from her parents to support her $400-a-day habit. Her family paid her debts, never filed a police report and kept her addiction secret — until she was found dead last year of an overdose.

At Courtney’s funeral, they decided to acknowledge the reality that redefined their lives: Their bright, beautiful daughter, just 20, who played the French horn in high school and dreamed of living in Hawaii, had been kicked out of the Marines for drugs. Eventually, she overdosed at her boyfriend’s grandmother’s house, where she died alone.

“When I was a kid, junkies were the worst,” Doug Griffin, 63, Courtney’s father, recalled in their comfortable home here in southeastern New Hampshire. “I used to have an office in New York City. I saw them.”

Noting that “junkies” is a word he would never use now, he said that these days, “they’re working right next to you and you don’t even know it. They’re in my daughter’s bedroom — they are my daughter.”

When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white.

And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease."



This represents progress on our views on drug addiction, which is a good thing, but will it be applied equitably across racial lines?

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Reply In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs (Original post)
uawchild Oct 2015 OP
atreides1 Oct 2015 #1
Igel Oct 2015 #2
CatWoman Oct 2015 #3

Response to uawchild (Original post)

Sat Oct 31, 2015, 12:08 PM

1. Of course

Kind of like AIDS was a big joke until Rock Hudson died from it...and just like then, people who thought the problem wouldn't affect them are the ones crying the loudest, now that it's in their homes and lives!!!

But, I guess if it brings about change for all...then it's good!

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Response to uawchild (Original post)

Sat Oct 31, 2015, 12:35 PM

2. Zero tolerance is newer.

Less tolerance was the norm from the '70s to the '80s, and it wasn't confined to one racial group. Zero tolerance cropped up more in the '90s, and while it crossed racial lines there were some self-described advocates for African-Americans already pointing out the effect the drug laws from the '70s and '80s were having on incarceration rates. They were not numerous nor loud enough to stop the zero-tolerance movement.

However, when the problem wasn't one of "junkies" but was the "person sitting next to you"--when the problem stopped being the cause of changes in social structure and the cause of high crime rates--the problem became socially acceptable. Across racial lines. It's just that there's no motivation to change the laws, because differential crime rates still existed if only because of the existence of those particular laws and because the drug laws themselves weren't seen as a problem. The social dysfunction was there already, and often to point it out was tantamount to erecting a lightning rod during a severe thunderstorm. After all, the drug laws were not the only source or even viewed as the primary source of the social dysfunction.

Once "social dysfunction" was redefined and the effect of the drug laws could be quantified in terms of income and blamed for most of the negative effects of the social problems in some communities, once there were enough families directly affected by them, then it was possible to discuss how bad the drug laws were. At the same time the crime rates had decreased so they weren't used for arguing about how drug use drove criminality, and "junkies" simply became "users" with less social stigma and often without the same social consequences. There are still junkies, of course, but it requires addiction, a certain level of personal dysfunction, and moral opprobrium to qualify for that term. Even those who are addicted and dysfunctional are often spared the moralizing as they're described as "self-medicating." (Yeah, that kid has self-medicated himself into failing and dropping out of school, but that's okay, her court date for theft is next week and after that she'd be imprisoned. But she's not a junkie, and her parents will take care of the kid she had because she routinely traded sex for her drugs.)

It's also possible that the net effect of the drug laws actually produced the context in which the bad effect of drugs was less salient and more easily ignored and the negative effect of the drug laws was more salient. Nobody would want to admit this or even do the research except people we dislike and ignore as a matter of course.

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Response to uawchild (Original post)

Sat Oct 31, 2015, 07:44 PM

3. k; r

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