No More Shame and Blame

(2/25/2016) Why I don’t use heroin by Chris Arnade

I spent the last five years documenting drug traps in neighborhoods poorer than is decent for such a rich country. I have become close friends with women and men who live under bridges and earn money for heroin by selling themselves for sex. I have bought heroin for them, unable to stand by as their body rejected the lack of drugs. I have provided them with clean needles, water, and a safe space to inject…

I am surrounded by heroin but have never used, because I am not in pain and have it good. I grew up with parents who cared about me and kept me safe, surrounding me with books and toys. I was encouraged, and expected, to finish high school, and to keep learning beyond that. After my education I was lucky to find a job (I was good at thinking in numbers), and was paid well.  The people I met in the drug traps had none of that. Their parents, if around, were too busy with their own problems to keep them safe. Many did far worse, abusing them physically and sexually. If the abuse didn’t come from a parent, it came from an uncle, or the mother’s boyfriend, or a stepbrother, but the abuse almost always came. It was the ultimate betrayal of trust: being raped by men who were supposed to keep them safe.

Their childhoods were spent dealing with problems that would break most adults…

And so drugs are popular, because drugs work. They allow people in pain, whom society has rejected, a way to integrate into a community that does work for them. How much someone uses drugs is often a measure of how much pain they have suffered, how isolated they are…

That in any city or town, across all of America, people live on the streets, shooting up, selling themselves for another bag, should make us all stop and ask ourselves “why does our society create and allow such pain?”.

I never saw Bernice again, she disappeared from the streets, presumably into a rehab, jail, or perhaps she moved to another town. Still, I cannot forget the last thing she said to me, “Why am I using drugs and hustling? Because I am out here trying to kill myself. I want to get a gun and do it faster, but I am too scared to blow my head off.”

Try not to judge people for how they decide to manage their pain. I know that many of these ways are often destructive, like my addiction to cigarettes. I don’t have the looks to be able to sell my body, but I know what desperation and pain can drive a person to do. And if you don’t understand that kind of desperation, then you’re lucky.

According to all of my reading on this subject, most drug addicts are like the ones described in this article. And so I’m wondering about the homes they ran away from, specifically if most drug addicts are from poor neighborhoods. According to the government’s statistics, most heroin addicts are white people from middle-class homes. I’m not sure about the government’s definition of “middle-class,” but I know that most patients who can afford an addiction clinic are usually from the middle-class.

And so I’m wondering, what kind of pain are these middle-class heroin addicts running from? I’ve been comparing the current heroin “epidemic” to the drug epidemics of the past, specifically in the middle-class. It seems like boredom is one of the reasons for drug use in the upper classes, and I suppose we can also blame the immaturity of young brains.

I used to think I was in the middle-class, perhaps lower middle-class. It’s hard to remember every day of my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever been offered heroin. I don’t know what kind of crowd you have to hang out with to be exposed to drugs like that, but I’m guessing it’s people with a lot more money than I’ve ever had. And perhaps, also, people with a lot less than I have.

I can see why a lot of parents blame legal drugs and drug dealers (I mean, doctors). Who else is left to blame? There are many people who believe that parents are to blame when children do things like take drugs. But parents who don’t take drugs also have children who do, and vice versa, so I think the blame falls more on our DNA (along with the types of drugs that one is exposed to). And yet, there’s all this violence, abuse, rape, and bullying, that contributes to drug addiction…

Does the white middle-class really want to stop the heroin “epidemic”? Does it really want to delve into the reasons for addiction? Abuse and violence are already against the law, yet that hasn’t stopped drug use and abuse. The drug war hasn’t stopped it either.

People abuse sex, just like they abuse drugs. In the past, most people felt that unmarried women having babies was shameful (only for the woman, of course). People used to think that women who took the pill were sluts. One day, our society will progress to the point of not shaming those who use drugs, for whatever reason.

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Thinking of you, Bernice.

5 thoughts on “No More Shame and Blame

  1. A lot of the things that attribute to drug abuse and addiction are under-reported, including sexual, emotional and physical abuse. I had my genes analyzed and they have isolated some of the addiction genes that are out there, and I definitely have them. Trauma can certainly trigger addiction, but that’s not the hard and fast rule. Sometimes you get a taste and your proclivities kick in and it’s all over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure our DNA has a lot to do with that, but these proclivities can also skip a generation. I have alcoholics in my family, but other than youthful partying, drinking is not for me. We can also grow out of what we could call addictions in our youth. This is obviously a very complicated issue, as human beings are very complex. And even if we end the drug war, we won’t end drug addiction. If you think about it, we’re not fighting drugs, we’re fighting ourselves. We’re trying to control human behavior. Silly, really, who do we think we are? Gods? 🙂

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      • The “war on drugs” is an oxymoron in itself, because of our government funding drugs either directly or indirectly, and then punishing small street dealers and users with harsher sentences than we have for physically violent crimes. Of course abuse of anything is bad – alcohol, drugs, sex, food, etc. – but we always villainize first and then backtrack for solutions later.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It really is all about pain. Most opioid addicts do not take drugs to get high, but to relieve their emotional and physical pain. For years doctors have correctly noted that most people who take opioids for physical pain do not become addicted. The claim was made that this is due to pain “eating” the euphoria produced by the drug and therefore eliminating the reward mechanism of pleasure thought to be at the root of addiction. This is bullshit, of course, The reason most people with pain don’t experience euphoria on opioids is that most people in general, including addicts, do not. What addicts experience is relief of their physical and emotional pain–even if it is only relief from the pain of withdrawal. The “high” rarely lasts for most.

    The thing to remember about the drug war is that it is not about protecting people from becoming addicted. If that was its real purpose only a delusional lunatic could deny that not only has it failed to curtail addiction, but it has made the personal, social and economic costs of addiction exponentially worse. The drug war is about profit and keeping the costs of these drugs and the pharmaceutical and medical alternatives vastly higher than they would be without government monopoly protections and prohibition.

    But I would not blame the “white middle class” for that, except for those individuals who directly profit form the status quo. The overwhelming majority of Americans want the drug war to end, but our government does not want to give us what we want. Educated whites overwhelmingly reject the drug war and have been the vanguard of the movement to end prohibition. Ironically, until recently blacks, the black churches and black politicians have been some of the leading champions of the drug war, though there has been a massive change in attitudes over the last few years. Of course, bigger players than anyone in the black community ultimately set the rules for us all so I do not wish to blame blacks for the drug war, only point out that it has supporters in unexpected places.

    If you wish to know who to blame, it is those who profit from it. Big Pharma, doctors and their professional associations, cops, the prison industrial complex, the legal profession and the churches. If people could get their hands on opioids cheaply, who would pay exorbitant sums of money to doctors for “treatments” of questionable efficacy or safety such as surgeries or behavioral interventions? Religion? A few milligrams of morphine do more to relieve pain than all the prayer in the world. How will God and his self-appointed representatives on Earth turn a buck if people can relieve their pain for pennies at home?

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  3. On the subject of our government doing the precise opposite of what the majority of Americans elect them to do, there is an interesting article over at Counterpunch making the argument that being forced to vote for candidates that don’t represent us for fear we will get worse if we don’t is akin to a rape victim submitting to a rapist for fear she will get worse if she doesn’t. Vote for Hillary or you’ll get Trump. Have sex with me or I will hurt you. Where is the victim’s right to say no to either alternative?

    Nonconsensual “Democracy” and the Degradation of the American Electorate

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