"The Throwaways" by Sarah Stillman in the Sept. 3 issue of "The New Yorker" tells what happens when inexperienced kids are turned out as "C.I.s" in the War Against Drugs.
It is time to call a halt on this whole farce by medicalizing our treatment of drug users. This is not the same as decriminalization (although taking the profit out of the business would cripple the cartels -- legitimate and illegitimate -- that blanket Appalachia with heroin and oxycotin.)
A first step would be to treat addicts differently. Even though many addicts of my acquaintance sneer at them, the Drug Courts are a step in the right direction. A much more beneficial step would be to take drug offences out of the criminal justice system altogether.
If addiction is a disease, then we are punishing people for medical affliction. To put it as simply as possible, the disease is that the addict (like the alcoholic) loses the ability to choose. As the cliché has it "one is too many and a thousand is not enough."
As one addict told the Wetzel County prosecutor "It's like poison ivy, Mr. Haught. You know you shouldn't scratch it, but that instantaneously releases pleasure." When the addict (or alcoholic) starts, it's not that they can't quit. They don't want to quit. Their "will power," as it is, has been overcome. In Freudian terms the pleasure principle has obliterated the reality principle.
If one is truly an addict, it is a fatal and invisible disease, and the basic, perhaps the only, remedy is total abstinence.
Ernest Hemmingway said, "No matter how, a man alone ain't got no bloody-chance." In the same vein, Russ Taylor, who headed "Miracles" in Wheeling, perhaps West Virginia's top treatment center, said "An addict by himself is in bad company."
Maybe there is a pill or drug out there, but until that blessed day, we need to quarantine addicts as one used to do lepers and people with tuberculosis, not incarcerate them and have them play cat and mouse with the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The war is over. It is time to come out of the cold.
Rogers is a lawyer in New Martinsville.