War on Drugs is Just Another Vietnam

In 1964, some months before the elections, incumbent leaders asked the military to stage an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, then asked Congress to give the military war time power “to prevent future aggression.” The incumbents feared that the opposition party would tag them as “soft on communism.” 58,000 young Americans proved with their lives that we are not soft on communism.

In 1953, my father (finished the third grade and a tobacco farmer) stated he wished they would stop worrying about those Russians. He thought their economic system would destroy their agriculture incentives. They could not feed an army to cross Honey Run Creek (a stream running through our farm about 6′ wide). He was not asked for his opinion when we started a troop buildup in southeast Asia to stop communism. Thirty-seven years later, I was astonished by my father’s thoughts when the Soviet Empire’s economy collapsed.

The war in Vietnam was started because the military needed a war. I have heard lifetime army soldiers state, “Ain’t much of a war, but it’s all we’ve got.” Anyone more than 30 years old knows the discord this war put our country through. It has not healed yet.

In 1948 at a state governor’s convention, a study was presented about institutionalized mental health care costs. Without much ado, a broad-based policy was adopted to reduce mental health care. Soon thereafter, the drug
companies came to the aid off the mental health care professionals in the form of psychotherapeutic drugs. Today, where do the mentally ill get their drugs?

During the last Reagan administration, Congress passed a law that gave law enforcement agencies broad powers to ensure their new drug policy was carried out. The policy was in short: 1. Interdiction, 2. Education, 3. Treatment.

Interdiction of mood altering substances is more absurd than attempting to keep dirt from every American’s fingernails or putting Humpty Dumpty back together. Our country tried with military power, but gave up (said it was interfering with
national defense). Most police forces spend a major portion of their time devoted to this folly. Even if we could possibly stop the 18 controlled substances, Congress could not possibly keep all of these substances out of the hands of the public: rubbing alcohol, vanilla extract, mouthwash, Nyquil, gasoline vapors, airplane glue, and baked banana peelings, not to mention some products that can be used intravenously, like ice water, mayonnaise, and peanut butter.

Picture in your mind a person living under a tree in Jackson Square, New Orleans. This person belongs to that mass of people that we cannot afford to house in a mental institution. How much thought will he give to the penalties imposed if he buys, sells or steals drugs. I wrote in January 1988, “Laws have been passed to appease the uninformed public that have created a market place of violence. A business that exploits the mentally ill, the poor and uneducated.” These laws today are permitting law enforcement officials to extend over the cutting edge of rights protected under the Constitution, not to mention that we are social treating the mentally ill with hand guns, night sticks, and handcuffs. How much more violence will we accept? Our TVs are filled with it (the real stuff, not the fabricated). The press is focused on violent crime (the body count).

How different is this from counting the body bags of the good guys and the bad guys in the years 1964 to 1973 in southeast Asia? I believe that we have gone further in this war than in Vietnam with less success. Our leaders have drawn swords upon our own people to stop a madness that they promote: violence (Rodney King). This will not cease until we put our swords in their sheaths and redefine criminal activity in a manner that has more universal acceptance and does not make the mentally ill, the poor and uneducated into criminals.

In May ’88, I wrote, “The only person more insane than an alcoholic who continues to drink is the one trying to make him/her stop.” Let me review what has taken place. We slowed the entrance into state mental hospitals. We gave
the mentally ill drugs so they could live in society alone. After 2 generations of allowing the mentally ill to reproduce offspring, we declared the “War on Drugs.” After a bit of time, we made war on a foreign country, arrested its leader, and put him in jail. That sure made USA safe from drugs. Only to com up 4 years later and say, “we need 100,000 troops (police) in the field to keepus safe from Drugs and Crime.” Sounds like 1964 all over again.

The next part of the policy was education. I have been part of this program to keep children off drugs. We know too little about this subject to be telling our children anything. For 400 years, anti-smokers told smokers all the evils of smoking to no avail. When research found the real dangers of smoking, all
began to listen. The dehumanizing anti-drug ads put on TV in the 80’s did more harm than good. I would watch those and weep. Most have been taken off, but not all. I am convinced all educational input should be done in the research lab. When we have some idea about alcohol and drug abuse, then spread the word.

We do know treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction cannot begin until total abstinence is accomplished. Total abstinence will only be accomplished by the decision of the addicted. Outside pressures by family, law officials, and others only confuse the issues. Mostly, they do not deal in straight-forward and honest manner, such as I have described above. The following is my definition of an alcoholic. This may help one understand the fallacy of trying to keep a substance from the addict.

An alcoholic is a person who has a distorted perspective of the value alcohol use has for him/her. This distortion is caused by an unknown disorder. This disorder may have existed before the onset of alcohol use.

The last portion of the definition says the disorder may have begun before the onset of alcohol use. I have no clinical or laboratory evidence to support this assertion, but more than casual interest give credence to this claim. This then destroys the thought that we just might save a child with all the madness. Now I want to address all the pocketbook lawmakers before we go out and repeat 1965 with $22 billion of our tax dollars. I propose the following:

A redefinition of crime would start by saying we will no longer pursue adults that possess mood-altering substances or use them in private quarters. A legitimate business enterprise that wishes to sell these substances to adults and demonstrates the ability to inform the buyer of the side effects and dangers of overdose and long term use of the substance will no longer be engaged in a criminal activity. This removes the need for the interdiction part of the drug policy. The education should be done in the medical and/or academe. Forget about informing them until we know more. Treatment should be performed very economically by medical professionals. However, more could be done in public than in private if the following is observed when dealing with someone using drugs or alcohol:

1. Avoid scorn or ridicule.
2. Respect the fact that alcoholism is
a physical, mental, and spiritual disease
with many complexities.
3. Never allow yourself to be ashamed because of the alcoholic’s behavior
4. Assume none of the alcoholic’s responsibilities.
5. Never cover up the alcoholic’s misbehavior.
6. Love for one another.
7. If it don’t work, double up #6

It’s our choice, “War or Peace.”

Some writing from 12/25/93. Sounds a lot like what we hear today
Author: harold