The real War on Drugs: a call to fight addiction

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by Adara Gebro

gebroad@mnstate.edu

I had a good friend. He was funny, could quote “The Office” like nobody’s business and was a notable and talented pianist. Those lucky enough to know him would say he was gregarious, affable and tender.

But he was plagued by a bitter affliction. Maybe you’ve heard the story. Unfortunately, cases like his are common. Sometimes we know when their stories are unfolding, sometimes we don’t until it’s too late.

Everyone has their demons, some deadlier than others. My friend’s were revealed when he was found after a heroin overdose made fatal by fentanyl. His demons died with him.

We need to be empathetic to those struggling with addiction, but it’s a fine line between enabling and supporting. We need to have boundaries and avoid putting ourselves in dangerous situations, but we also need to help the families and individuals in addiction’s grip.

We need honest discussion about addiction. We need treatment programs rather than punishment.

The recent deaths in our community, instigated by heroin and ensured by fentanyl are wake-up calls to be taken seriously by all of us.

We should not be cutting funding to treatment centers like Robinson Recovery. Many addicts can’t afford the steep prices of rehabilitation, and many lack health insurance. Lives are at risk, and the cost of death is steep. No money can make up for the loss of life. Cutting funding from treatment centers punishes people in need of help.

This loss has given us an opportunity to come together and help those who are suffering.

Police have stepped up to the task of apprehending those accused of injecting our community with deadly drugs. But policing is only half the battle. We need to keep in mind basic economics — where there is demand, there is supply. We cannot eradicate drugs themselves.

Our country’s “War on Drugs” has failed us miserably. It does not address the real problem of addiction.

While some people can recreationally gamble, some end up gambling with their lives. Addiction has many manifestations — food, shopping, gambling, sex. What ails us is not drug availability. It’s illness.

We need to be unflinching and honest in seeing the cause of these untimely deaths. Availability is largely irrelevant. We must support the funding of our area’s treatment centers to heal our community.

There is more to the battle than cracking down on dealers. We owe it to ourselves and those suffering to take a deeper look, be that in the form of education, or consideration of law reform or better treatment center funding. This is something we need to start openly talking about.

These tragedies have opened a door for conversation and change. Let’s step through it.

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