WILTSE: Drug addiction problem needs radical solution

Oct 25, 2012


Of the 2.3 million people currently incarcerated, about 1.95 million, or 85 percent of them, are there on account of drug charges. And about a third of the remaining are incarcerated for committing crimes while under the influence of drugs. This is according to Wikipedia and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

This is a huge and serious problem — which is not only a problem of the United States, but is an important international problem that is caused primarily by the U.S. It is probably the most important sociological problem of all; much more important than that of job creation, a problem that economists say is insolvable and one which no politician will influence. Yet, it is completely ignored by all politicians.

There seems to be a solution worthy of discussion. Why not let the government supervise and legitimatize the importation and distribution of all drugs?

I can hear the screams of agony now. This would increase the size of government and allow it to participate in an immoral activity. Well, I argue that the government is involved at the moment to a much greater extent for the incarceration of these individuals. We must not only furnish guards, administrators of prisons and social workers for them, but we must furnish them with food, clothing, medical and dental services, and even funerary services sometimes. All of this is extremely expensive — I have heard as much as $90,000 per inmate. I think that is extreme, but it must be above $50,000.

It would be cheaper not to incarcerate them, but force them to consider rehabilitation and reform. I realize that, in most cases, reform and rehabilitation is impractical — but it is more reasonable to treat drug addiction as the sickness it is and not as a crime requiring automatic incarceration.

By legitimatizing the importation of drugs, the growing of the source of those drugs (e.g., cocaine and opium) would also become legitimatized, thereby freeing up thousands, perhaps millions, of acres for food production.

Also, it would eliminate the drug lords of Mexico and other countries, saving hundreds of lives. It would save thousands, perhaps millions, of illegal dollars being used by gangsters in all countries concerned.

Much of crime would be eliminated, for crimes committed by drug addicts for the purpose of obtaining drugs would be almost entirely be eliminated if they could obtain them by prescription instead of from illegal drug dealers. Addicts would be identified and publicized as being such, and treated as patients rather than criminals.

I admit that my "solution" is a gross oversimplification of the problem, but it is worthy of consideration and discussion because the problem is growing exponentially. As it is, we are burying our heads in the sand.

In the 60-year period from 1920 to 1980, the prison population increased from about 20,000 to 500,000. From 1980 to 2006, it increased from 500,000 to 2.3 million. Most of that increase is due to drugs. In the former 60 years, the increase was 480,000. In the latter 26 years, the increase was 1.8 million.

Something must be done and we must realize that there is a serious problem. We cannot ignore the problem as we have in the past.

If people wish to drug themselves to death, they will do it in any case. The least we can do is to try to prevent it.

— By Ralph Wiltse, Tribune community columnist



Back to the Wall

The drugs are not the problem. The drugs are a symptom of a much larger social and economic problem that would not be easily explained in a 1000 word, heavily edited, small town newspaper column. Incarceration is easier than dealing with the elephant in the livingroom. Incarceration provides a strawman of a problem that we can be solved by a war. Because war isn't an action anymore, war is a visceral call to arms against all enemies, imagined and manufactured. The war on drugs and the war on crime are avenues of federal control and funding. We can't solve the real problem without ending the way of life so many in power depend on.


I need some valium! Ok here we go......drug addiction is a lack of personal control. It can be taught, it can be learned by example. I think some are more prone to addiction and that's where good parenting, good friends can make a huge difference. When their drug addiction becomes societies problem, then locking them up and getting them into rehabilitation is what is needed. Boot camp programs are a great option for younger addicts. Structure in one's life is needed to get addicts out of their haze. Half measures do not work for some of these personalities. Economics my a$$. The rest of your gobbledegobe comes out of some 60's anti whatever crap.

Tri-cities realist

Perhaps the author should refrain from the influence before writing a column. I have no other excuse for those views, other than that they are chemically induced.


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