Friday, April 21, 2006

Vancouver mayor to drug addicts: "there is no hope for you!"

Is this to become the Canadian approach to reducing crime:
making it a government-run program?

My morning paper declares it is the attitude of one Canadian: Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan.

Provide drugs to addicts, mayor says

I hold out one thin reed of hope: that, as often is the case these days with our "official" sources of news, maybe the mayor's comments are being slanted so as to sucker readers like me into reading the actual article. This quote from the piece, suggests some yellow journalism at play in order to make for more eye-grabbing headlines: "Mayor Sam Sullivan says he's willing to risk his political career to bring in a program to provide drugs or drug substitutes for addicts in an effort to protect victimized women in the Downtown Eastside and deal with Vancouver's social-disorder problems by the 2010 Olympics." [emphasis added]


truepeers said...

Well Charles, when I consider the amount of crime associated with the drug trade, I'm not sure that giving junkies free drugs is such a bad idea. Frankly, it's either that or putting up more or less with the mess we have, or getting really tough and building more prisons and sticking people there for a long time until they learn a disciplined faith.

Yes, if we provided drugs, we would often become complicit in deaths - and perhaps you are right that this is a moral path we cannot go down - but on the other hand a heroin user who has a guaranteed fix can then function at some level with a certain regularity; and perhaps being free of always needing to think about how to get the money for the next fix would would create more opportunity to develop the very significant spiritual resources that will be required to get off drugs for any length of time. Some people are probably born predisposed to becoming addicts and many just don't have any kind of moral or spiritual discipline inculcated when young. Often the fault will lie with families and peers. But whoever may be to blame for drug use, if heroin were provided free to proven junkies, there would presumably be many fewer street dealers working to create a new market for their products.

The other thing to consider is that there are so many narcotics available today that we might have to think about what are the better kinds of drug dependencies to encourage in those prone to such dependency, in order to limit some of the harsher ones, though perhaps the only way to "save" our many lost generations will be to lock a lot of people up and make them grow up all over again; of course many would fail such a plan too.

There is no quick fix for a culture in which nihilism is pervasive. We patiently have to start rebuilding from the basics on up.

Charles Henry said...

Truepeers, I was very surprised to read your comment yesterday. As usual, your writing forces me to think a second time about my own position, to settle my thoughts into a more coherent pattern.

I feel that drug addiction is a modern-day lycanthropy. Once it touches a life, there is a curse upon that life, that never goes away completely. It can be lessened, but never truly extinguished.
It seems part of the tragedy of the human condition, that we have an attraction to intoxication, an urge not much different than other basic urges like those for sex or food.
Like these other yearnings, it is our responsability to seek a balanced approach to them.

My view is that drug addiction should be handled in a manner derived from our practice of Quarantine. We have a precedent where an individual, maybe through no fault of their own, is tainted by some disease. They must temporarily submit to certain rules and treatments, accepting limits that get placed upon their lifestyles, until such time that it is acknowledged the degree to which they still possess the disease won't adversely affect the society around them.

I see drug addiction as just such a disease, however self-inflicted it may be. I stretch my comparison by the suggestion that, while there is not the direct contamination that, say, the plague may bring, there is a continuation of misery, as one person's addiction spreads misery to others besides himself. We expect the plague victim to submit to treatment, why not the addict as well?

I will admit I have no idea about how effective the current methods of treatment are for the various drug dependencies that exist today. Surely, though, they must have **some** effect for the better.

Where the article hits my hot buttons, is what I read as the mayor's surrender to the problem, by denying the possibility of progress by degree. I got the impression that he is saying, in effect, "these people cannot be rid of their problems in an absolute sense, therefore we freeze them in place by keeping them addicts and simply provide them their drugs ourselves."

His statement later in the article, "I've looked at mandatory treatment in the United States and still seen open drug use there", I also interpret as another absolutist position: since it didn't result in a 100% cure, let's not administer it as medicine.

There are undeniably tragic choices in life that requires us to settle for the lesser of two evils, rather than an impeccably "good" or "bad" choice, and clearly this issue is one of them.

Where I respectfully disagree with your point, is that I can't help feeling that giving an addict drugs is conceding that they are right to continue destroying themselves. From my personal, and admittedly limited experience, many addicts further their addiction due to a deep self-loathing. That may not be why they started, but I do believe it is what drives them to continue.

I seize on the mayor's comment, "drug substitutes", as my line-in-the-sand; help up to, but not including, the narcotics we deem so crippling that we have banned them in the first place.

Isn't going beyond that, to your side of the scale, tilting the balance away from the need for the addict to recognize that their addiction is wrong, that their covenant with society includes an obligation to lessen their dependency?

truepeers said...

HI Charles, just saw your comment on my way out the door, so a quick reply for now: you are right, that giving addicts drugs would be interpreted by many as a license for self-destructive behaviour. While they are already self-destructive, we can only justify this license as the lesser evil if we think it might lead to a situation where we can engage addicts in what will have to be a long and difficult (often failing) conversation on one's obligations to the human community and to oneself (in god). That would have to be the price for the drugs.

But maybe we need to reconsider asylums, as your comment suggests. Of course, no one will want to pay for them, because most people today just don't care about what they see as hopeless cases. SO the problem takes us to a need for a social re-covenanting on so many levels. If there were a good answer to this problem, it would be well known by now.