For a while there, back in the 1980s, cocaine was ubiquitous. At one time or another, it seemed like everybody to some degree did it, or had it, or knew where they could get it. If they didn’t, they almost certainly knew someone who did.
Cocaine was the subject of hit songs and major motion pictures. There was even an iconic, decade-defining TV show based on the drug. It’s rather stupid when you look at it now, but that was then. Every era has its own version of bathtub gin.
As society at large knew all along, cocaine was and is a hugely destructive force; a blood-drenched, soul-sucking money hole that consumes human lives on an international scale.
The heroin heyday we seem to be in now recalls the “Miami Vice” era all too clearly. It seems the drug is everywhere, in every news report. It is not your imagination. The numbers of interdictions, arrests, overdose deaths, and addicts seeking treatment have all skyrocketed in recent years.
We see it in our paper, where hardly a week goes by without some news of the sort.
We remind ourselves those numbers represent real human suffering. An overdose death is not a simple statistic. It is a lifetime of pain for those left behind.
As described, heroin seems particularly evil. Apparently, it obscures everything with visions of bliss, and it sinks its hooks into the user with a python-like physiological grip.
Now we have been fighting the “War on Drugs” for more than 30 years and all we have to show for it, besides receipts for the billions of dollars spent, is the world’s largest prison population. If anything, drugs are cheaper and easier to come by now than when we started.
At this point it should be clear we can’t arrest and seize the problem away.
For that reason alone, we would like to be cautiously optimistic about the prospects for a local version of Operation HOPE, the program wherein addicts can present themselves to law enforcement and ask for help and get it, without fear of prosecution for a drug crime.
The early returns on the program in other places indicate some reason for, well, hope. Some addicts want help and will take it where they can find it. As much as we can, we support offering that help.
More than the specifics of the Operation HOPE program, we really like the out-of-the-box thinking that produced the concept and we like the multi-agency collaboration it requires.
What we have been doing for 30 years hasn’t worked, but like the addict who wants to kick, we have to keep on trying.