Monday, February 10, 2014


Vermont’s governor says we should solve the heroin problem by recognizing it as a disease and rely less on law enforcement

Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s when I was still working the streets, reformers and do-gooders were clamoring for society to deal with heroin as a medical problem, rather than dealing with it through law enforcement. Now, five decades later, we are hearing the same call.

Sunday’s ABC This Week With George Stephanopoulos was cohosted by Martha Raddatz and Jonathan Karl. One segment dealt with America’s heroin resurgence which was brought to light by the overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. One of the guest panelists was Peter Shumlin, Vermont’s Democratic governor.

Here are some excerpts from Sunday’s transcript:

KARL: And don't go anywhere, coming up -- America's hidden heroin crisis, affecting every neighborhood, maybe even yours.

RADDATZ: Governor Shumlin, you are in one of the most rural states in the country, again. You just don't think about a lot of heroin users. I want to read these figures. We heard some of them in Rich's piece.

Vermont is in the top 10 states for abuse of pain killers and prescription drug abuse. $2 million worth of heroin is trafficked in Vermont every week. People treated for heroin increased nearly 800 percent since 2000. What segment of your population is using drugs. You clearly saw this as a crisis.

SHUMLIN: Well, you know I think here's the point. I mean, Vermont has one of the best qualities of life in the country. And Vermont is no different than the other states. I think a difference is that we've got a governor and a law enforcement, the community is willing to address it. And really, the question for us is, you know, not so much why it's happening, but how do we deal with what's happening.

And the challenge with this disease, and it is a disease, is that nobody wants to talk about it. And nobody wants to change the way we're doing business.

We have got to stop thinking we can solve this with law enforcement alone and treat as a disease just like any other disease. And, you know, when you think about it, if folks smoke cigarettes they get cancer, we feel compassion. This is no different. And we've got to move a judicial system and a health care system to a system where we're treating this as a disease.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “… every neighborhood, maybe even yours.” Now that’s a notable gaffe, an oxymoron if there ever was one.

When Gov. Shumlin’s pleads to recognize the heroin problem as a disease, he is singing the second verse, same as the first. We’ve heard it all before, long ago. The problem with treating heroin addiction medically is that once treated, there is a high rate of relapse. Philip Seymour Hoffman serves as a good example. He was clean for 23 years. Unfortunately, most relapses occur shortly after graduation from a rehab program.

So, what keeps drawing addicts back to the use of heroin after rehab? One of my favorite parolees, a 45-year-old con-wise black heroin addict, had spent nearly half his life in prion. I asked him why he kept using heroin each time he got out of prison. He told me it was “Because I like it. Nothing else gives me such a good feeling. I really like it.” The head shrinkers will insist that it’s not that simple. I say, why not?

Another one of my heroin addicted parolees came from a very wealthy Palm Springs family. I took him to several high schools so he could tell the students about his addiction. When students asked him why he used heroin, he replied that nothing gave him a greater feeling. “My old lady can give me a load of shit, it don’t bother me. My kids can give me a load of shit, it don’t bother me. A cop can hassle me, it don’t bother me. A car can come by and splash mud all over my threads, it don't bother me. Nothing bothers me.” But then he would tell them there’s a heavy price to pay. “I’ve been in and out of jails and prison. My mother and father disowned me. My wife divorced me and got a court order forbidding me from seeing my kids. I’ve got a college degree but the only job I can get is digging ditches. But when I shoot up, all that don't bother me.”

The words of those two parolees should help explain why Philip Seymour Hoffman started using heroin again. But the head shrinkers will tell you it’s not that simple.

1 comment:

bob walsh said...

The ChiComs managed to beat the opium problem in China in one year. Every time they found an opium den, which wasn't all that hard to do if you actually wanted to, they shot everybody in the building and then burned the building to the ground. The commies are not big on subtle but are very fond of effective.