Saturday, September 12, 2009

Drugs and Education

I think that in their comments to the last blog post, Corey and Tyler brought us to the conclusion reached by Linda Kunze in the final essay we are reading about drugs. Toward the end of Drug Use: The Continuing Epidemic, Kunze talks about how the country might respond to the abuse of drugs, "Although there are no easy answers to this age-old problem, early education seems to be the only truly effective weapon the nation has" (366). I think she is right.

Clearly the abuse of drugs is a problem for society. Drug abuse has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people, destroyed the lives and families of millions more, and cost society billions in lost productivity and property. I don't think anyone disagrees with or can ignore these facts. I also don't think that anyone will deny that society has the responsibility to address the damage caused by drug abuse. The problem is figuring out what response is best.

Figuring out this problem is made all the more difficult because of our emotional involvement with the situation. As we can already see even in the small population of our class, almost all of us have been touched either directly or indirectly by drug abuse. Very few of us are truly indifferent to and objective about drug abuse; rather, we are passionate and engaged. This makes it harder to think rationally and to engage in considerate thoughtful dialog with those who oppose our passions. I remember when a few of my sister's more unsavory drug associates showed up at her funeral. My family and I were horrified and outraged. After all, these were the very people we blamed for her death. I can easily understand Justin's willingness to shoot on-sight anyone associated with illicit drug use, but as that a good path for society to follow? In my sane moments, I think not.

To my mind, the way we are handling drug abuse is similar to how we've tried to handle mental illness, a problem that society has addressed in different ways. In ancient times, mentally ill people were charged with demon possession and either cast out from the group or executed. In the Middle Ages, society became a bit more compassionate and reasonable and just put the mentally ill in prisons. In the 20th Century, we finally began to treat mental illness as a medical condition, not as criminal behavior. Likewise, I don't think we should treat drug abuse as criminal behavior. I am convinced that we can achieve a far better society if we decriminalize all drug use and manage the production and distribution of drugs through the government rather than through the Black Market, or even legal markets. This does not mean that I am in favor of or that I condone drug abuse, no more than I am in favor of or condone mental illness. I just think there are better ways to treat these problems than by shooting people or putting them in prison.

I noticed in the news recently that Mexico has decriminalized the use of marijuana, deciding that they have much bigger issues to deal with in their war against the drug cartels. Is this a good first step toward using education rather than bullets to curtail drug abuse? Is it something the US should consider?
Post a Comment