Overall, it seems as if addict advocacy, lobbying their service providers, and for society as a whole has become a zero-sum game. The opioid crisis thrives.
There are apparently sides to be taken in a battle of “us” versus “them.” There have been and always will be addicts amongst us.
There will always be drug providers (be it at the street level, at the liquor store, the marijuana dispensary, or those who have medical degrees and write prescriptions for pills). There will always be prejudice. Their will always be a lack of sense of community when fear and mistrust is involved. The addicts and their families want to blame the healthcare industry. Society wants to blame the treatment industry. They want to blame anyone but themselves. We want to blame them as being morally inferior and mentally weak.
They have a comprehensive and robust report from the U.S. Surgeon General, unequivocally identifying addiction as a national disease. We have an independent Grand Jury investigation, Sober Homes Task Force Report, and extensive local investigative reporting from a multitude of press outlets, The Palm Beach Post in particular, identifying an overwhelmingly fraudulent industry that seems to have an insatiable appetite for consuming its own class of people.
Maybe we are all wrong, that the march towards decriminalization and deinstitutionalization of the addict has been a social experiment mistake? Maybe addicts need to be isolated from society for their own good? Perhaps the “integration” mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act really did not take into consideration that the disabled in a wheelchair may really be different in kind than the disabled on heroin?
Maybe we do need to reopen and reexamine the ADA, not to discriminate, but because there now is clearly a different set of facts that requires a different modality of response?
While I subscribe to the inherently American values of individualism and self-responsibility, we must put aside philosophical differences and recognize the clear science that the modern opioid epidemic is a terrorist that hijacks the mind, body and spirit.
Even without the misuse of substances, what is true for all Americans is that greed is the most tolerated yet the most destructive addiction of them all.
We cannot demand that someone do something about “those addicts” but then refuse to offer the necessary funding, resources, infrastructure, housing, and services to care for this population, and we can therefore neither blame the addicts nor the treatment provider. We are the adults in the room. We cannot blame the unsupervised children for playing with matches and burning down the house.
If the disease of addiction is truly a public health crisis, rather than the now debunked theory that it is a moral failing, we seem to be left with only one choice – double our efforts, buckle down, and fix this system once and for all. Not later, not when it is more politically palatable. Now. We no longer have the luxury of time.