Our country needs to legalize or decriminalize drug use. This statement might seem pretty extreme but I’ve been thinking about it for a while and when you see the big picture, it’s the only way that makes sense. I’m debating starting a petition. What we need are people to actually read the reasoning behind that statement with an open mind and not with the mindset that people just want to use drugs. I don’t even use drugs. Keeping drug use as a crime against society causes harm and hinders people from seeking help.
Merriam-Webster states that a crime is an illegal act for someone could be punished by the government. Especially: a gross violation of the law. (1). But there is also a legal definition of crime that allows for prosecution for breaking a law. The legal definition per The Free Dictionary by Farlex states, “n. a violation of a law in which there is injury to the public or a member of the public and a term in jail or prison, and/or a fine as possible penalties.” (2).
Also from them is this statement, “There is some sentiment for excluding from the “crime” category crimes without victims, such as consensual acts, or violations in which only the perpetrator is hurt or involved such as personal use of illegal drugs. (See: felony, misdemeanor).”
Typically, to be considered a legal crime, it must be a violation of law against another person or property of another person. With drug use, the crime is simply against oneself. There is no crime against another for simply using a substance. And yet, it is considered a crime. I believe we need to change that and I have good reason for feeling this way.
The ‘War on Drugs’ has been going on since the 70’s. They’ve had 50 years, FIFTY YEARS to perfect it and have failed miserably. The only thing this war on drugs has accomplished is making drug use illegal, stigmatized drug users, stigmatized legitimate patients using a proper medication to relieve pain due to some abuse by others, and creating large barriers to people seeking help both mentally and medically.
There are various types of drug users. Those who use recreationally like any other person who likes a nice drink on occasion to unwind, those who use to drown their troubles and hide their pain due to some internal or external conflict in life, and those who can’t seem to function without drug use who are the legitimate patients addicted to a substance. Those with addictions need extensive help and therapy to fight their addictions and live drug free. The recreational users don’t need any kind of therapy as they use just like a person who drinks on occasion. Those who use for drowning their troubles likely need therapy to help manage the issues that drive them use in the first place.
With drugs being criminalized, seeking help places the individual in a very sticky situation where their very lives are at risk simply for seeking help. If they have children, their children can be taken from them. If they have certain careers, their careers can be destroyed. Just the fact of use being illegal sets barriers against those seeking help. The stigma as well keeps people quiet. I’m certain there is a large portion of users who desire help but the fact that use is stigmatized and the fact that use is illegal keeps them from seeking the help they need. There is also fallout that affects those who don’t even use illegal drugs who are looking for help. A ripple effect that spreads far and wide touching those who don’t even use illicit substances yet use legal medications that some have chosen to abuse, harming many pain patients who simply want to function in life and yet they are thrown into the stigma with those who use illegally thanks to misinformation campaigns, the media, and organizations seeking to demonize the use of opioids regardless of the reason for using them.
I would be remiss without mentioning the stigma of mental health which is often linked closely to drug use though not all mental health issues lead to drug use. The stigma of having anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges is just another barrier to those who wish to seek help. We desperately need to break those stigma’s paving the way for those holding close to the vest their mental hardships that may simply need, talk therapy.
I absolutely believe that by legalizing or decriminalizing drugs, our war on drugs would be successful in a way it never has before. Why repeat the same mistakes over and over and over that achieves nothing but more harm. Stubbornness? Pride? Some kind of deeper ulterior motive? Whatever it may be, it’s not for the American people as we’re the ones that are suffering because of it.
The fact of the matter is, people WILL USE DRUGS. That will never change. There will always be someone either seeking to get high or seeking to drown their troubles in some kind of substance legal or otherwise. I’m pretty certain this is an established fact. We know that for some, drug use can lead to dirty needles, spreading of disease, unsavory behaviors, and harm against oneself. The person inside has issues. They need help to find the reason why they are seeking out the substance to begin with. I’m not referencing recreational users. They’re in a different playing field and having been around many growing up, they don’t need help no more than a person who drinks alcohol to unwind on weekends. They just chose a method that gives them a different feel than alcohol. But those seeking to numb their pain, physically or mentally, are the ones I’m referring to in this article, the ones who need real help to keep them from spiraling further and to put them on the road to recovery. The way our society is set up, keeping drugs illegal is a barrier to receiving help.
Our country has slowly added some changes to help with some of the issues that are caused by illicit drug use, such as offering clean needles which is a good thing as we know, they’re going to use regardless so at least we can help decrease the spread of disease if their route of choice is the needle. Some countries have legalized or decriminalized the use of drugs and have shown much success in doing so. Maybe we can follow their lead.
By legalizing or decriminalizing drugs, we can lift the stigma attached to it. There are a lot of fears for someone to admit to drug use. For one, it’s illegal!! How can you expect people to get help if they have to admit to doing something illegal? That alone is a huge barrier for those who do want to seek help! If they have children, they fear losing their children. If they have a good career, they fear losing that career. So many reasons NOT to seek help all because of the legality involved and the record it will leave on the person for simply admitting it.
Imagine having your permanent record marked as a drug user then that person seeking medical help after an injury or for chronic pain. Now because of that label, that person is not only treated differently in the medical establishment but they can also be denied pain relief!! I’ve spoken to people that have had this happen. I also know a family of someone who was mislabeled as an addict who went through an extremely painful surgery and then was denied proper pain relief. He killed himself. Killed himself!!! And even sadder, he never misused his medications, he simply used a medication off-label for chronic pain that is given to those who abuse drugs, even though he never abused them. This very stigma smeared his permanent record, labeled him as an addict and then led to him being denied proper pain management. This also shows that those who do abuse drugs may not ever have proper pain management all for seeking help or being labeled as an addict. They are treated differently in the medical system. And people wonder why some refuse to seek help.
Legalizing can rid a huge portion of this problem. In time, the stigma will fade and people can simply reach out for help if they find themselves in trouble.
What about legitimate pain patients? Many of us, myself included, use opioids legally and yet there are people out there that abuse them with and without a legitimate prescription though studies have shown most illicit users don’t even have a legitimate prescription for the drug they are abusing so it’s not legal prescriptions causing the bulk of this particular drug abuse but a heavy handed organization and campaign has ruled with an iron fist to not only heavily tighten the availability of pain medications but to reduce the milligrams needed by even legitimate pain patients as if it’s one size fits all and assuming that after a certain dose, harm will be caused. Never in the field of medicine have I seen a drug that flat out limits the maximum dosage allowed when each individual is a person that metabolizes a medication differently and the reason why various dosages are created and prescribed. Tolerance to any substance can be built causing a need for higher dosages of ANY drug/substance and yet they put a limit on pain medications that allow those in chronic pain to function in society at least as much as able. How is this ok? Not only that, but they just attached a huge stigma against the use of pain meds to go so far as creating children’s books that talk about ‘mommy using opioids’ and needing help…. Wait what?? Wouldn’t it make more sense to talk about illicit drugs as a whole rather than single out one particular drug that used by many to keep someone functioning? Why put fear into a child about pain meds? Pain meds are good for those who have need of them and due to all of this, an even larger harm has been created in our society in the last few years due this campaign against opioids, no different than their ‘war on drugs.’
Hospitals given incentives to limit their use of opioids by paying out more money if they can use alternative means. There will always be those who abuse their roles and story after story was told of being left in severe pain from surgery after waking up and being denied opioids. Yes, that happened over and over as hospitals raked in extra funds for using Tylenol and in some places, lavender essential oil for pain. I truly feel like I woke up in the twilight zone and we’ve gone back in time to biting a stick for pain.
Legitimate patients using opioid medications to function were taken off of the medications without choice. Left to suffer not only the withdrawals of stopping this medication but also to suffer the effects of their chronic pain and debilitating condition without a proper medication to reduce the pain. They were left to suffer. I’m sure almost all of us were left in fear as we read story after story of patients having their life saving medication taken away from them, waiting for it to happen to us. Many who were on high dosages (higher than what some non doctor decided was the threshold) were suddenly tapered down (some without taper) to fit under this new imaginary number that the CDC determined people can’t go over. A recommendation, not law, that was also ruled with an iron fist with the DEA going after good doctors who refused to go by this “RECOMMENDATION.” What has our world come to? They just created more illicit drug users as some took to the streets in defiance looking for illegal ways to reduce the pain that riddles their bodies. Legitimate pain patients!! Some turned to suicide, refusing to live a life in severe pain without relief, care, or help. You’d be shocked if you knew all the numbers involved. They don’t talk much about that in the media. America’s dirty secret. The rest are left trying to function on doses that don’t work near as well as what they had prior, struggling to function. Some of us were lucky. I’m thankful I wasn’t over the ‘recommended’ limit but the fear of having my meds taken away is real not only for me but for those aware of the situation our pain patients are facing. Many patients have even refused surgery due to the stories of those left struggling with little pain relief after their own surgeries. No one wants to wake up in severe pain after being cut open and left to suffer.
Story after story run by the media about this crazed ‘opioid epidemic’ and all these deaths due to opioids and yet the real numbers tell a different story. Illicit drug use, not prescription medications, are the cause of these spikes in death. Illicit drugs cut with powerful substances being sold on the streets not in doctor’s offices. So why smear legitimate pain patients? Why punish legitimate pain patients? That’s pointing the blame at the wrong person and then punishing them for a crime they didn’t commit. Why?
If drugs were legalized we wouldn’t have this problem. If truth and justice existed we probably wouldn’t have much of a problem either but that’s doubtful to change any time soon. If we legalized and regulated drugs, we could safely allow those to continue a habit they would continue anyway but without the fear of what’s in it, without the fear of a tainted supply, without the need to limit good legitimate patients for a crime they didn’t commit. They could also make money off it if they so chose. There’s always money in drugs. Take the money from the cartels and black market that will always exist and put it into our states instead. Create REAL programs for those with addictions and those who need help with mental health problems. Imagine the facilities that can be created off the money made. Real facilities, not thrown together back alley rooms where people NEED to remain anonymous and help is limited. How about plush retreats that only the rich can attain. I’ve researched wilderness camps for my child, a nice nature retreat where he can reset and get guided help and focus on his anxiety and depression and you want to know what that would cost me? A mortgage in some places! Over $50,000 for short session with all the right tools in the right places that might actually help my child rather than the closed off room in a small office where they simply sit there and talk or at least try and talk as some children don’t want to talk about things going on in their heads. This boils down to rich vs poor and what’s available to each. It’s sad. Don’t we want a productive society? Don’t we want people to get help and better function in this world, able to give back? Yet our country places stumbling blocks in front of us, creates massive stigma’s and criminalizes behaviors that are not against society but simply against themselves creating those barriers that keep people from getting help.
We’ve done a good job at our institutionalized places of learning teaching our children about the dangers of drugs and the legalities around it but what have we done to teach them about love and compassion and seeking help in a world that tells them it’s bad to begin with? It’s a catch 22. We need to break that.
It’s really no different than someone who feels suicidal but can’t be honest about it without getting locked up or having their children taken away from them. The stigma is real. We’ve placed those barriers in society and then expect people to reach out and get help. Yeah, you might catch a few of them but most will simply bury those feelings and try and suck it up, never truly able to be honest or seek the help that they need. Then compound that by being a chronic pain patient on a legitimate prescription and the fear of having their meds taken away and what help is truly available for them.
Here’s an anonymous example of someone’s life:
Imagine living with chronic health problems, keeping a person disabled. They get a few hours relief each day from the pain meds they’re taking. This person’s a fast metabolizer of medications and already on the max dosage ‘recommended’ by the CDC so no more meds will be given to help with the pain. On good days, the meds work well for three hours but on bad days they only last one to two hours so there’s a lot of break through pain but a second script to cover that is no longer available. (And yes, many alternatives were tried and nothing other than heat which lasts maybe 30 minutes have been successful at reducing the pain.) They are only allowed one pill every 4 hours. But instead, they take the meds as needed, knowing their own bodies and making their own decision at how to handle it so they take the meds every 2 to 3 hours depending on the level of pain their experiencing. Yet, every time they see their doctor, they say all is good as they can’t be honest. They’re not allowed to be honest. Being honest will get their medication taken away from them. They know damn well they won’t get additional pain help and they know damn well they can’t be honest about not taking their prescription as prescribed. Is this person a bad person? Is this person abusing their meds? Is he a drug addict? In my view, the answer is no to all those questions. Our society has simply set up road blocks to being honest and receiving adequate care. And for the record, on really good days, he can space the meds out even further apart and sometimes save an extra pain pill for a rainy day so it’s not like he’s simply using them up for some kind of need/addiction.
Let’s talk about saving those little pills. Unlike some meds where you can be an adult and simply take them when needed, with pain meds, you are expected to take every single pill exactly as prescribed. If you admit you’ve had some good days going on and were able to reduce your usages by even one little pill, the next thing you know, your script will change, your meds will be reduced and you’ll be left to suffer when the good days end and the bad ones pick up again. We’re not allowed to be adults. We’re not allowed to be responsible for our own usage. We live under an iron fist and treated like junkies as we have our meds counted, our urine scrutinized, and treated like we’re criminals even picking up those meds at certain pharmacies. It’s dehumanizing. So no, if they caught wind that we had even a tiny little stock pile of extra pills for when pain gets brutal and knowing we won’t be given help during those days, that’s grounds to remove our meds.
Imagine in a disaster if things shut down, knowing your exact count and when your meds will run out. We’re not allowed to fill early and we’re not allowed more than a month at a time even though any other drug is allowed up to a 90 day supply. Not pain meds. We simply might use them before our prescription runs out. But truly, legitimate pain patients know better than to be so stupid. We know how many we get. We know if we were to run out early, we’re not allowed an extra fill. That’s drilled into us. Who in their right minds, who legitimately need them, would blow through their meds? How is 90 days any different than having our 30 days? We know the count.
Every time we see the pain doc, we have to fill out a form that asks lots of questions in relation to anger, mental health, depression, ect. Of course they also ask if we abuse our meds, take them beyond how they’ve been prescribed or for reasons other than what they were prescribed for. My honest thoughts? Who the hell would admit if they did? What if Janey discovered they helped her anxiety and on a really bad day she takes them for exactly that. What would admitting to that mean for Janey? She’d have her pain meds taken away as she signed a contract (another thing required of us) and would be considered to have broken that contract. So why ask? What about the example of the guy above? What if he admitted to taking them sooner than prescribed? Again, there go his meds. And obviously if you have some idiot getting pain meds to use for illicit means or to sell them, do you honestly think they’d admit that on that questionnaire? Seriously? What’s the point? You can’t be honest, you’re penalized for trying. Though the person using it illicitly shouldn’t be doing so via pain management route, even if they legalized drugs across the board. Those people would need to go a different route, however that would look like. Pain management should solely focus on those seeking pain relief.
I’ve often wondered why they ask questions about anger or depression. With so much fear of losing the only med that gives some sense of relief, would those meds be taken if you admit to feeling depressed? Angry at life? Suicidal? Again, these stigmas come to hinder people from seeking help in one of two ways.
What if someone was severely depressed and wanted to seek in treatment for their depression? There are two immediate and very logical fears that come to mind, having seen my own mother going through a similar situation. Suppose you admit yourself to a facility for some much needed help. What if your facility doctor decides you shouldn’t be on pain meds? What if they decide that your dose isn’t appropriate or that they fail to give your medications on time? Those are real fears and real experiences had by others. In my mother’s case, she takes one very small dose of pain meds each day for her restless legs. No other med has reduce that pain except her pain med. The doctor didn’t feel she needed it even though she’d been on it for years with great success. Not only did he try and deny her dose of medication but he attempted to have it removed. She won that battle but it was hell for months after having to rejustify and fight to keep on it.
Psychiatry is NOT pain management. Yet it was a group of psychiatrists that first attempted to control the facade of the ‘opioid crisis’ seeking out the CDC and determining their own recommended dosage limits and starting this war on pain medicine. They were quite successful to the point of states creating their own opioid tasks force with many many states not having a single pain management doctor on the panel. The very specialty in prescribing opioids and yet that type of specialist was excluded from the decision making and denied the input that would ultimately affect his job and his patients. Nor did they allow the insight of chronic pain patients when setting up this new guideline. It’s so mind blowing how this whole thing came about, how it was handled and how many rolled over and just accepted and allowed it. Those who fought back got penalized. I’m starting to think our country is slowly moving over to a dictatorship.
Set Up For Failure; let’s talk mental health.
One of the very first statements a counselor or psychiatrist will tell you is that if you mention that you are a threat to yourself or others, they will be obligated by law to report you. The immediacy of walls and defenses thrown up is a hindrance to getting real help and therefor the system is set up for failure before it even gets started.
What exactly constitutes a threat to your self or others? Obviously actions and a plan is part and most important (and understood) but what about thoughts? Are they acting like thought police, waiting to report someone for simply having thoughts and feelings of harming oneself or others?
What exactly does it mean when someone is reported? Will they be immediately taken away and locked in a padded room? Will they be flagged in the system and heavily watched? Will CPS get involved and disrupt their lives? Or will it simply allow for immediacy in a referral and moving to the front of the line? There’s so much uncertainty in this situation that it causes a major roadblock in seeking help. WHAT DOES IT MEAN??
There’s already a negative connotation and stigma attached to mental health. It’s hard enough to admit ones thoughts and feelings especially when they deviate from the norm. Our system is so set up for failure, there’s no wonder why bad things do happen and people turn to drugs, self harm, or snap and hurt others. Not to mention the dangers associated with being bullied in schools and lack of recognition from the adults who are suppose to keep you safe and help you. With conflict resolution just getting started in some of the schools, we’re simply barely scratching the surface. Today’s bullying is no where close to the bullying that went on in decades prior. With as many kids suffering from autism, health issues and mental health issues like never before, we need to change our system immediately to make sure no child is left behind in getting the help they need to feel safe, understood, and treated as necessary.
We absolutely must rid the stigma attached to mental health issues. We must decriminalize drug use and focus our funding on building more safe places for kids and adults to seek treatment. We must put our funding in training more medical personnel into understanding and treating those needing help. We must change our approach. God knows, what we’ve tried both on the mental health front and the war on drugs front hasn’t and won’t work. Why keep repeating the same failures over and over? Pride? Stubbornness?
I hate to say it, (sadly it’s true enough) that those with money typically get the best help available to them, state of the art facilities that provide real distractions, focused therapy and compassionate care that those without the finances don’t have access to. It was shocking to discover the cost involved in wilderness camps for teens. I could buy a house with the admissions charge they ask for. Yet, studies have shown wilderness camps as having a good success rate in achieving long term skills and recovery. A basic clinical facility with underpaid staffing and simply throwing one drug after the next at someone is not the answer and may drug and sedate a patient long enough to appear recovered but they will simply relapse shortly after leaving the facility.
All these millions if not billions of dollars thrown into the war on drugs and mental health treatment could be better managed and utilized if we give our system a real look at the successes and failures of our current system. Why not ask those seeking help both in past and present what they feel would help them? Why not survey the actual people going through their plight what they feel they need rather than relying on those at the top who aren’t knee deep into the viewpoints, feelings, and experiences of those seeking help? Wouldn’t their input be valid? Seems no different than those at the CDC seeking to put guidelines on opioid prescriptions for those with chronic pain without asking the very doctors and patients input from those who actually treat or have chronic pain. How could they possibly think that would be successful? You wouldn’t ask a plumber advice and guidance on electrical systems, right? How is this simple common sense lacking in our world today?
To be continued…
There’s a medication that’s been around for decades. It’s meant to calm anxiety and panic attacks. You have a child with severe anxiety and panic attacks but no one wants to prescribe it because of that stigmatizing word again; addiction. So we’ll leave your child to suffer severe symptoms causing endless chaos to those around them, sucking the desire of life right out of him and anyone watching him suffer who’s obviously suffering with him because, he just might, become addicted… But we’ll shove other medicine down his throat that causes a lot of other side effects, symptoms and harm triggering even more anger, frustration, and now reluctance to see any doctor ever again or try a new drug intended to work more long term. And the system?? Well, it’s set for failure once again as there’s limited specialists available in the field of child psychiatry and often the wait is more than a year for someone to get seen and what’s a parent to do during that years wait while the anger is building and the symptoms go unaided causing so much more anxiety that he refuses to even see a counselor or leave the house or simply function…
And the services he has had, don’t even get me started there. A totally broken system.