Antidote for Drug Addiction We can end the blight of heroin, cocaine, and opiate addition in one generation Eric LaMont Gregory
I applaud the Ohio State Legislature for addressing the problem of drug addiction, albeit in a way that circumvents the essential issues involved. At least some aspect of the problem is on the agenda, and perhaps a more profound examination will ensue from this very meager beginning.
While it is unlikely that any minority party sponsored bill will move through our legislature in Columbus, lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow city health officials to establish needle exchange programs for drug addicts without approval from local city councils.
Surely, the sponsors of HB182 realize that their attempt to bypass local elected officials conjures images of a more invasive government the rejection of which is why the sponsors are in the minority party.
Those opposed argue, and rightly, that local elected officials should approve any such program. And, are concerned that passing out clean needles would be endorsing drug use. Each governing body in this state has the right, if not the responsibility to weigh the benefits of such an initiative in their local communities.
Knowing that the validity of any argument is easily attained by looking at outcomes. It is rather obvious that withholding clean needles will not reduce health costs associated with illicit drug use, but this fact alone cannot overcome the objection to the way the bill structures its implementation. Remember, the electors have shown their desire for limited government, not limited involvement in local matters, even those matters with wide implications such as drug addiction.
It is the conventional wisdom in such debates that as long as any use is considered abuse the people we need to be talking to, potential and actual users, will not be listening.
One could argue, that the cost to the taxpayer associated with the use, re-use and sharing of needles is so great, it runs into the millions of dollars each year, that something ought to be done, since interdiction, cutting off all supplies of illicit drugs, is neither reducing the health costs nor the costs associated with the war on drugs.
What are the alternatives?
In a nutshell, if we want to deal with drug use as a medical problem we can either treat the symptoms or treat the disease. The health affects associated with the re-use of unclean syringes is treating a symptom of the disease, the disease is drug addiction.
The question then becomes is there an antidote for drug addiction? The simple truth is yes, there are medically proven antidotes for addiction to a range of illicit drugs. The next question is why are they not being made available?
On the one hand, possessing an antidote for drug addiction, that is not being widely used, is a moral as well as an economic question and the American people have been slow to move on questions of morality and economics.
Let us turn to the economic question first. The drug companies make money on drugs that are consumed for considerable periods of time and at short intervals, PLAVIX is a reasonable example of this fact. In relation to drug treatment the same companies spend their money on maintenance regime drugs.
A maintenance drug provides a medically acceptable alternative to an illicit drug such as heroin, however it does not cure the addiction. In fact,maintenance drugs are designed to be consumed at short intervals and for a very long time. Therefore, drug companies want to manufacture and sell a maintenance regime drug and not an antidote that would actually free the user from their physical drug dependence.
The profit motive, pure and simple, which is what the CEOs' of drug companies are in place to achieve, it’s their job and some do it better than others.
An approach that is more responsible socially, calls for other considerations to be weighed equally along with matters of profit. Such questions as quality of life, returning addicts to being functioning and tax paying members of the community, reduced disease costs borne by the community, and less crime and violence in society.
These off-the-balance-sheet factors are difficult to resolve when one is in the midst of a war on drugs that is obviously dealing with the problem of addiction adequately, by removing drugs from our communities, and stopping them from being manufactured locally or entering the country in the first place.
I call upon the Ohio State Legislature to convene an expert panel to investigate known drug addiction antidotes as well as the likelihood of the successful implementation of an Antidote to Illicit Drug Addiction Program (AIDAP) in the State of Ohio.
And, to do so as a matter of some urgency.
This author has contacted all members of the State House of Representatives, many with massive drug abuse problems in their districts. Two have responded. But, this should not surprise anyone, the drug companies and others involved in the drug trade have been in touch with them also.
Perhaps it’s time to contact them all again and start publishing the list of those who do and do not respond. This issue, drug addiction, is too important for our elected officials to play the usual hide and seek game with the public.
And heaven forbid the legislator, executive or judge, who has a mother lose another child to addiction in their district who comes to know that an antidote, a treatment was available, and was not made available to their loved one.
The Mothers' Against Drunk Drivers movement will seem pale by comparison.
It is incumbent upon every citizen to write their elected representatives and demand that they begin the process of ending the scourge of drug addiction and other forms of substance abuse in our communities.