Ivy Saves the World in Five Steps - a how-to series on the world's big, scary problems, and what I would do to fix them, if I had any power whatsoever and were a motivated individual
Pt. 2 - How to Solve Addiction
Addiction is defined by an inability to simply ‘stop.’ It is characterized by continued use, despite negative consequences and (failed) attempts to cut back on consumption. It is cyclical, and because of the havoc substance use wreaks on a person’s life, it often becomes all that a person has left - as such, expecting a homeless crack addict to give up the only thing in their life that gives them comfort (crack) is unrealistic, and ethically questionable. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s a terrible, harmful, coping mechanism, which eats away at a person’s life and self image until the idea of living without said coping mechanism is nearly impossible.
There aren’t any easy answers to addiction (or drugs - which include alcohol and vicodin and hallucinogenic toads, all of which are legal). But the first damn step is to stop pretending that addiction is a moral or criminal issue. It is not. Drug trafficking and recreational use may be - I’m not a scientist. But I do know that the kids downtown who shoot up and die in back alleys are not criminals, and that they deserve medical intervention before things reach that point.
The second (damn) step is to see what works, and what saves lives, and invest all our resources in it. Scrap the rest. If Safe Injections sites work (in Vancouver, they do!), then put up more of them. Make sure detox and rehab are available, instantly, to the people that need these services - and expand the capabilities of Mental Health Acts (or other laws regarding people who are ‘of danger to themselves') to keep people in treatment. Abstinence-only education didn’t stop your teenager from having sex, and it didn’t stop them from doing drugs, either - scrap it. Scrap methadone, too, if we can do better - getting people addicted to something new, just because it's legal, isn't much of a solution. Let doctors prescribe tapered doses of heroin and crack, if that works.
In fact, you can use the opiate fields of Afghanistan for LEGAL codeine, and vicodin, and other medicinal opiates (including heroin, if you want to go there), because that sounds like a much better solution to the drug problem AND international politics than allied forces burning the crops of impoverished third world farmers. But, again, what do I know, I just work here.