It's been a while since I've written about hitting bottom - supposedly the panacea that will save a drug addict's soul. I've talked often about how, for a drug addicted working girl, this "bottom" will entail rape and worse - and I've railed against a system stupid enough to suggest that such treatment will render people less likely to get high.
Liz Evans, founder and executive director of PHS Community Services Society, which helps drug users in Vancouver, recently published an article in the New Statesman. The headline reads: "Why do we still believe that letting drug addicts "hit rock bottom" is a good thing?"
Good question. I first met Liz about three years ago when speaking in Vancouver, and I was more than a little impressed by her efforts to challenge that myth, one that I had been struggling with as well. Liz nails it right here: "in many ways the addict is the modern-day "nigger", a term used to dehumanise, alienate, torture and abuse a group of other human beings. Today, people who use drugs - "junkies" - are expected to suffer, then blamed when they do, and if they die there is almost a collective sigh of relief."
Still, wisdom is evolving. In the news: "Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso called for an end to the war on drugs." I read elsewhere that, in Canada, "Five people severely addicted to heroin are launching a constitutional challenge to the federal government's ban on the prescription version of the drug."
Oh, there is resistance: "Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks registered his opposition to safe injection sites during a debate in the House of Commons ... " Funny, just as the US is finally starting to put a halt to the ever increasing jailbird population - partly because it's so bloody expensive - Canada is picking up the slack: "More prisoners, more gang members, more mentally ill, more women, more natives, more blacks, more addicts." Apparently, Canada's prison population is at an all time high.
At the same time, however, CTV News declared about a week ago (February 8): "Vancouver home to Canada's first crackpipe vending machines." Another headline reads: "LEAKED UN DOCUMENT SHOWS MANY COUNTRIES READY TO END DRUG WAR." And underneath: "Latin American Nations Especially Critical, Say Prohibition Contributes To Violence ... "
Well duh ...
Such headlines are no longer earthshattering. The walls are really starting to crack. The war on drugs and (hopefully) all the pernicious tripe that goes with it - tough love, hit bottom, tough this, tough that, and my penis is bigger than yours - is finally on the way out.
The glitches - e.g., tough on crime nonsense championed by certain conservative governments - are little more than throwbacks. And such attitudes really can sneak up on the perpetrators. Consider how Toronto Mayor Rob Ford claimed in 2005 that tough love is the only way to battle drug use. Let drug users rot in jail, he suggested. Yeah, does he want us to get tough with him now?
Meanwhile, Thursday Dec. 5 of last year was a special day: the 80th anniversary of the end of alcohol prohibition in America. Now, how many people want to bring back prohibition? And please consider: once we've gotten out of the "war on drugs", how much nostalgia is this abomination likely to generate?