Requires a Second Look

I ran across this and found it interesting. I’ll have to think about it more. I agree with the premise that most of what we think we know about addiction is wrong. I reached the conclusion fifteen years ago. The social component of drugs; wealth, power, sex, and control were far more powerful motivators than addiction. Addiction-are-we-all-wrong-about-its-causes.

The story-telling in Chasing the Scream is honest, beautiful, and tragic. And always informative. It leads to a conclusion that is simple yet profound: when dealing with addiction, environment matters a lot.

This might sound simplistic, but it challenges the typical view the left and right tend to take in matters of addiction. The right tends to view addiction as a moral failing: people are simply too weak to kick their habit. The left, on the other hand, tends to view addiction as a “disease,” an illness people are all but helpless against.

Hari would seem to reject both views (or, perhaps, take a little from each). And he makes a compelling case.

“Time magazine reported using heroin was ‘as common as chewing gum’ among U.S. soldiers,” he wrote in a 2015 article for Huffpost, “and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.”

The same study found that 95 percent of addicted soldiers simply gave up heroin when they returned to the states. The environment for nearly all of these men, Hari points out, had changed from a dark one to a happier one.

I worked as an investigator assigned to a drug task force for fifteen years. Occasionally, I worked undercover. A typical dope deal bears no resemblance to the ones portrayed on TV. Probably 80% of the deals I was on, the guy I was dealing with didn’t have any dope. What he had was a telephone number or an address. Here’s how a typical deal would go:

I would track the would-be dope dealer down, we’ll call him Juan Moretime and tell him what he wanted. He didn’t have it but knew where to get it. But first, he was outta butts, hadn’t had breakfast and was thirsty. So off we go, a pack of Marlboro Reds, Quart of Beer and Twinkies and Juan is ready to face the day.

Juan has you make two side trips, one so he can buy minutes on his cell phone and the other to give his babies mama ten dollars. That’s ten dollars that he doesn’t have, but you do. Finally, it is time to do the dope deal. He wants $180 for an eight ball of cocaine that ought to go for $165. He points to his connection and says give me the money. I point to the connection and say, “go get the dope.” Stalemate. Juan will probably do eight or ten deals with his connection today, but the connection will not trust him to cross fifty feet of sidewalk with dope that Juan hasn’t paid for. You pay Juan the money, he gets the dope and acts offended when you tell him you ain’t chipping any off for him. You kick Juan out of the car. Let’s review.

Juan doesn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out. First deal of the day he obtained the following goods and services, Cigarettes $7.50, Beer $1.50, Twinkies $.95 and street child support $10.00 total $20.45 all this before the dope deal. After the dope deal, $15.00 commission, a dime of cocaine. If he does this ten more times Juan is tracking $300 commissions and a gram of cocaine, a day. The only thing that will affect his bottom line is the blowjobs he accepts from female customers in lieu of cigarettes, beer, and miscellaneous carrying charges. Put into high school terms Juan is doing better than the Captain of the High School football team, that’s power!

You of middle-class values shake your heads and think, that doesn’t sound like such a good deal. But, when Juan is working the people he works with no longer treat him as being lower than dog shit. Not a bad days work. There is all sorts of opportunity in there is the underground economy, if one knows where to look.

I ran a search warrant on a 09 housewife. Mama and daddy are both billionaires, daughter is a screaming junkie with a six-month-old daughter that she has never seen. Grandma stepped in and got legal custody, the infant was born addicted to heroin. In order to see her newborn child, the doting mother must present a clean urine test. She never bothered.

Grandma wants to terminate daughter’s parental rights and the parental rights of baby daddy, a fellow junkie. Two weeks later I’m sitting in the living room talking with junkie daughter. A raid team is rummaging around and she is offering them Cokes and Iced Tea!

Daughter freely admits, to the point of boasting, that the only thing she has done for the previous ten years is heroin and rehab. I tried to nail down the cost of rehab. I thought maybe the cost of rehab and dope would be the starting point for a life wasted, time for a clean slate discussion. She wouldn’t play. She admitted that rehab costs were in excess of half a million, didn’t work. She laughed at the money daddy spent.

I then made a tactical error. I got her to admit that on more than one occasion she may have fallen behind on her heroin bill. When that happened she went to daddy to get the money and daddy paid knowing full well that the money was going to pay an outstanding drug debt. I pointed out that technically, daddy was guilty of committing a drug felony. She thought about it a moment, then smiled, and I lost her. Daddy was no better than her. You tell me, who had the power in that family?

I have ridden around with two or three dealers or would be dealers as we tried to track one guy or another down. The conversation invariably got around to dope. Who had it? Best dope. Last time they got high. Dumb shit they did while high. And as this stream of consciousness session continued you could see and hear that these guys were getting off just talking about getting off.

This leads me to my last observation. In the 1970’s Ralph Peters went around to the best and brightest companies in America to find out what they were doing and made them uniquely successful. The book was called In Search of Excellence. At about the same time clinicians cast around for a drug treatment program model, they interviewed failed junkies, incarcerated drug dealers, and the dregs of society. If Peters had followed their model he would still be hanging around bankruptcy court and In Search of Excellence never would have been written.

While I have some sympathy for the author’s views on addiction; I can’t agree with his assessment of the “War on Drugs” but that is for another time.