While must of us have been lucky enough not to be involved in a serious drug related crime, we are not so lucky when it comes to a legal drug: Alcohol.
Alcohol Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by a strong craving for alcohol, a constant or periodic reliance on use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, the inability to limit drinking, physical illness when drinking is stopped, and the need for increasing amounts of alcohol to feel its effects. (American Psychiatric Association).
I walk my dogs daily in the Sheridan Park area of Uptown. On an average day, I will pick up around 100 beer cans/bottles from the ground. Lately, the addicts have started leaving their six packs (Natural Ice, a registered brand of Anheuser Busch, seems to be their favorite brand) on the sidewalks next to human feces.
I have called the police to complain; yet, they are too busy with drugs and shootings. The majority of the investigations conducted by the Division target one of the following drug trafficking groups: Mexico-based poly-drug organizations, Colombian Cocaine and Heroin trafficking organizations, and Nigerian/West African groups trafficking in Southeast and Southwest Asian heroin. Chicago-based street gangs such as the Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, and Latin Kings control the distribution and retail sale of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Most law enforcement agencies in Illinois cite the violent crime associated with gang-related drug trafficking as the most serious criminal threat to the state. (Source Chicago Police Department). They are "too busy" to deal with alcoholic bums.
As a physician, I would like to make suggestions on how to care for the citizens of Chicago (or any other big urban city) while at the same time help with the addiction problem.
1. Mr. Mayor of (fill in the name of a city with a major drug problem), thanks for the trees, thanks for making our city so beautiful but I would much rather you took care of our citizens than our parks and buildings. Spend less money on trees and more on drug rehabilitation.
2. Addiction is a disease-you may choose to divide it between legal drugs (alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs) or illegal drugs (cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, heroine, ecstasy, GHB, marijuana, opium, LSD, etc) but the truth is that it is the same disease; therefore, they should be treated in the same way. Treat all addictions with the same treatment protocol with rehabilitation not selectively imprisoning for drugs deemed 'unacceptable' and ignoring completely the other addictions.
3. Much like the war in Iraq, where 'stay the course' has not worked; criminalizing drugs has not solved the problem, but rather, has made it worse. FBI Data collected from male arrestees in 1998 in 35 cities showed that the percentage testing positive for any drug ranged from 42.5 percent in Anchorage, Alaska, to 78.7 percent in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Drug possession, while considered a crime, is really a symptom of a disease. Annually, Illinois spends $70,827 per juvenile incarcerated in juvenile facilities, more than seven times the amount ($9,841) budgeted per pupil in K-12 education in FY 2005. (Source Chicago Metropolis 2020) Why not keep petty drug offences outside the criminal system, if, for no other reason, the economics involved, and invest the money in these kids by helping them fight their addictions?
4. Drug dealing is a business: According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, "[T]he value of the global illicit drug market for the year 2003 was estimated at US $13 billion at the production level, at $94 billion at the wholesale level (taking seizures into account), and at US $322 billion based on retail prices and taking seizures and other losses into account. This indicates that despite seizures and losses, the value of the drugs increase substantially as they move from producer to consumer." If you want to stop this business, you must go to the bottom of the problem: demand. Simple rule of economics: for as long as people want to use drugs, someone will find a way to supply it. Decriminalize each and every one of these drugs, tax them, and use the revenue to fund adequate treatment for each and everyone who is addicted to them.
5. Tell your police department to stop wasting their time and money with drug users and concentrate on going after the "big fish".
I believe that America has trouble accepting these ideas-not because these ideas are immoral or unacceptable to the general public, but rather, because of the drug cartels themselves.
With large amounts of untaxed dollars (ranging in the $322 billion) they have marketed the 'immorality and perdition of drug legalization' with everything possible-both legal and illegal-buying politicians, public opinion, police officers, FBI agents, and the country. Thus, they have succeeded at preventing the end of their business: harvesting and supplying the illegal drugs.
If we were to legalize their product, they would be out of business.
Food for thought!