Take on the facts and history of drug and alcohol use, misuse, addiction, and America’s 40-year Drug War; then prepare to be overwhelmed. At least I was until a few days ago when I ran across a statistic I had not seen before.
I am an information hound. I sniff out answers however I can because I have long believed that knowledge can lead to understanding something and to changing it if it’s needed.
When I began to figure out some 20 years ago that what was “wrong” with my daughter was drugs and alcohol use and addiction, I was determined to look for answers. I hoped that understanding could help my husband and me pull our daughter back from this awful abyss called the Drug Life and ultimately save her. We couldn’t. We didn’t really understand what we were looking at in the early- and mid-1980s. I also needed desperately to know if I or we had done this terrible thing to our daughter. We didn’t.
But along the way, I kept chasing information and research; I just had to understand. Tackling it helped me not to give up.
Wanting to share what I’ve learned also motivated me to start this blog, Spittin’ Grits. And now I want to help our granddaughter in understanding that despite her mother’s love for her, a terrible disease did exactly what it was supposed to do: steal it all away.
Here’s the short version of what I learned along the way: There are zillions of numbers out there and tons of facts and myths about drugs, drug and alcohol use and addiction; there are many books, reports, individual stories, personal beliefs, and misconceptions; and there’s a growing body of science showing what drugs and alcohol are and how they affect us. Yet progress in our knowledge of treatments for drug use and abuse in the U.S continues to lag to a shocking degree. Our Drug War has eroded too many of the resources.
I’ve often wondered what it would take to change the course of this Drug War, one of the longest wars in history, a shocking fact I uncovered somewhere, and expensive beyond reason.
Maybe we have it now, if we can shed our collective denial and use it. It’s the stand-alone stat.
First, few people in the U.S. have not been affected by America’s insatiable thirst for drugs. Too many are users and addicts; many are parents of addicts. Our extended families and close friends have suffered with us through the nightmare. Many of us know people who have died of their addictions or disappeared into a long and sick relationship with the criminal justice system. Many of us have beaten our heads against the brick walls of departments of human resources, the foster care system, and other systems within the 50 states.
President Richard M. Nixon made this 40-year-old Drug War official in 1970, saying the following year that drug abuse was “public enemy No. 1 in the United States.” I can’t help but wonder if announcing the Drug War was a political diversionary tactic to keep American eyes off the Vietnam travesty.
Now, several generations later, it is clear that America’s drug use, including abuse of and addiction to alcohol and to both licit and illicit drugs, has finally extended its poisonous tendrils to every demographic group from the top of the Boomers to the newest group that hasn’t yet been categorized.
So, it isn’t even the $1 trillion price tag, according to a recent Associated Press investigative report, of this War, most of which was throwing good money after bad.
It’s not even the hundreds of thousands lives lost to drugs and violence. It’s not even the jillions who have spent most of their hapless lives in jails and prisons, which is paid for every minute of every day by taxpayers.
It isn’t even the 2.6 million-plus grandparents who are raising nearly 3 million kids in America, as recently reported by the Pew Research Center, most of whom were victims of drug use and abuse.
Here’s the statistic that should finally begin to fix our attention on this Drug War:
Combined data from 2002 to 2007 indicate that over 8.3 million children under 18 years of age (11.9 percent) lived with at least one parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol or an illicit drug during the past year.
That’s the population of New York City, according to 2009 figures. Or the combined populations of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston combined. That’s almost the entire populations of Missouri and Kansas combined.
l That's more than 1 in 10 children in the U.S.
l 13.9% of those children are YOUNGER THAN 3-YEARS-OLD
l Another 13.6% are 3- to 5-years-old
And those figures don’t include 2008 and 2009. If drug use figure have gone up, likely so have the numbers of children in the U.S. living with drug and alcohol abusing or dependent parents.
Yes, Albert Einstein did define INSANITY as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
America MUST re-direct this Drug War.
Citation for the NSDUH report:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (April 16, 2009). The NSDUH Report: Children Living with Substance-Dependent or Substance-Abusing Parents: 2002 to 2007. Rockville, MD.