Chemical Addiction – Summer 2003

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Its effects on family life, society and youth

How much longer can American society ignore this ever-growing, world-wide problem asks Michael Higgins  

Few problems facing our nation pose a greater threat to our well-being than drug abuse and drug trafficking. Yet I often sense a sort of complacency from some sectors of the community about the drug problem. People often speak of drugs as though the issue was somebody else’s problem. The sad truth is that the drug problem is everybody’s problem. No matter where you live or who you are, there is no escape. The dangers we are facing are well known, especially the threat to the next generation. With each new survey that is released, we are discovering that our young people are increasingly experimenting with drugs.

Marijuana

This new trend, which first started to emerge in 1991, has been reflected in several recent studies, including the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey of adolescent drug use.

Each of these studies has documented an increased use of marijuana among teenagers. In addition, studies done by many agencies confirm that more adolescents are experimenting with marijuana and that today’s marijuana is much more potent than that of 10 years ago. Most young people don’t know that smoking marijuana is far more dangerous than smoking tobacco cigarettes, has four times more tar than a cigarette, and that daily usage can cause five times greater lung damage than cigarettes.

Challenge

I am deeply concerned that we have young people experimenting with this dangerous drug who have no idea what marijuana can do to them. Research indicates that many of our young people no longer believe that drug use is harmful, or they know the facts but don’t care. Their attitudes about drugs are changing. So, we have a problem, one that President Bush and other government leaders view with alarm, It is no secret why some children turn to drugs: many are searching for something that is missing in their lives, usually that all-important sense of belonging.

The challenge is to help these young people grow up with a clear mind and reach their full potential. For that to happen, we must give them reliable alternatives to illicit drugs.

Turning a blind eye

We also have to continuously inform the public about how drugs and crime intersect, creating havoc in many of our neighbourhoods and communities. With the concern about rising crime everywhere, it should be easy to dollar get the nation to focus on the link between violent crime and drugs. But this, unfortunately, is often a tough selling point, even though statistics document the paramount role of drugs in criminal activity. even though statistics document the paramount role of drugs in criminal activity. For example, more than half of the 12 million people arrested in any given year are under the influence of drugs and /or alcohol at the time of arrest. Most of these individuals, end up being released on their own recognizance or placed on probation without benefit of supervision or treatment, and more than half of these are rearrested within two years following release.

Crime and Societal costs

Drugs and alcohol factor in the commission of being of the family 33% of all murders and manslaughters, 40% of all aggravated assaults, and 45% of all rapes, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the US. The societal costs associated with incarceration, criminal case processing, victimisation, accidents and lost property due to substance abuse-related crime total more than $62 billion annually, with $46 billion directly attributed to drugs.

Positive Goal

Past drug control strategies have ignored the need to provide treatment to hardcore drug addicts. However, the 1994 National Drug Control Strategy recognized that we have to provide treatment for this population if we are to effectively address the drug problem and the problems of crime and violence in America. To that end, we set a goal of reducing the number of chronic hardcore drug users by 5% each year.

Lack of Political Support

President Clinton asked for a record $355 million to treat 140,000 more chronic hardcore drug users in his 1994 budget request, yet Congress appropriated only $57 million. We requested $200 million in drug treatment programs in the crime bill package but only $29 million was appropriated to drug courts. It has been proven that drug treatment, when it is done right, reduces criminality and saves money in the long run. A California study showed that for every dollar spent on treatment, seven dollars are returned to society largely in the form of reduced public spending on crime and health care.

Ireland’s Drinking Culture

Forty percent of families today are affected by the use of chemicals in their home. Some family members because of the use of drugs and/or alcohol, disrupts family life. This causes arguments, unrest in the home, neglect of children with regard to their formation and often leads to divorce. Ireland, like many other countries, has developed a drinking culture, which leads to drunkenness and excessive financial spending when the money should be used for the needs and the well-being of the family.

Rev. Msgr. Michael Higgins, M.A., D.D, LCD

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About this record

Written by Michael Higgins

Published here 31 Jan 2024 and originally published Summer 2003

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