A New York Times article came out recently, saying that, in Massachusetts alone, over 185 people have overdosed and died on heroin in the last 4 months. That's over 46 people a month. Bordering on nearly two people a day. In the tiny state of Massachusetts.
I can rattle off the names of three people I went to high school with that have overdosed and died. One of them was a high school boyfriend's twin brother. Another was a middle school friend's younger sister from the grade below us. The third was someone from my graduating class that I didn't know personally.
And I can guarantee you that there are more; those are just the ones I have heard about.
To call it a rampant issue is an understatement. It makes no sense that the "En Memoriam" part of my graduating class would be this long before the 10-year reunion ever takes place. Makes no sense at all. People used to joke that Weymouth was a "drinking town with a soccer problem". Now we're a heroin town with an overdosing problem.
Addiction is a very sore spot for me. I've seen a lot of good lives ruined because of addiction. I've seen a lot of talented artists die in their prime due to addiction (the latest being the late Philip Seymour Hoffman). I've seen firsthand what addiction can and will do. And it's not pretty. It's never pretty.
So what is the first step forward? The first step forward is actually decriminalizing drugs. It seems counterintuitive, but that's the first step forward. Russell Brand recently published an essay that will better articulate why, but I'll try my best to sum up the reason. When you ban drugs, when you make drugs illegal, all you are doing is telling the addicts, "On top of being an addict, you are also a criminal." Banning drugs doesn't curtail drug use. It just burdens the court system, it just burns tax dollars, it just overloads the police force. Decriminalize drugs (notice that I don't just say, "legalize"; semantics is a wonderful thing), remove that burden from the police, the courts, our tax dollars, and focus that energy on rehabilitation. Focus that money on more federal funding for rehab centers. Focus that energy on helping those who are susceptible. Send out the message that you're not a bad person because you're an addict; you're just someone who needs help and treatment.
It's sometimes tough for me to wrap my mind around the addiction issue. To say I live a clean life is a bit of an understatement. But that doesn't mean I think less of those who fall into that trap. I'm just tired of hearing about yet another person who dies before they hit 30 because of an overdose.