Pubdate: Wed, 15 May 2002
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Author: Thom Marshall


She wrote the message on her ninth day of waiting and wondering and worrying.

Her husband, she said, had taken his problem to "a whole new level." Nine 
days set a record for the longest he'd ever gone missing. Past absences 
usually were no more than 48 hours.

"I am not stupid," she wrote. "I know, he knows, and everyone who knows him 
knows he is an addict."

She said she followed coverage of the recent conference conducted by Rice 
University's Baker Institute, "Moving Beyond 'The War on Drugs,' " and read 
hopeful comments that those peace talks lifted to a new plateau the 
movement toward a more sensible drug policy.

"But, honestly," she asked, "do you really see anything different to 
report?" She said it seemed to her to be just "a lot of talk and not much 
action that people who are affected by drugs on an everyday basis can see."

Can policy-makers truly relate? She said having a 40-year-old crack addict 
for a husband has caused her to wonder about "these folks who have the 
power to do the changes. ... Do they really know what is going on? Or do 
they just look at statistics that somebody behind a desk has compiled?"

She said that many times in the past, when her husband returned after his 
absences, she went with him to retrieve property he traded for crack -- 
items such as his cell phone or the wheelbarrow he needs for his work, 
things worth much more than the 10 bucks' worth of drugs he got for them.

"The dealers either want double that or won't give it back at all," she 
said, "and don't even get me started on the money that has been paid to 
pawn shops."

She mentioned a few dealers' houses she has visited with her husband on 
these property-retrieving jaunts. She compared the large volume of drug 
deals taking place to "the line at McDonald's, yet for years no one has 
shut them down."

Nine days he's been gone. She said she has reported him missing, "but the 
cops won't help. They just say wait and see if he turns up."

And so she waits, wondering whether she will see him alive again "or will 
we get a knock on the door or a phone call saying, 'Your husband is dead'?"

Meanwhile, she has no money to pay the utilities and bills or buy 
groceries. And she is afraid to leave her house even for a quick trip to 
the store just around the corner for a loaf of bread or gallon of milk.

She worries that her husband may owe money to some crack dealer who would 
come to their home to settle the debt one way or another.

And so she waits. And she worries. And she wonders why the people in charge 
of the nation's drug policy don't understand what's going on.

Addict's health worries mother Another woman wrote of worries with a 
similar source. Hers are for her 32-year-old son who "got caught up in the 
drugs and alcohol early in college."

He has accumulated a record of arrests, jail time and probations, and 
currently is behind bars again, in another county, for violating the terms 
of probation.

What most worries this mother is that her son had been undergoing treatment 
for a serious bacterial infection before he was locked up, and it appears 
to be growing worse.

"He has filled out an application for medical treatment, talked to his 
probation officer who has also filled out an application, but has not 
received any treatment," she said. "I realize that he has committed many 
crimes against Texas due to his drug addiction, but I do believe he should 
get proper medical attention."

She is worried about him and worried that if she pursues getting medical 
attention for her son, it might only anger jail authorities who could make 
her son's situation worse than it is.

The best efforts of the drug war have failed to eliminate drug availability 
or drug abuse. We can count these two women as votes for moving beyond it.
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