Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2014
Source: Reno News & Review (NV)
Copyright: 2014, Chico Community Publishing, Inc.
Author: Brendan Trainor


If you put a rat in a cage with a lever that dispenses a drug like 
heroin, the rat will keep pressing the lever to get the drug and 
forget to eat. Everyone knows that, but did you know that if you also 
put some other rats in with him and a wheel and other things to do, 
the rat will eat and play instead?

The original rat experiment is offered as proof that drug addiction 
is a disease. The disease theory of addiction holds that addiction is 
a brain disease that is incurable and can only be survived by total 
abstinence. The preferred treatment for the so-called brain disease 
is not medical, but a spiritual 12-step program that requires the 
addict place himself in the hands of a higher power because he is 
helpless in his addiction!

The war on drugs has created an iron triangle between the drug laws, 
the judicial system and drug treatment centers. Drug courts are 
supposedly humane as they steer drug abusers into treatment rather 
than prison. The sword of prison sentencing still hangs over any 
relapse. This is coerced treatment, which may be appropriate only if 
the individual has committed real crimes to supply his habit.

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman recently died of a heroin overdose. 
Shortly before he died, he told a stranger that he was a heroin 
addict. Why did this accomplished man believe that he was a helpless 
addict? Could it be that he was told that by the politicized 
treatment industry? In fact, abstinence-based drug treatment kills. 
Hoffman joined Amy Winehouse, the Celebrity Rehab Four and others on 
a long list of celebrities who died of an overdose after falling off 
the abstinence wagon during treatment. Artists often have drug 
problems. Some do die young. But Keith Richards, William S. Burroughs 
and many more live long lives. The government-approved treatments 
tell addicts they are helpless and will always be uncontrollably 
addicted. But the government's own studies show that most addicts 
quit or moderate their habits on their own. In Northern Nevada, the 
drug court refers drug users to treatment centers like Bristlecone 
Family Resources, which follow the National Institutes of Health 
disease/abstinence model.

The media breathlessly tells us there is a new heroin epidemic. Is 
there? Although raw numbers are up slightly, the rate of heroin use 
is holding steady at about two-tenths of a percent of population. 
Where are all the previous media-driven drug epidemics? Crack 
cocaine, the scourge of the 1980s that would engulf middle class 
America and lead to a "lost generation" of doomed crack babies is now 
just the stuff of comical Canadian mayors. Similar scares regarding 
methamphetamine, caffeine energy drinks, cannibal bath salts and 
flesh-eating krokodil are pushed by the media to frighten us and keep 
the money for the drug war flowing.

If government says you are diseased, then the state can appear 
compassionate by offering treatment rather than jail. It would be 
more humane for the state to stay out of the lives of peaceful 
addicts altogether. Nevada needs a Good Samaritan Law to indemnify 
drug users at the scene from prosecution if they call 9-11 to save a 
friend from overdose death. We also need to make Naloxone, which 
stops drug overdoses, more available. Harm reduction, which leads to 
reduced death and disease from addictions by decriminalizing the 
environment around drug use and then the drugs themselves, is the 
opposite of the disease theory of addiction. It is far more humane to 
recognize that any habit can be managed with moderation, not 
state-imposed abstinence.
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