The long history of illegal drug use in the United States has turned into a scourge for many families and communities.
As soon as law enforcement agents make an inroad against one drug, another one seems to come through the back door and begins to spread like a fungus through people’s lives. The most alarming, perhaps, is the rise of heroin. The drug came to the nation’s attention in the late 1960s and early 1970s when drug use and the counter-culture movement swept across the country.
Heroin was often perceived from the Deep South’s smaller cities and communities as a big-city drug. No longer.
Law enforcement officials are widely concerned about heroin’s rapid rise in popularity among recreational drug users, who soon become addicts and walk close to the edge of death by using the drug. Cullman County Coroner Jeremy Kilpatrick has documented 10 heroin-related deaths this year in the area. In 2015, he documented three but suspects there were many more. And the total may be even greater than 10 this year.
Combined with the ongoing problems of local residents using methamphetamine and a variety of addictive pills, heroin is just gasoline on the fire. Few drugs are as immediately-deadly as heroin. The devastation on the users and their families is almost unthinkable. Loss of meaningful employment, disruption of children’s lives because of parental drug abuse, and often death are the consequences of the poor decisions users leave on their families and the community.
In perspective, too much of the effort to control illegal drugs is placed on law enforcement. Investigators arrest plenty of people and they spend time in the Cullman County Detention Center or one of Alabama’s overcrowded. Upon release, many of the abusers and low-level drug dealers give in to temptation and are soon back to their old ways.
Saying drug addicts need rehabilitation often brings little pity from the public, but there is merit in putting more effort into this area of reform. Another area that needs improvement is simply to reach people earlier with realistic views of life’s opportunities lost through drug abuse. Part of what needs to be stressed to at-risk individuals and first-time offenders is the risk they run of losing a lifetime of economic opportunities. As their offenses pile up, employers tend to look away and any jobs remaining to people with
Aside from the thrill users find in drugs and the potential to make a few dollars, they fail to see beyond the horizon. Today, economic opportunities are plentiful and demands for a skilled or trainable workforce are constant.
Just trying to count the number of people in a community who have destroyed their economic and life potential through drug abuse is staggering. Identifying at-risk people when they are younger and guiding them into what’s meaningful in life would ease the burden on law enforcement and knock a large dent in the drug culture. An educational program that combines anti-drug emphasis with the potential for economic success should be part of the war on drugs.
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