Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Where are the advocates for drug users?

There are advocaters for those suffering from virtually every medical condition - from the most common to the ultra-rare. In many instances advocacy groups have played indispensable roles in lessening discriminaiton and enhancing and expanding treatment access. "Mental illness," HIV-AIDS, epilsepsy etc etc. Generally the most effective advocates are not the patients themselves, but their families and loved ones (gays andLesbians marching down Fifth Avenue chanting "we're queer, we're here, get used to us!" was terrific; probably even more persuasive for middle America were the legions of gray-haired senior citizens chanting their kids were gay and damn well deserved every single right and privilege of any other American).

In Europe as well: "junky unions" in Holland did a great job demanding their rights. But in Germany, it was - and remains - up to parents groups, located in cities and villages throughout the country, exerting incessant pressure of public officials and the media - vehemently damning the suffering and death caused by unjust and irrational drug policies.

So . . . where are the advocates for illicit drug users in US - and to narrow the discussion just a bit, the advocates for the most despised, feared, abandoned of all, the intravenous narcotic users? Why are there no parents marching down Fifth Avenue - or any Main Street, USA - demanding treatment, measures known to reduce harm and preserve lives, an end to the persecution that is inherent in a "zero-tolerance" policy, a willingness by Government to teach users to lessen their own risks and lessen incidental harm caused to others, etc.? Why are there large, active, highly effective parents and other support groups in Europe, and Australia, and other countries - but nothing in US? And whatever the cause(s), how to overcome the hurdles?

rnewman (NYC)

8 Comments:

At 11:08 AM, Blogger hc said...

Bob,
I noticed new ads on the NYC subway yesterday that showed children, parents and partners of cigarette smokers who have quit smoking praising their loved ones, proudly announcing "I love a Quitter." Before this, I've only seen stigmatizing anti-smoking campaigns, i.e, 'smoking kills', etc. This is the first positive-message campaign I've seen about smoking and I couldn't help thinking there should be a similar campaign for drug users - with loved ones supporting users in treatment, and those who are taking steps to reduce the harms of associated with drugs and drug policies.
HC

 
At 11:05 AM, Anonymous P. vdK said...

I would say there are a number of reasons for this disparity. Firstly, there ARE a community of user activists in the US, and there is less of a genuine movement in Europe than it may seem. So the disparity may not be as great as it first appears. But to the extent there are real differences, I'd say that reasons include the much more severe dangers associated with "coming out" in the US, the relative ethnic homogeneity of European populations (eg a greater percentage of users are perceived to be the kids of the class in power), and the fact that the US "Treatment" industry has always been much more focused on spiritually based identity and abstinence. So illicit users in Europe don't have to adopt a facade of being interested in "recovery" in order to advocate for their own interests. Here they have to swear they want to be "Quitters" and renounce the intoxicants the rest of society loves if they wish to appear palatable to the public at all. This of course means they are no longer "illicit users".....

 
At 1:55 PM, Blogger Me said...

I think drug use is 50 to 100 years behind homosexuality as a rights issue. While few states have laws prohibiting sexual behaviors, illicit drug use is just that: illicit. The shame attached to having a loved one engaged in what is still technically criminal behavior or worse yet incarcerated is intense. As more and more people suffer illness and imprisonment I think parents, policy makers and medical professionals are beginning to see that they/we have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of drug users. I admire those drug users who have to courage to organize and speak out but the burden truly lies with those of us who would otherwise be standing idly by to bring about change.

 
At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wonder why? It's very simple. Politians feel they will seem soft on crime at a time when this Country is locking up more people then ever, mostly, somehow, drug related. Have you heard of M.A.D.D.? When was the last time anyone that reads this contacted there Senator? Does everone have to wait till it hits their family, when it's too late?

 
At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4Methadone says:
Why are they no advocates in the US? There are very few but there are some parents that will fight for their children. We just finished assisting one whose daughter was locked up because she had two Oxycontin in her possession. The bond was $100,000 dollars, ridiculous. Her Mother put up their house as collateral for her bond. Her daughter was on methadone treatment and lived in Tennessee and had came for a visit to Kentucky to see her Mother. I work with an Advocacy Group and she called us and we fought with her Mother's help and obtained her methadone. I admired her Mother and she joined with us in the cause but do you know who we had the most trouble with---the "Methadone Clinic" the ones out there that are supposed to be helping -they delayed the process -we had to call at least six times before we could even get them to transfer her records to the clinic in Kentucky. If the methadone clinics act like this and hire counselors who look down on the patients and could care less -what do you expect from the parents? But that is getting off the subject--- I agree with most of the posts--Addiction is a Disease but until the Federal Government recognizes it as such and the Medical Profession and stops sending people to prison --- there will be no sympathy for drug users. The governemnt will never do this because they are involved in drug smuggling and are making too much money off of it to finance all their covert missions. But people refuse to believe this about their own government --- I know for a fact it is true but if you make too much of a fuss about it -- they will kill you just as they did Gary Webb and many others. Most parents are ashamed of their children especially if they inject -- that's how it is --and it is the only way it will ever be in the United States -- people actually think they are living in a democracy here -- they are so busy with their own lives --they could care less-- they have become lovers of their selves.
I spent an hour talking to a misture of the middle-class teenagers of today and this is how they see their parents --- I was shocked! Most of them feel unwanted or feel as they were an accident --- It is no wonder they turn to drugs and then the schools feed them nothing but propaganda --but most of them I found to be much smarter as to what is happening in the world today than their parents. Mainly-your answer is ---it has to be accepted as a disease then, and only then, will people see it differently.

 
At 10:18 AM, Blogger Me said...

On this topic, check out www.momstell.com

 
At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a really awful site....

 
At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe some of the real advocates of drug users are in the harm reduction movement. The abilities of the effectiveness of harm reduction depends on what state a person is in. MM is not legal in all states and the opiate dependent addict is forced to commit crimes to feed his/her addiction. There are many good harm reduction sites and harm reductionists in the US but they are fighting an uphill battle that could use all the support they can gather.

 

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