From Alternet, by Johann Hari, author of ‘Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs’
We know the major reason why addiction is transmitted through families – and it is not what most of us think.
“Today, we have a criminal justice system that takes people who are addicted because they endured trauma, and we traumatize them more.
We routinely put them in prison cells with no support, and where rape is a running punch-line in the popular culture. (There’s even a current major Hollywood film – ‘Get Hard’ – based on the hilarity of this premise.) Dr Gabor Mate, one of the leading experts on this question, told me: “If I had to design a system that was intended to keep people addicted, I’d design exactly the system that we have right now.”
Dr Mate – after years of treating patients who became addicts after hellish abuse – has outlined an alternative. Imagine if we had taken the $1 trillion that has been spent so far on the failed drug war, and had spent it on the collapsing services designed to protect abused children instead. Every year there are 686,000 kids who have been identified as abused or neglected in the US – and the services for them are appalling. We are setting up a generation of new addicts – and then we will squander more money punishing them. If we spent the drug war money on turning this around, there would, this evidence suggests, be a genuine and substantial fall in addiction.
But the biggest change this evidence should trigger isn’t political – it is personal. In our everyday lives, we need to think about the addicts we work alongside, live alongside, and love. “When people are having problems,” Dr Robert Anda, another author of the ACE study, tells me, “it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with them, and start asking what happened to them.”