The reality of drug abuse

Faces Of Meth‘ was a photographic exhibition arranged by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon, in 2004. It featured, among others, the images below.

It showed pictures of methamphetamine users when they were first arrested, followed by a second picture of them during a subsequent arrest months or years later, showing how dramatically their appearance and physical condition had deteriorated.

The Sheriff’s Office has just released a follow-up project called ‘From Drugs To Mugs‘. This time they’re focusing on users of all illegal drugs, not just methamphetamines. A news report about the program gives more details.

Released in the hope that they will make kids think twice about ever touching drugs the pictures show how addicts have lost teeth and scratched their skin to the bone.

The new photographs show the first arrest of a drug user partnered up with a picture taken in some cases only three months later.

They have been put together by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon and now include users of all hard drugs including cocaine, heroin and meth.

‘Faces of Meth went round the world, it captured peoples revulsion and imagination,’ said deputy Bret King, 45, who was instrumental in putting together the original Faces of Meth project in 2004.

‘As I was putting together the project and touring the country trying to highlight the effects of meth on people, I had a nagging feeling that I knew I wasn’t bringing the whole picture to people’s attention.

‘Every single person I booked and interviewed who was not just a meth addict but a heroin user or a coke-head had started on some seemingly innocent drug like alcohol or cannabis.

‘Everyone experiments at college or school and I want From Drugs to Mugs to show kids that everyone in those pictures started on cannabis, they didn’t just dive head first into heroin.

‘So I ask the students at schools to look at these people and think about their actions, otherwise that could end up being you,’ said deputy King.

Faced with an endemic drug problem in the north west of the U.S., the Multnomah Sheriff’s Office has also produced a heart-wrenching educational documentary to aid in its fight against young people turning to drugs.

‘I want to be able to illustrate the connection between that first decision to use drugs and then down the road when it’s a horrible mess,’ said deputy King.

. . .

‘This is a battle for peoples hearts, their minds and ultimately their spirits,’ said Agent Tyree.

‘If I could put each and every kid who thought about using drugs in a room with a drug dealer, a drug addict, a judge, a prosecutor and a parent, maybe not even their own parent, they would all say the same thing: “Don’t do it, kid”.’

There’s more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.

This is the ultimate slap in the face to those who maintain that cannabis is a ‘harmless’ or ‘victimless’ drug that should be legalized. As I’ve mentioned before, I worked as a prison chaplain. I’ve seen at first hand the depths to which drug users descend – people who started out as solid, upright citizens, but sank into crime and violence to fund their addiction. Even more pitiful are those who end up as ‘permanent victims’, turning to prostitution, carrying out petty crimes on the orders of others in order to ‘earn’ their daily ‘fix’, destroying their own families and making themselves homeless by stealing from, lying to and betraying everyone they love.

Don’t ever try to tell me that legalizing drugs will be a good thing, because if you do, I’ll ram the reality right back down your throat. I’ve seen too much of it . . . and I can still taste the nausea.

Here’s a preview of the 48-minute video that forms the heart of the ‘From Drugs To Mugs’ program.

I’d like to thank Deputy King and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office for producing this program, and I wish them every success. They’re saving lives.

Peter

14 comments

  1. Absolutely.

    It can start as simply as using medically provided drugs. In my case I became addicted to Serepax for the sake of trying to get hold of mental health.

    Usually, if you can manage it, You're much better off trying to face truth head on..

  2. Wayne, the evidence isn't 'spotty' any longer. There's been much controversy about the harmful effects of marijuana, largely because many pro-legalization groups encouraged (and, in some cases, even funded) research to 'prove' that it was safe. They've also published much material aimed at discrediting arguments against marijuana, whether or not the findings (on either side) were factual. The issue's clouded in controversy.

    Nevertheless, if you ask anyone who knows – I repeat, KNOWS, through personal, long-term, intimate contact with drug users – they'll confirm that hard-core addicts all began with a 'gateway' drug of some sort. Certainly, I've never met one who didn't. Equally, I accept there are those who use 'gateway' drugs who don't progress to the hard stuff, just as there are many who drink without becoming alcoholics.

    Furthermore, the evidence that even a 'mild' drug like cannabis causes permanent damage is becoming overwhelming, despite the best efforts of naysayers to debunk the latest research. New brain imaging studies in 2005 and 2008 appear incontrovertible. Therefore, I won't accept that legalizing marijuana is, or might be, a good thing.

  3. I've been mulling over this issue for years now, and I keep stumbling on the "gateway drug" issue. I think it's safe to say that pot and alcohol are similar in two relevant ways: They can lead to the use of other drugs, and they have similar effects on behavior and on the body. In fact, since alcohol is proven to be addictive, it could be considered worse.

    The biggest difference is a social/legal issue. Alcohol is socially acceptable, and is usually obtained in a relatively respectable (legal) manner. Marijuana must usually be purchased from addicts and those who socialize with addicts. It requires associating with people who have a profit motive in encouraging drug experimentation (to "judgement-impaired" customers.) The question I keep asking is this:

    If pot were sold like alcohol, would it still be a BIGGER gateway drug than alcohol?

    If so, why? If not, why do we treat the two drugs SO differently?

    (Have you been reading my blog? If so, thanks!)
    http://shiningpearlsofsomething.blogspot.com/2011/02/butcher-stalks-sacred-cow.html

  4. @perlhaqr: That's a valid point, but kind of moot, as the government is already in the nanny business, and will no doubt stay there. The problem with the drug debate is that ideology-based theories or logically sound ideals, don't serve much purpose. Such a solution is simply not going to happen in this country, so how DO we deal with the problem? I hate to say it, but the truth is, we need a solution that's politically viable. Your point is constitutional and it's logically valid, but it appeals to a too-small segment of the population. It flies in the face of a DEEP AND WIDESPREAD modern view of morality and social responsibility. For now, we must work within the parameters of the nanny state, because that's the state we have. It will take decades if not generations to change that. The social and economic cost of the illegal drug trade, is too high to wait that long.

  5. Drugs aren't good, people who take them are far, far more likely to have problems. Same for tobacco on a smaller scale.

    I am not convinced that legalization would increase drug use significantly–I'm not going to start regardless. Treating drugs more like alcohol could feasibly reduce underage use–From junior high on, I knew where to get illegal drugs, but not where to get a beer. Like liquor prohibition, drug prohibition transfers many of the costs of addiction to those of us who chose to avoid drugs.

    There is also the freedom aspect–people should be free to do what THEY want, not just what I want, or things I think are a good idea.

  6. Suz: Half the reason that the social and economic cost are so high is because it's illegal.

    See also: Prohibition v1.0, ca. 1920 – 1933.

    We're driving up the value of the substances by making them illegal, and likewise ensuring that only people willing to do illegal things engage in the trade. And the harder we fight at it, the further we winnow the ranks of the dealer networks to only the hardest of criminals. And as we've now seen in Mexico, full blown rogue state strength terrorist organisations.

    We can't keep illicit drugs out of prisons. It is ludicrous to expect that we'll do any better ridding the rest of the country of them either, and in the meantime, we have things like civil asset forfeiture corrupting Law Enforcement Organisations by giving them the Inquisition's temptation (Accuse this man of witchcraft, and get a cut when the church confiscates his wealth!) and the simultaneous paramilitarisation of state and local law enforcement to combat the increasingly violent dealers they are creating by making sure that only those people join the trade.

    Bayer invented heroin (as a cough suppressant!) but they don't trade in it any more, and they likewise don't engage in gangster tactics. Neither does Anheuser-Busch.

    You say the costs are too high to wait until the views of the public have changed, but it was the government that gave them those views in the first place. And what we as a society are doing now is what's driving those costs.

    First, do no harm…

    ——

    Peter: Furthermore, the evidence that even a 'mild' drug like cannabis causes permanent damage is becoming overwhelming, despite the best efforts of naysayers to debunk the latest research. New brain imaging studies in 2005 and 2008 appear incontrovertible. Therefore, I won't accept that legalizing marijuana is, or might be, a good thing.

    You are aware that alcohol is an organic poison that causes brain damage, right? People don't joke about "killing brain cells" for nothing.

    Shall we therefore expect to see you campaigning for the repeal of the 21st Amendment?

    You say you "won't accept" that legalising marijuana is a good thing. Even if we assume that your facts about the effects of marijuana usage are correct–even if we assume that marijuana use is twice as bad as you already think it is–is there no chance that the societal benefit to legalisation, of not using the legal system to destroy millions of people's lives each year for the simple possession and consensual use of a plant might change your mind?

    And if not, if your argument is that people must be stopped from using marijuana because it's bad for them, how far will you take that? Shall we ban cigarettes, and sugar, and butter, and salt?

    How many people die from direct medical conditions related to marijuana usage each year compared with the numbers keeling over from lung and heart disease?

  7. perlhaqr: I agree with you, 100% but not enough others do. "Nanny state" has become a right wing and Libertarian buzzword that riles conservatives, scares moderates and liberals, and generally inhibits rational thought. The government simply and suddenly turning its back on the marijuana issue isn't a politically viable idea – nobody in power will even discuss it. Any legalization will have to be tempered with "a plan" for regulation. The most popular seems to be using the saved and earned tax money to treat addiction, and maybe to rehabilitate part of the prison population.

    I think the only way it will be discussed is if we can get past ALL the stereotypes associated with it. No talk of Big Government, Religious Tyranny, Morality, Long Haired Hippie Freaks, Lazy Burnouts. Unfortunately, a lot of very powerful politicians benefit from pot prohibition. Its a "pro law enforcement" goldmine on the campaign trail and it creates plenty of the "right kind" of government jobs.

    It will only change when the people agree to demand it changes. That can't happen until we learn to ignore the power brokers, who have a vested interest in keeping us divided.

  8. I clicked the comments link fair set to argue some points, but I see perl has pretty well covered the things I wanted to. That said, I'm fine with the people who have bad decision making skills, of the type that trend along 1) blaze doobie 2) ????? 3) $10,000/minute heroin bill anyway being pointed at all the affordable rope they need with directions to the nearest tree.

    I am extremely less ok with agents of authority shooting dogs and grandmothers because the house across the street is the local purveyor of herbal beers and the po-po didn't double check the number on the mailbox, and absolutist opposition to any availability of such substances logically mandates the use of such levels of force, and we've well seen the levels of government oversight applied to such.

  9. *I missed a typo so deleted and reposted.*

    Peter, I have read your blog for quite a while and have come to respect you as a man of intelligence and heart who knows something of human nature.

    With that in mind, I must say that I am surprised to read your view of this matter because the truth is incontrovertibly the opposite. In stating your case you used the word "addiction". Spot on, but not taken to its logical conclusion. The people you dealt with were addicts, and by that I mean they have addictive personalities. They're going to use, misuse, and abuse whatever they get into, be it drugs, alcohol, work, play, religion, or anything else.

    That, then, makes it a personal problem and not a societal one. The key to "solving" the drug problem is the same as for any other, education. While it is key, it cannot be forced upon the citizenry. All that can be done is to make the information available so that the people can avail themselves of it. If, then, they make the wrong choice, it is, again, their responsibility, not society's. That is why in a free society a citizen is given the freedom to make the wrong choice as long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others.

    That can not be reconciled with blaming the fallout of criminalizing a substance on those who use it. Were it not criminalized that fallout would not exist. Full stop. As perlhaqr said, "See also: Prohibition v1.0, ca. 1920 – 1933."

    It didn't work then, it isn't working now, it will never work in the future. Educate, legalize, and let responsibility lay where it belongs, on the individual.

    February 26, 2011 11:02 PM

  10. Re; the legalization of drugs.

    In the 19th century Pot, cocaine, opium, etc. were only spottily illegal throughout the United States. The biggest 'drug problem' that society had was with alcohol. Federal laws against Pot, Cocaine, and Heroin were passed in the wake of the repeal of Prohibition. Many people believe that they were passed as "full employment for out of work prohibition agents" measures, and there is evidence that supports the idea. Moreover they were passed with the aid of some of the vilest "we gotta keep them goddamned N*ggers in line" swill ever presented by somebody not wearing a sheet. the history of anti-drug laws is simply very, very bad.

    Yes, drugs destroy lives. No, making them legal will not stop this. But I am unconvinced that the people who destroy their lives with illegal drugs would not destroy them with something else if those drugs simply did not exist. In the meanwhile the "war on drugs" has police kicking in doors at 2am. Often not even the right doors. this is not behavior that I want to encourage in agents of the State.

    I would love to see ALL drugs legalized. I feel that everybody involved in the Drug War (users, pushers, cops, ALL OF THEM) have done so much lying that the only way to find any truth is to go back to zero and start over. It isn't like we can't change our minds and the laws if legalization turns out to be a bad idea. And it isn't like its the first bad idea on this subject that's come bouncing down the pike, if it is one.

  11. Hmmm…I posted last night, spotted a typo I'd missed, deleted and re-posted and the site said everything was jake. Today I look and find my re-post didn't take. Soooo…here we go again, a bit out of sequence.

    ………….

    Peter, I have read your blog for quite a while and have come to respect you as a man of intelligence and heart who knows something of human nature.

    With that in mind, I must say that I am surprised to read your view of this matter because the truth is incontrovertibly the opposite. In stating your case you used the word "addiction". Spot on, but not taken to its logical conclusion. The people you dealt with were addicts, and by that I mean they have addictive personalities. They're going to use, misuse, and abuse whatever they get into, be it drugs, alcohol, work, play, religion, or anything else.

    That, then, makes it a personal problem and not a societal one. The key to "solving" the drug problem is the same as for any other, education. While it is key, it cannot be forced upon the citizenry. All that can be done is to make the information available so that the people can avail themselves of it. If, then, they make the wrong choice, it is, again, their responsibility, not society's. That is why in a free society a citizen is given the freedom to make the wrong choice as long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others.

    That can not be reconciled with blaming the fallout of criminalizing a substance on those who use it. Were it not criminalized that fallout would not exist. Full stop. As perlhaqr said, "See also: Prohibition v1.0, ca. 1920 – 1933."

    It didn't work then, it isn't working now, it will never work in the future. Educate, legalize, and let responsibility lay where it belongs, on the individual.

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