Maine’s Best Weapon Against Drug Abuse is COMMUNITY

Jackie Farwell’s recent article thoroughly explains why prescription monitoring efforts are worthwhile. This strategy prevents substance abusers and addicts from having their destruction systemically enabled. In a small number of cases, it leads to the unveiling of addiction and in an even smaller percentage of cases, to engaging in treatment. More often what results is that we eliminate creating small time dealers from selling what they’re prescribed.

That’s great – but please, don’t call it a “weapon” and don’t believe it’ll make more than a dent in Maine’s substance abuse problems. It stops very few people from using. That’s the grand illusion in the war against drugs – take the supply away and people can’t get them. More than thirty years later we remain unwilling to accept this very simple truth: Drug dealers are the ultimate capitalists.

Most everything we do to fight addiction fails. There’s a very simple reason for this: Our policies and efforts to fight addiction are not developed by people who understand drug abuse and addiction. We still want to see substance abuse as something that can be fought.

Truth: Our tax dollars can’t get do more than scratch the surface. We have work to do.

Deterring substance abuse has more to do with education and helping young people become healthy adults. Unmet emotional needs predispose one to experimentation and beginning to use regularly. We have yet to accept that this is not something public education or government can do. It’s something that must be in the hands of neighborhoods and communities.

The best “weapons” in combating addiction are family, peer, and community support and needed treatment. We can’t stop people from getting drugs, better to reduce the need than the supply. Here again, the solution does not primarily lie in the hands of professionals. Addiction is a community problem.

When we fail to properly address self destructive behavior, we drive it underground. Cutting is the easiest example. Sometimes we see the evidence in plain sight. Confront the behavior inappropriately and it persists, just not where you can see it. Shame a person for their demons and you contribute to the problem.

Please stop believing that curbing prescription drug abuse will make more than a dent in Maine’s problems. It’s simple, limit the supply of Oxy and we drive up demand for heroin. Limit availability of Adderall, drive up demand for cocaine.

Nearly one thousand babies born in Maine last year were exposed to drugs. Nothing law enforcement can do will scratch the surface of that problem. There’s an expression in Recovery in which we encourage folks to, “get out of the problem and into the solution.”

The solution isn’t anything schools, police officers, or government officials can do without all of us contributing. The solution comes in dissolving the mythology about what kind of people use drugs and what should be done about it. The solution is overcoming apathy and acting like this is someone else’s problem.

Reach out. Get involved. Care. We’re all human and we all have thing to overcome and contribute.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.