Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Because politicians and special interests are okay with people dying as long as they keep their power."

That statement is from a letter in today's Laconia Daily Sun by Don Ewing, a frequent letter writer in support of the Tea Party. The context of the letter was about our ongoing drug addiction problems and his vision of how to solve it. He was writing in response to another letter writer.
Ewing's answers to drug addiction are not only bizarre , but frightening. "drug use and addiction (with some exceptions) are self-induced problems deserving of the same sympathy that an orphan, who killed his parents, deserves." Is that the official Tea Party position?

His answer was simply to reduce demand along the lines of the anti  cigarette smoking efforts.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the cost of tobacco and alcohol abuse is over a half trillion dollars, nearly three times that of illicit drug use. Fixing the tobacco " demand" problem has not really worked out so well. Of course the data comes from a ".Gov " source not a trusted Tea Party site, so it can't be taken seriously, right?
In his mind, the reason the problem has not been solved is  "Because politicians and special interests are okay with people dying as long as they keep their power."  No Don, they are not. I don't believe for a second that politicians, even those I vehemently disagree with, are that callous. Your cynicism is palpable.

The problems are complex. Billions of dollars are being spent trying to solve it or at least stem the tide, but Ewing's final conclusion is a political one, not a rational one based upon real facts and a genuine understanding of the root causes. "Americans who want to prevent lives being destroyed by drugs should change their own attitudes and elect politicians who share the attitude that every effort and every tool must be used to eliminate demand for illegal drugs." I would offer that politics has not only not fixed this problem, but is one of the reasons it has gotten worse. Mistrust of anything to do with government at every level, extremist viewpoints, failure to come to the table to reach a compromise has undermined this countries ability to solve it's problems. It is also rather strange that a Tea Party proponent who seeks less government  is looking to the government for the solution.

By the way, we actually do have a national strategy to combat drug abuse and addiction." The Obama Administration’s first National Drug Control Strategy, published in 2010, charted a new course in efforts to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences in the United States. Science has shown that a substance use disorder is not a moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated. Informed by this basic understanding, the annual Strategies that followed have promoted a balance of evidence-based public health and safety initiatives." 

If we continue to believe that drug abuse and addiction are " self-induced" problems, and to treat it with the " same sympathy that an orphan, who killed his parents, deserves"  we are doomed to failure. We do need to use every tool and means at our disposal, but let us also apply some common sense and use the right tools and address the real causation. This is one issue that should unite us. Mr. Ewing's commentary seeks to further divide us.


Anonymous said...

The Tea Party movement has become the biggest threat to our country in modern times. They pretend to be for the people, and they are if you are white and male.

Don Ewing said...

Thank you for commenting on my letter the purpose of which was to try to promote discussion and effective action to reduce demand for illegal drugs. There doesn’t seem to be any effective national, state, or local effort to reduce demand; nor did the column to which my letter was responding provide useful suggestions for reducing demand. Nor is there any success in effectively reducing supply. A better job must be done with reducing/eliminating illegal drug use and addiction which is a personal and national tragedy to say nothing of the horrible expense.

As an aside, I only speak for myself; no individual speaks for the TEA Party which, to my knowledge, has not taken any position on dealing with the drug problem.

You apparently disagree with my statement that the politicians and special interests are OK with people dying as long as they keep their power. I didn’t say they loved it, liked it, or promoted it, but where is the evidence that they are doing anything other than business as usual to reduce demand (or supply)?

If there are serious new or different efforts to reduce demand, they aren’t visible; and unless they are visible, they aren’t effective. In fact rather than efforts to reduce demand, the opposite seems to be occurring. With the early release of thousands of criminals from prison many for drug crimes, it is likely that there will be more turf wars among drug dealers resulting in more killings and more drug pushers will be on the streets trying to supply current users and addicts and get more people addicted.

The only new efforts I see are to deal with overdose victims. While that is good, it would have been better to influence people not to have tried drugs in the first place. Why is that so hard to understand?

My comment showing little sympathy for drug users was in response to the column which advocated treating drug use and addiction as medical problems which creates obligations on society and does nothing to head off demand. My view is that by condemning, ridiculing, or otherwise maligning drug use and users rather than excusing them as sufferers from an accident that they couldn’t avoid, some people will not use drugs and thus avoid the tragedy that occurs to them and those who care for them. In my letter this was only one aspect of national effort I endorse to dissuade people from using drugs.

The national effort to reduce smoking by shaming, shunning, educating, taxing, restricting use, etc., hasn’t been entirely effective; but it has cut the percent of US tobacco users by about 2/3s. And, we still have an ongoing effort to try to dissuade people from using tobacco, so hopefully even a smaller percent of people will use it in the future.

Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to cut the number of drug users by 2/3s? A 2/3s reduction today would save about 30,000 lives annually. Isn’t that worth a real national effort like that we undertook against tobacco use?

Few politicians or other national leaders seem seriously interested in stemming demand for illegal drugs (unless someone they care about is/was addicted or otherwise harmed because of drugs (e.g., Carli Fiorina)). How frequently does President Obama condemn illegal drug use, users, or even drug dealers for that matter? Not frequently enough to make an impression on me. Have any of his anti-drug statements ever made the news highlights? How frequently do other politicians, civic leaders, or celebrities talk about stemming demand or condemning illegal drug use and users? Rarely.

The rest follows in a subsequent comment

Don Ewing said...

Part 2. While I don’t prefer legalization of drugs because I don’t see that reducing demand and the harm to users that occurs, it does at least reduce at least some of the related crime by users, dealers, corrupt officials, etc. And, it would be a big blow to the drug syndicates.

For whatever reasons many special interests (e.g., police, prosecutors, public defenders, prison officials and prison guards, drug treatment centers, politicians, etc.) that, perhaps coincidently, benefit (e.g., keep and perhaps increase jobs and funding) from the drug problem status quo oppose legalization.

Since they offer no new way to reduce demand or significantly reduce the approximately 45,000 annual drug overdose deaths, while it is disagreeable to say so, it sure seems like they are OK with the status quo.

Addiction may be a “brain disease” but my desire / purpose is to get action to prevent illegal drug use. The decision to take illegal drugs is a conscious one and preventing usage avoids the problem of addiction.

The exception referred to in my original letter regards people who became addicted to legal drugs used because of illness or injury and who continue in pain, but can no longer obtain or afford the needed legal drugs. My understanding is that Congress has funded an effort to find effective, non-addicting, pain killers and that will be welcome. There also needs to be a major effort in the medical field to reduce use of addicting drugs and prevent addiction.

I welcome the use of the “right tools” to reduce or hopefully eliminate America’s drug problem. But, I don’t see the “right tools”, assuming these are the tools in use or talked about today, making a dent in demand or supply. Approximately 45,000 people continue to die annually.

As I understand it even with the efforts and money spent last year, at least as many people, if not more, New Hampshire residents will die this year because of illegal drugs than last year.

Therefore, the “right tools” apparently aren’t working. It seems to me we have to start using every tool that can be useful in this effort to save lives, even if they aren’t politically correct.

My letter doesn’t create a divide; it exposes the divide between people who face reality and actually care about reducing the tragedy of drugs and addition and those who don’t care enough to actually do anything effective.

NHTPC said...

The official position of NHTPC is that we have no position on drug legalization and Ewing's opinions are his own, which he has a right to.

Non-radical said...

Ewing said:

"As an aside, I only speak for myself; no individual speaks for the TEA Party which, to my knowledge, has not taken any position on dealing with the drug problem."

NHTPC(sic) said...

Most interesting comments disavowing radicalism. Mr. Ewing writes frequently about the Tea Party and what it stands for. Many times in fact. Just perusing the NH Tea Party " official " Facebook site and I find: "Lenin" ardo DiCapprio, NH under attack!, Agenda 21 Megacities!, The purposes of the climate action plan is to make it easier to submit to the state, Shadow Government Agenda 2030, on and on. NH Tea Party Coalition would be more aptly named New Hampshire Totally Paranoid Crackpots.