Re-reading “When Heroin Hits the White Suburbs”, I couldn’t agree more that race is a primary factor in the perception and treatment of all drug epidemics, though I think the class issue has once again been ignored; remembering the heroin epidemic of the 1970s, I think back to white friends from low-income families who were either imprisoned or sent to absolute hellholes to clean up because their desperate parents had so few options.
I was also a bit surprised regarding the analysis of the crack/cocaine saga of the 1980s; does anyone not remember the border babies at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, who’d been abandoned by crack-addicted mothers? I recall doing an interview for Newsday during the early 1990s with a priest from Little Flower Children and Family Services, which had facilities on Long Island and in NYC; when asked why he thought there was such a surge in the number of orphans and foster children, he replied, “In a word—crack.”
But the truly troubling thing about the deluge of articles regarding the new heroin scourge is that none of them address the societal factors causing the epidemic. Opiate drugs? Please. In many of the rural areas described, and in urban areas as well, the dearth of jobs and the isolation experienced, especially by young people with little faith in the future, yield to a profound desperation that makes people turn to extreme escapism, no matter how harmful.
Perhaps in tandem with crafting addiction recovery legislation, politicians can for once focus on the economic inequities that currently prevail across this country and create job training that truly leads to employment offering a living wage, which translates to the ability to easily afford food, housing, clothing and other necessities; health care; and opportunities for advancement that lead to a better quality of life. If people, especially our youth, are expected to make complete recoveries from drug addiction, they need to believe they’re recovering for something better, not just to enduring a waiting period until the next fix.