By Bill Maher
When Philip Seymour Hoffman died, it reignited an age-old debate: whether addicts are sick people who need to get well or bad people who need to be locked up. People who see addiction as a disease that renders its sufferers incapable of moderation tend to favor treatment and recovery. And people who see addiction as a crime committed by selfish narcissists tend to favor jail time.
I think the problem with the conservative "lock 'em up" crowd is that they project their experience onto others, presuming your constitution behaves exactly like theirs does. If I'm only attracted to the opposite sex, then you should only be attracted to the opposite sex. If I can get high occasionally without overdoing it, then you should be able to get high occasionally without overdoing it. If I can defer sex until after marriage, then you should be able to defer sex until after marriage. But who's to say the urges you feel are the same as the urges I feel or, for that matter, who's to say the urges you feel are right and the urges I feel are wrong?
Do you know there's an antidote drug called Narcan that, when given to patients who have OD'd on heroin, will save their life? It's truly a miracle cure that brings them back from the edge. But Maine's Republican Governor Paul LePage says he'll veto a bill to have Narcan carried by state police, firefighters and EMTs because it'll just encourage heroin abuse and give users "a false sense of security." Makes sense until you consider every single study on the subject proves the opposite is true. Communities that keep Narcan on hand see a marked decrease in both heroin use and heroin deaths.
Now, I know what you're thinking: Maine has a heroin problem? Yes, they do: heroin overdose deaths in Maine went up 400% between 2011 and 2012. Maybe because Governor LePage is an old-school drug warrior who favors punishment over treatment.
Matt Sledge for HuffPo reports, "In three years as governor, he has sought to cut funds for substance abuse treatment, limited the amount of time Mainers can spend on heroin replacement therapies... and requested money to add 14 agents to the state Drug Enforcement Agency."
We've given this Drug War mentality (and the false notion that addiction is a moral failing) over 40 years to work. Isn't it time we applied a common-sense disease/treatment solution?