Sunday, November 8, 2015

Drugs — rich vs. poor

When a rich man chases after dames
He's a man about town, oh yes, a man about town
But when a poor man chases after dames
He's a bounder, he's a rounder
He's a rotter and a lot of dirty names

— From “When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich” from “Finian’s Rainbow”

Last week 60 Minutes ran a report on heroin use among the young in suburban and exurban Ohio.

Recently Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie shared the story about a mother’s addiction to cigarettes, calling for more of an emphasis on treatment as opposed to incarceration.

These are well and good, but I often wonder why these things are making national news just now, especially since substance abuse has always been an issue in such places — it’s often as though such a crisis happens only in poorer neighborhoods and people need to be punished for their transgressions.

Indeed, in one local suburban/rural county a news report about 15 years noted the large number of teens using. And I learned a couple of years ago that a large number of kids at one specific high school were using — when I was in high school (and I graduated in 1979).

Here’s the thing: Four states have implemented drug testing for welfare recipients, part of the thinking that people are poor because they use drugs. Which to me doesn’t make sense because drugs cost money (and in fact, states that do such testing have caught only a handful of applicants relative to the money being spent).

And it’s likely that affluent communities try to sweep the drug problem under the rug to protect their names — and property values. Some years ago one township council held a hearing at the local high school about a methadone clinic that wanted to locate in that area but was fighting it. But during a break one of the students noted that another student had set a trash can on fire while he was high.

But I see the issue as social class, not drugs. Perhaps we need to see drug abuse among the young as something that happens to us, not just them.

1 comment:

asutton said...

Heroin use is up at least partly due to a price drop in recent years.
Another factor in the apparent link between poverty and drug use is that those with money are more able to cover for one who is using to keep them from public embarrassment. They will pay the fines and stay out of jail. They are more likely to get leniency from a judge or get a public service deal because they have financial support.
Overall, I'm sure incarceration has preserved of extended the life of some users. It should be part of the solution but as with all law it needs to be applied without bias. But I know of no society where that actually happens.