Crack vs. Opioids, the Arbitrary Nature of the War on Drugs and Social Rejection
Are we the only ones who see a problem here? Are we the only ones concerned with how some people who self-medicate to dull the pain of living are thrown in jail while others who do the same thing are deserving of sympathy and treatment?
No quarter is given or compassion afforded to crack cocaine users. They are publicly tarred and feathered; scorned and criticized. Those caught selling and/or using the drug are summarily arrested, prosecuted and sent to prison.
In fact, with the untimely death of college basketball star Len Bias, the law subjected crack users to 100 times the criminal exposure and severity of powder cocaine users, even though the drugs are one and the same.
Jump forward to the opioid crises of today. Opioid users are also self-medicating and they too are engaged in criminal activity. But the societal response is completely different.
Opioid users are not viewed as scum, deserving only of public scorn and banishment. They are instead seen as victims requiring treatment and public support.
Ironically enough, we agree with this approach. The War on Drugs is an unmitigated disaster. Users, no matter the drug, should not be criminalized and substance abuse is not a simple character flaw.
Still, we fail to see any material difference between the two groups. So why the double standard?
Why is $45 million in treatment now earmarked to combat the opioid epidemic while hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent building new prisons to incarcerate crack users? Why is taking methamphetamine a legitimate cry for help while taking crack is a unforgiveable public offense? Why is one group of illegal drug users entitled to compassionate treatment while others are considered dangerous criminals, to be forever locked away in prison?