Interview Paper Many social stigmas are associated with drug use within our society. At one point in my life I shared the negative connotations associated to drug abuse with the vast majority of the population of this country and the society in which I live. As I matured and began forming my own opinions based on several personal experiences, I began to disagree with the believed norm that drugs are bad for our society. They are a means of escape for some just the same as alcohol and tobacco is for millions of others in this country. Those legal substances are just as bad for your body and habit forming as other illegal substances.
Why do so many people frown on those of us who need our help? Drug addiction is a disease yet it’s treated like a crime, does the way that we as a society treat drug use perpetuate the disease? I always wondered what drives people to become addicted to a substance like crack or heroin. What factors in their life take them down such an abusive path? Is it stress or peer pressure or is it a lack of education. I hope to find the answers to these questions and more in the pages that follow. In a 2007 survey conducted by the U. S Department of Health and Human Services 3. % of those individuals reported having tried crack cocaine at least once in their lives. Of all the Black and African Americans surveyed 5. 7% percent reported having tried the substance at least once in their lives. According to the U. S. census beaureau 9% of all families in this country are in poverty, 21. 8% of those families are African American Families. Crime drugs and poverty are almost always associated with minorities in this country. In a 1997 prison survey 57% percent of all inmates admitted having been under the influence of an illegal substance in the months prior to their arrest and conviction.
Of the more than five million people in jail at the time over two million of those individuals were black. Drug crimes in America account for one third of our society’s prison population, housing these nonviolent criminals cost the U. S. taxpayers $141 billion in 2005, that’s only a figure for federal prisons. Not projected into that amount are all the state run facilities and half way houses for those on parole. I believe that money would be better spent on rehabilitation programs and education programs. Ultimately the cost of funding these programs would go down if they worked as intended.
Prisons only carry on the vicious crime and drug abuse cycle that these people have to deal with. A person convicted of a drug crime receives no federal financial aid; the system just makes it harder for these people to come out on top. It is difficult for them to find jobs because of their criminal record, and lack of education, these people see crime as their only means of advancing themselves. I have known Mrs. Smith for several years now, she is a close member of our family, and we share a common bond as soldiers. The daughter of Irish and Brazilian immigrants Mrs.
Smith was born and raised in New York City. Mrs. Smith received a catholic school education, and graduated college during the Vietnam War. She was commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and was sent to Vietnam a newly graduated nurse. It was during her time in Vietnam that she first experimented with drugs. What follows is our conversation. Q. How were you introduced to drugs? A. I was 22 years old, I had just joined the Marine Corps and finished officer basic course. I was sent off to Vietnam shortly after; it was there that I first smoked marijuana. Q.
The first time you tried it do you remember how you felt? A. I remember coughing a lot, I had never smoked before, I know I was hungry shortly after and had a really good nights sleep. The best nights of sleep that I got during my two tours were after a good smoke. Q. Do you consider marijuana a hard drug? A. No baby not at all. Q. What drugs do you consider hard drugs? A. Crack, heroin, amphetamines, and prescription opiates if abused. Q. Would you consider yourself having been addicted to marijuana? A. Well I still smoke marijuana, but it’s as addictive as cigarettes or alcohol.
So do I think that I am addicted to marijuana, no, it’s a habit. I am not going to not pay my bills to buy weed, or isolate myself from my family because of my smoking weed. Q. What drug did you end up addicted to? A. I wouldn’t say that I was ever addicted to any drug, others would disagree and I can understand why. When I look back at those days I thought I was addicted. I look at it now as an escape; I was using crack cocaine in order to escape my problems, to escape reality, to escape my stress. I always had the ability to stop, I just didn’t want to.
I never used by myself always with a group, I kept my job, paid my bills, educated my children, I only used on payday after all of my other priorities were taken care of. Q. So why did you continue to use the drug? A. Like I said it was an escape, I was weak of mind in that aspect, I couldn’t handle the stress, and the drug was my coping mechanism. Q. How were you introduced to crack cocaine? A. It was over the summer I was 53, and it was introduced by one of my girl friends. I don’t remember the meeting very clearly but I tried it and it felt good. Q.
What were the circumstances in your life that caused so much stress which turned you to drug use? A. My second husband had left me the girls were 10 and my son was 14 years old. He took everything all of my money, the house the cars, he conned me. I saw myself with nothing; I had to find an affordable place for me and the kids so I moved to Lynn. I had never lived in a ghetto, although I grew up in New York, we lived in a part of the Bronx during that time. I had never known poverty, poverty was overwhelming for me. Q. How long were you addicted? A. Baby I was never addicted. Q.
Sorry, how long were using the drug? A. Four years, my addiction was feeling bad for myself Q. Did you conceal your drug use? A. I thought I did a pretty good job of concealment, although pretty much everyone knew about it, before it was all over. Q. What impact did your drug use have on your family? A. My oldest son is in prison for drug trafficking, one of the girls is in prison because she can’t quit the oxy’s and the other one goes back and forth with drug use, alcohol and depression. What do you think the impact was? Q. So you believe their behavior is directly attributed to your drug use? A.
I was using crack during the toughest part of a child’s life their teenage years, had I not set the bad example, had I paid more attention to them instead of my own emotional instability, maybe my kids would have turned out differently. On the request of Mrs. Smith I was asked to change topic away from her children. Q. After quitting did you ever relapse? A. Yes one time. Q. Under what circumstances? A. I was diagnosed with breast cancer; I picked out my casket, grave and paid them off. Soon after the reality set in that I probably was going to die I took fate into my own hands. I tried to overdose on crack unsuccessfully.
Q. So how long have you been clean? A. It has been four years. Q. What happened? A. My father knocked some sense into me, I remembered his words from when I was younger, he told me that I was better than all of this, that life is too precious, and that I had to stop being selfish. I woke up in the hospital and I knew that the only way this was going to end was my desire for it to be over. I no longer wanted it to be over, I beat Vietnam, I beat crack once before, and I can beat my cancer. Q. How long have you been in remission? A. Two years. Q. Do you think you will ever fall into crack use again?
A. No I know I won’t, life is too precious, too short, and I need to be around to see my grandchildren grow. Q. Why else do you think it won’t happen again? A. I’m not that person anymore. Cancer made me a better person, the lord works in mysterious ways. I was a weak person cancer made me strong, it was the lord who put cancer in my life in order to teach me how precious life really is, and as soon as I realized how precious it is he placed me on the road to recovery. Q. Do you think your community had any effect on your drug use? A. It definitely did baby. I was poor for the first time in my life.
Growing up in this country was hard for me I’m not black but my skin is a darker color. The black man in our society has always been down trodden given fewer opportunities’, crime is sometimes the only solution, with crime comes drug use, poverty, abuse. Why do you think the worst areas in this country are largely Black and Hispanic communities? Because the white man has forced us into poverty, taken away our opportunities, crime is all that we had left for a long time. Granted times are changing but change doesn’t happen overnight, for a lot of these communities crime is all that they know.
I was poor unemployed living in a shelter I didn’t know what to do, so I gave up, like many others have, we just gave up. Q. Would you consider yourself emotionally unstable? A. Oh yes definitely I am, I will kill someone if the try to hurt someone or something that I love. I’m not suicidal not anymore if that’s what you’re getting at, but I am not opposed to slitting a throat and spilling some blood. Q. Do you think you have difficulty coping with reality? A. Well…….. My brother once told me I look at life through rose colored glasses. Even those of us who work hard and are given opportunities’ can walk down a less than desirable path.
Drugs have been said to have the ability to enlighten the mind and uplift the spirit to new heights, they have also broken families apart, and lead to acts of violence. Our society doesn’t punish the smoker or the alcoholic we help them we educate them we provide a means for the escape of those lifestyles. We treat drug abuse as a crime, we perpetuate the disease, an individual with a criminal record will have a harder time finding work than his never been arrested counterpart. The war on drugs in this country has made a minimal impact on the number of drugs in the streets.
What it has accomplished is having our society frown upon those members that need our help, our society believes that these people are bad and should be locked away, instead of helped rehabilitated and reeducated. If we as a society don’t change our views on drug abuse, if as a nation we don’t change our policies on drug control, we will never take drugs off of our streets. People will continue whatever it is that they need to do in order to survive and cope, by any means necessary, self preservation is the minds first instinct. No matter how convoluted it may become due to drug abuse.
As I stated earlier I don’t necessarily believe drugs are bad for our society, I don’t frown upon those in our society who find themselves in difficult situations and turn to drug use. I never understood what factors drive a person to turn to drugs; Mrs. Smith said it was her coping mechanism. In my opinion it’s just another excuse, then again we don’t think alike, I personally deal with my stress via other means like so many others do. I can however see given the right circumstances and setting why a person would turn to such a lifestyle. It is an easy out for many people, another problem that I see with our society as a whole.
We want instant gratification without having to work too hard for it. We want immediate relief from our problems, from life, from stress; many find that immediate release in drugs. Before they even realize it that need for relief becomes their driving factor. ? References U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs. DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 07-4273, Analytic Series A-29, Rockville, MD, 2007. United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Office of Applied Studies. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2007 [Computer file]. ICPSR23782-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2008-12-01. doi:10. 3886/ICPSR23782 United States Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Special Report State Prison Expenditures. James J Stephen, BJS Statistician. June 2004, NCJ 202949 Leavitt, Fred. The REAL Drug Abusers. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. “Drug addiction. ” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 10 Mar 2009, 02:39 UTC. 12 Mar 2009 .