by Morton Skorodin, M.D.
19 January 2009
The author's hometown paper, the Stillwater NewsPress promised to publish this piece, yet failed to do so.
Like many other Oklahomans I watched a widely-publicized TV program on January 13 of this year, Crystal Darkness, which dramatized the problem of methamphetamine (meth) use. Clearly, it is a serious problem. The medical complications of this drug as depicted are real and I can attest to that since I saw patients with strokes, high blood pressure, and brain and kidney damage as a result of use of this substance as early as 1970.
The program narrative claimed it was Oklahoma’s worst problem. This is an exaggeration, considering Oklahoma’s low wages, poor housing, spotty medical and dental care and inadequate education. (Twenty per cent of adult Oklahomans can not read or write.)
Additionally the federal government claims that meth use has declined 80% in Oklahoma in recent years and less than 1% of Oklahomans use meth. This wasn’t mentioned in the documentary.
This program was carried by a number of local stations and it was presaged by a letter to the editor of our local newspaper, the Stillwater NewsPress, from the district attorney as well as a long article about the dangers of meth and the importance of the upcoming TV program. The publicity was state-wide. Even the governor got in the act. The program covered the medical and technical aspects of meth production, trafficking, and abuse fairly well, although briefly.
Unfortunately it was seriously lacking in other areas. Most importantly there was no discussion of the causes of this problem. But to develop an appropriate solution to it we have to figure out the factors that bring it about and make it so prevalent. Why was it, at one time, so common in Oklahoma?
Meth is an upper. It is used as (inappropriate) self - medication for depression. Problems don’t come about without cause. The methamphetamine problem didn’t drop out of the sky. There are biological and social causes of meth abuse and they need to be fully discussed by an informed citizenry. Here’s why.
The principal tool that’s been used to deal with methamphetamine abuse over the years has been law enforcement, prisons and county jails. No other possible solutions were discussed. Instead there were frightening and sad dramatizations of real life tragedies, and there was no attempt to give the viewer any perspective.
Seeing that would tend to make the average parent feel fearful and perhaps even helpless. The film goes on to recommend that parents involve school/police authorities at a very early stage. Why is this approach being promoted and in such a particularly loud way?
Now, I’m sure that members of the police and judicial establishments sincerely believe in their approach. But I’m like Ronald Reagan: “Trust, but verify!”
Prisons are very profitable. There are private prisons nowadays. The people that own them have, as their mission, first and foremost, the making of money. They need as many people as possible in prison to maximize their profits. They also need to spend as little as possible on the inmates and staff. Thus, America has over 2.3 million people incarcerated; more than any other country. Sounds like “socialism” for the rich, and an unnecessary tax burden on the “lower” 80%, the “we” that actually pays taxes, and most importantly the waste of the hours of the lives of the prisoners and their guards. This is particularly tragic, since half of all prisoners are in for nonviolent offenses.
But there is still more to consider – brain science. The amazing advances of neuroscience are fascinating and have yielded significant information about many emotional and physical states of the brain, including substance abuse. Various substances, including meth, affect brain chemistry in specific ways and in specific areas.
Here is where it gets interesting. The brain response to greed is similar to its response to cocaine, a drug similar to meth. We come full circle and find that purveyors of private prisons and their entourages are also addicts. Likewise, both greedheads and drug addicts tend to need higher doses of their preferred “substances” as time goes on.
It is important to think more about the social causes of substance abuse. One good measure to take would be to create an atmosphere of respect. Firstly, all double standards based on class and race must be eliminated at once. It is common knowledge that this exists. Secondly, police, judges, lawyers and businessmen are enjoined to deal respectfully with everyone.
The children of Oklahoma need clean air and water, wholesome food, access without hassles to medical and dental care, education that encourages their curiosity and inventiveness, and opportunities for wholesome entertainment. Then we will see how much of a residual drug problem there is. If that sounds like socialism, so be it. We’ve had “socialism” for the rich long enough.
Parents, please think and consider carefully before referring your children for drug use investigation. It is clear that the program was framed to make you feel frightened and helpless. Stop and think. Be adult and take responsibility to guide your child yourself. You sure care more about the kid than the Prison-Industrial Complex does. Once the child gets started down that road, the authorities will be happy to track him/her for the rest of his/her life. The current Nanny State wants to take away your adult responsibilities and make you into a helpless infant. Don’t assist them!
Copyright January 16, 2009, Morton S. Skorodin, M.D.