I have to weigh in on this whole heroin “epidemic” topic. I’m seeing a lot of these articles: the thing is, I’ve been seeing versions of these articles, since the mid-1960’s. Everything old is new again. My problem is I want us to change. I see our problem as we don’t learn from our mistakes. We don’t see the bigger picture.
In 1968, me and my buddies would go into Detroit (from Grosse Pointe, a short 5 miles or so) and buy heroin. In fact, many white kids drove in from the suburbs and bought heroin. So much so that it became a network news story. There were a rash of overdose deaths and major outbreaks of hepatitis. I watched my friends being interviewed on TV (with their faces blacked out) while I was sitting in treatment for heroin addiction.
So allow me to paint a picture here. I’m going on 16 years old, sitting in this locked-down ward in the only drug treatment in the city, a hospital wing at Detroit Memorial Hospital, across the street from the 1st precinct of the DPD. Me and a lot of middle aged black guys. Oh yeah, and some white women from the suburbs too. The wing was half narcotics-withdrawal and half mental illness, mostly depression, and that’s what the white women were there for. Major depression or bi-polar, known as manic-depressive then.
The hospital performed shock-treatments. In fact, we still do shock-treatments here in America. Unfortunately, they get results, at least in the short term, though they bruise the hell out of the brain. This treatment was not 12-Step meetings, not groups, just one psychiatrist visit every two weeks, meds and TV. And great food. A hell of a chef. So, there we are after dinner, meds dispensed, plopped in front of the TV and the newscaster begins the story by saying (I remember it well), “The people realize that heroin has come to their community”. And this room full of black men burst out laughing. Me, fairly naive and certainly undeveloped in many ways despite my drug history, turned to my buds and asked, “What’s so funny?” And they said “Hell kid the people done had heroin in their community for a long, long time. What they are saying is it’s come to the white people’s community”. OOohh, I said. And thus began my deeper education into the alternate history of this land of ours. Alternate as in they weren’t teaching this stuff in any school I knew of.
So we are back to me and my problem, my desire for societal change, when my own knowledge and spiritual path tells me I must change myself. Right now I’m seeing a lot of news stories that present the heroin problem as if it’s, at least partially, a new thing, and a recent emerging problem. That is unfortunate because it is misleading. The community has been under the weight of heroin for a long time. It was a billion dollar business in the 1930’s. Imagine that, when a billion really meant something. And there’s a topic for a future time: add up all the money, over decades, which the global drug industry has collected and it’s in the trillions. Just ask the DEA, who are charged with such accounting. Where, on God’s green earth do we think that is?? It’s in banks, people. And real estate, and etc.
So any War on Drugs needs to start with the leading drug money laundering banks, because without them the whole shebang can’t function. Hence why the War on Drugs actually never failed because we never actually had a War on Drugs. We had a war on people of color, poor people of color, youth of color and our citizens. But hey, back to our topic at hand. If we are one country and care about our citizens who are supposedly all equal then we should understand how drugs have been tearing up the black and brown and native communities for a long long time. Starting with the alcohol we handed out “free”.
Heroin, and cocaine and meth have been in a series of cycles, every 8-10 years, since the early 1950’s. The reasons for these cycles lead to some interesting underlying facts and truth about our world, culture, government(s) and how they operate. I know because I have witnessed it and studied it. We are talking about how the business of a global industry works but that’s for another time. What you do see is one drug recede and one become prominent, but the flow of drugs is constant and always there. This heroin “explosion”, the articles like to point out, was triggered by easy prescription drug access which eventually goes away. Hence the slide over to heroin, a cheaper substitute to the prescription narcotics. We have seen that before, including back in the early 90’s.
We have also seen the drug company’s pernicious lies about a new drug, which the doctors become complicit in, coupled with inventory “mix-ups” of drug flow that somehow get to the streets. Quaaludes and valium are examples of previous drug company mayhem that led to many deaths and our grannies in treatment. We went through OxyContin and recently Suboxone as current examples of corporate lies and mis-representation.
Meanwhile, this is another tip of an iceberg that includes systemic and institutionalized racism woven throughout our country and world. Racism leading to the real tip of the iceberg: Class structure. As Don Coyhis, from the White Bison Wellbriety movement shows us, if we remove a sick tree from bad soil, heal the tree and then place it back in the bad soil the tree will never truly flourish. We have to repair the soil from which everything flows.
It’s a great thing, to live over a span of decades, because you really get a perspective. In the Western world we tend to dread old age and not honor our Elders, but if you pay attention, you actually get perspective and see a bigger picture. Information, coupled with our experience and a willing mind becomes knowledge which allows us to co-create solutions. If enough citizens come together with knowledge and distill it down, you have wisdom. Then you know a way out together.
As we grow in our historic knowledge we see that we need to stop branding and packaging into smaller boxes various drugs and populations. That’s often a gimmick devised by someone to market a product or service. That is how our system works and is not necessarily nefarious, the intentions may be good, but it is a disservice. We humans have a hole in our core we fill with many items, which for those with genetic predisposition tends to be filled with drugs. And that is the problem. We want to make it safe for people to come forward and end their denial and begin the process of recovery. Our task is to hold the space of Hope and Faith toward recovery and healing for everyone who needs it.
BTW, four of the five kids, all my friends, interviewed on that TV news series back then, died. If any of this sounds bleak, please know that there is nothing BUT Hope in all this. Grace saved me. So you understand I have a mission. And a mission starts with the truth.