Instead, we've made criminals out of drug users, and consequently, out of addicts who are in the grip of a disease they can't fight on their own. The poor ones end up overdosed in an alley somewhere, but the rich ones earn an outlaw cache, an attitude that some have expressed as "I don't have a drug problem. I can afford all the drugs I want."
As long as we have a criminal attitude toward drugs, we're going to treat drug addicts as criminals, the rich ones will achieve outlaw status, and we're going to continue to lose people with an illness because as a society we treat them like criminals.
It's reminiscent of the early days of AIDS, when the assumption was that if you got AIDS you were engaging in illicit if not illegal behavior. The stigma that created in the minds of the public delayed serious response to the AIDS crisis and cost the world dearly. Yet today we invest drug use with the same stigma and fail to see that it's costing us much more than AIDS ever did, in sheer volume of victims alone.
RIP, Whitney. You chose the path you chose, but we failed you as a society as well. You were ill, but we invested you with outlaw chic and splashed your illness across our media, treating it as entertainment. Perhaps we should have listened when you sang.
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone to fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me
...and that's all I have to say about that.