Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston - Drug War Victim

It was no secret to anyone that Whitney Houston had a major drug problem. If drug abuse were treated like any other illness, family and friends would have encouraged her to check herself in for treatment and stick with the recommended regimen just as anyone faced with a life-threatening disease is prone to do, and perhaps she would have taken to heart the magnitude of her disease.

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.


  1. I'm reading a lot of this same sentiment across the web this morning. Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and many other wonderful musicians, actors, friends, neighbors and family members may still be alive today if not for our society's failing "War on Drugs"

  2. Good luck in changing the mindset. In these days of hyper-hysteria over money, there are those who want to give drug tests to people who apply for assistance. In the name of saving a few dollars, there are those in our culture who are willing -- nay, eager -- to demonize people for their addictions.

  3. I don't know. Whitney had other problems, collectively going by the name "Bobbie Brown." I think--and I could be wrong--that Brown used drugs to control her. It could have just as easily been alcohol or prescription pain killers. The illegality of some drugs is inconsequential, I think.

  4. This is yet another post I fully expected to see many bloggers and others make. A celebrity has died, apparently of drug use (news reports are currently stating Whitney's cause of death is unknown, though with history of drug use, it's reasonable to suspect her death to be drug related), and it's being used to promote the idea of "This Horrible, Terrible Disease of Addiction."

    The origins of the popularization of alcoholism as a disease are easy to trace, but the actual evidence used is sketchy at best. It is largely through the efforts of one person, Marty Mann, famous for being the first woman to "achieve permanent sobriety" through Alcoholics Anonymous. You can find some whitewashed history of her on (for example) the website of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (the renamed National Council on Alcoholism which she founded and ran for so many years), but unbiased history is rarely found within the "recovery community." Here's the story:
    Here's a short pictorial history of Marty Mann:
    The idea of drug addiction also being a disease rides on the tails of alcoholism as a disease. Indeed, treatment centers treat them as a single disease, and tell patients that to have either alcoholism or drug addiction is to also have the other, regardless of the patient's actual experience.

    Certainly the use of mind-altering substances can become a habitual and very harmful activity, and making most such substances illegal only increases the danger, but to call drug abuse a "disease" is to buy into the current system, as demonstrated not just by interventions but more often by DUI courts and the proliferation of "drug courts." Alcohol and drug related offenders are offered alcoholism and drug treatment in exchange for reduced sentencing (full sentencing is often loss of license for DUI and prison time for drugs), and if tested positive for drugs OR if a treatment center counselor reports one isn't complying with the "suggestions" of treatment during a 'probation' period, the offender will THEN receive the full sentencing.

    This all sounds good, and all the people involved in this system believe they are doing the right thing - those found driving drunk or using drugs get the "treatment they need." Unfortunately, 95 percent of all alcohol and drug treatment in the USA (and virtually 100 percent of government forced treatment) involves 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. These are essentially faith healing religious programs in spite of them calling themselves "spiritual, not religious." If you don't believe me, google Twelve Steps and see what results you get. Actually read through all 12 steps (they're short, about a sentence each). Ask anyone who has been to "treatment" or is "in recovery" what it's about, whether it's 12-step. Push them (they're generally reluctant to talk about it with people outside "the program"), ask them EXACTLY what the 12 steps say.

    I suppose it would be "sort-of okay" that alcohol and drug treatment is religious, IF it worked. The real tragedy is the vast majority of people who go to treatment fail to be abstinent from alcohol and drugs (or "sober") and go back to their previous ways, but this is ALWAYS blamed on "the disease." No one involved in this system EVER questions whether current treatment is ANYTHING other than the best available.