Williams: Spend tax dollars on recovery, not punishment

Connie Williams Guest commentary

Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy, stated on “60 Minutes” that currently the medical profession receives little education on addiction, so they continue over prescribing pain medication and too many patients become addicted to the legal drugs.

When they can’t get the legal drugs anymore, they often turn to heroin, which is cheap. Heroin is an opiate like codeine, Vicodin, Oxycodone and narcotics.

During the program, Botticelli also stated that it is estimated 21 million Americans are addicted to these substances and that addiction kills over a half a million a year. Each day, 120 Americans die in drug and alcohol overdoses.

That number is more than die in car wrecks and gun violence.

This was brought home to us when my husband had shoulder surgery and was given 60 tablets of Oxycodone and told if he needed more for pain he could get them. He took three tablets.

Perhaps he has a high tolerance for pain, but he certainly did not need 60, or 120 tablets, for his recovery.

Quite often I have heard, “I got addicted to drugs because of a prescription my doctor or dentist gave me.” I now see how that happens.

Director Botticelli stated that addiction changes the brain chemistry and is not a lack of will power or moral failure. Today unfortunately addiction causes people to feel stigmatized and full of shame, which compounds the problem.

We don’t jail diabetics for overeating sugar and losing eyesight or toes. We also do not jail smokers when they get lung cancer. We treat the disease.

One half of federal inmates are in prison because of drugs and alcohol. Our 40-year “War on Drugs” and the trillion dollars spent have been a failure.

The scientific truth of the matter is that addiction is a brain disease. They need medical help and treatment, not jail.

Let’s spend our tax dollars wisely and help those in need of recovery. Let’s all work together to help eradicate this problem. Crush up any leftover drugs and mix them in wet coffee grounds to prevent misuse.

Black Mountain resident Connie Williams is ministry leader of Celebrate Recovery.