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Thinking Out Loud: Are We Witnessing The Decadence in U.S. Society That Makes Disintegration Inevitable?

November 23, 2015 by Herbert Daughtry

Part Thirty-Six
Substance Abuse and Sickness
There is another kind of death which can be an act of suicide, or an indication of warring with oneself. It is substance abuse. Pot use in the U.S.A. has reached new heights. Ten percent, or roughly 22 million American adults, now smoke weed, which is double the number from a decade ago. Four states promote recreational use and 23 allow use for medicinal purposes.
Significantly, a majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. In 2013, the majority, 58%, for the first time supported marijuana legalization. Last year, according to the Gallup Poll, support for marijuana stood at 51%.
In the late 1970s, support for the legalization of marijuana reached 25%. It remained there through the mid-1990s. By 2000, more than 30% wanted legalization, and by 2009, more than 40%.
Recently, President Barack Obama hosted a community meeting in Charleston, West Virginia to discuss drug addiction.  One of the reasons Charleston was chosen was that the State had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country. Significantly, the decline in the coal industry and some would even blame President Barack Obama’s energy policy which mandated a shift towards clean energy and away from coal, left the State, particularly Charleston,  economically devastated. Between 2012-213, West Virginia lost 16% of coal jobs.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said, “Any time that you have a loss of jobs, loss of income, loss of purpose, loss of family, you will have people turn to different things. That’s why you’ll see people today who are very upset about it, and that they have taken it on the chin.”
The Senator agrees with the point that I have been making throughout my series of articles. The problems of America must be put into a more comprehensive context. The Senator is wise to understand that the drug addiction is not an isolated phenomenon, but must be seen and understood in the larger picture of sociological and economical factors. The president said that he called upon Congress to approve his $133 million budget for treatment and prevention programs.
In  New Jersey, the heroin death rate is triple the soaring U.S.A. rate. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the rate for heroin deaths has nearly tripled since 2010. “Heroin use is increasing rapidly across all demographic groups,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the Director of the CDC. “In just a decade, the  landscape changed. Around 1 in 50 heroin users may die each year from their addiction. Heroin overdose deaths have surpassed homicide, suicide, car accidents, and AIDS as a cause of death in the state of New Jersey. In Camden and Atlantic counties, heroin kills more people annually than the flu and pneumonia combined.”
Heroin became popular when I was a teenager. We had moved from reefer to the harder stuff. During my generation, and the generation that followed, I witnessed the substantial decimation of our communities. Families were wiped out. Jails became filled.  Sickness and death became prevalent.
During those days, the only known treatment center was in Lexington, Kentucky. The general public was ignorant regarding the widespread use of the drug, or didn’t care. It was around 1947 when it was discovered that  young white women were using heroin and cocaine (speed), with musicians in what was then one of the most famous nightspots, Birdland.
When I became an adult and realized what was happening, I knew and predicted that even if they removed or eradicated heroin, other drugs would take its place. I understood that the problem was deeper than the use of heroin. Across the years, we have seen other drugs gain prominence. Now, apparently, heroin is back on the scene with a vengeance.
Of course, there are other substances which are abused. Alcohol is another scourge. Tobacco is still another toxin that eventually leads to sickness and early death. It may take a little longer, but it is unanimously agreed that tobacco contributes to major health problems which can cut short our lifespan.
There’s an interesting plan to increase sales by Uber. They want legislation passed which will give it the right to operate in Upstate New York and Long Island. The reason is that they want to get close to college students to provide transportation when they get drunk.
In an interview with a radio show, “The Capital Press Room,” Mr. Josh Mohrer, the New York City’s company manager, said that, “Feedback from students is clear. We don’t have options when we are drunk, and we want to have Uber here.” What a way to lobby for legislation! “We want to provide a service for drunken college students.”
It suggests that it is an accepted fact that college students are going to get drunk; and, therefore, preparation should be made for them. What Uber represents is American capitalism: “If you want to kill yourself, it’s fine with us. We will provide the hearse and the gravesite, as long as we can make money.” Even so, as bad as that is, it gets even worse. American capitalism will sell the poison whether in the form of tobacco, foodstuffs, automobiles, etc. as long as there is a profit. Not only so, but it will remove whatever is positive, prosperous, productive – in a word, whatever is good for the community, if it increases profits, mind you, not that profit isn’t already being made, it is that more profits can be made.
For example, whole communities and cities have been destroyed when industries and corporations decided to move their businesses to some faraway place driven by a desire for more profits. For this reason, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said, “Greed is destroying America.” (I will deal with greed in another article.)
As a result of substance abuse and other socioeconomic factors, sickness is inevitable. With all of its wealth and technology, America is a sick country. It is reasonable to conclude that surely adequate medical services could be provided for all of its citizens. Even here in the U.S.A., medical service can’t escape the insatiable greed of American capitalism.  Obamacare, where President  Obama attempted to create a system of medical services that all Americans might be covered, was a modest achievement. Other presidents had tried to address the growing problem of illness in America. To the eternal credit of President Obama, he was able to at least achieve something, and there are forces which are determined to destroy that modest health program.
There’s one other kind of violence we need to consider. It’s the violence against mother nature. During his visit to the U.S.A., Pope Francis was quoted on radio stations, saying, “Mankind has slapped Mother Nature in the face. When we do wrong, we can forgive each other, but Mother Nature never forgives.” I will deal with this kind of violence in future articles.
We have covered violence in all of its murderous, devastating, tragic, direct, and indirect manifestations. When we put them together with other forms of destructive behavior, the picture that plays across our minds should cause us grave concern, and an urgency to do all that we can to reverse the trend.
(Originally published in the Daily Challenge October 30, 2015.)