Many social stigmas are associated with drug use within our society. At one point in my life I shared the negative connotations associated to drug abuse with the vast majority of the population of this country and the society in which I live. As I matured and began forming my own opinions based on several personal experiences, I began to disagree with the believed norm that drugs are bad for our society. They are a means of escape for some just the same as alcohol and tobacco is for millions of others in this country. Those legal substances are just as bad for your body and habit forming as other illegal substances. Why do so many people frown on those of us who need our help? Drug addiction is a disease yet it’s treated like a crime, does the way that we as a society treat drug use perpetuate the disease? I always wondered what drives people to become addicted to a substance like crack or heroin. What factors in their life take them down such an abusive path? Is it stress or peer pressure or is it a lack of education. I hope to find the answers to these questions and more in the pages that follow.
In a 2007 survey conducted by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services 3.4% of those individuals reported having tried crack cocaine at least once in their lives. Of all the Black and African Americans surveyed 5.7% percent reported having tried the substance at least once in their lives. According to the U.S. census beaureau 9% of all families in this country are in poverty, 21.8% of those families are African American Families. Crime drugs and poverty are almost always associated with minorities in this country. In a 1997 prison survey 57% percent of all inmates admitted having been under the influence of an illegal substance in the months prior to their arrest and conviction. Of the more than five million people in jail at the time over two million of those individuals were black. Drug crimes in America account for one third of our society’s prison population, housing these nonviolent criminals cost the U.S. taxpayers $141 billion in 2005, that’s only a figure for federal prisons. Not projected into that amount are all the state run facilities and half way houses for those on parole. I believe that money would be better spent on rehabilitation programs and education programs. Ultimately the cost of funding these programs would go down if they worked as intended. Prisons only carry on the vicious crime and drug abuse cycle that these people have to deal with. A person convicted of a drug crime receives no federal financial aid; the system just makes it harder for these people to come out on top. It is difficult for them to find jobs because of their criminal record, and lack of education, these people see crime as their only means of advancing themselves.
I have known Mrs. Smith for several years now, she is a close member of our family, and we share a common bond as soldiers. The daughter of Irish and Brazilian immigrants Mrs. Smith was born and raised in New York City. Mrs. Smith received a catholic school education, and graduated college during the Vietnam War. She was commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and was sent to Vietnam a newly graduated nurse. It was during her time in Vietnam that she first experimented with drugs. What follows is our conversation. Q. How were you introduced to drugs?
A. I was 22 years old, I had just joined the Marine Corps and finished officer basic course. I was sent off to Vietnam shortly after; it was there that I first smoked marijuana. Q. The first time you tried it do you remember how you felt? A. I remember coughing a lot, I had never smoked before, I know I was hungry shortly after and had a really good nights sleep. The best nights of sleep that I got during my two tours were after a good smoke. Q. Do you consider marijuana a hard drug?
A. No baby not at all.
Q. What drugs do you consider hard drugs?...