Saturday, May 26

NY Times: Heroin addiction a problem in rural America, but they're mystified as to why

A couple of weeks ago the NY Times ran a long piece on the opioid epidemic.  Now, I trust everyone can agree that the Times is thoroughly liberal/Democrat/leftist.  It's largest stockholder is Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

After years of analyzing the type of stories the editors of the Times love, seems they want voters in flyover country to ignore what most of us out here in flyover country immediately recognize as the pathological dysfunction of the nation's largest cities.  One reason for doing this is that they don't want voters to make the connection between liberal/Democrat rule and pathological social problems.

A great way to do that is to publish stories showing that every part of the country has the same problems as big cities.  And nothing fits that narrative better than the "opioid crisis."

In any case, below are the main points of the Times' story on heroin addiction in Eureka, northern California:
A growing heroin scourge is gripping the remote community of Eureka in northern California, where a sharp rise in heroin use has raised alarms. 
In Eureka the problem is exacerbated by a sizable homeless population that is growing amid an extreme lack of affordable housing and a changing, weakened economy that relies heavily on tourism.  
"Changing"?  "Weakened"?  Why would that be?  Source for this claim?  Nope, just trust 'em.
The combined ills have devastated a particularly vulnerable community that is often overlooked in the state. Now those problems are spilling into public view, sparking grievances and anger among the town’s residents.
“I’ve lost so many people to this,” said Stacy Cobine, 46, who has battled her own chaotic drug use and been chronically homeless.

Intravenous drug use has been a persistent menace across rural California for decades, but longtime drug users who once sought methamphetamine — which is also often injected — are increasingly looking to score heroin or opioid pills instead.  
Why?  If users are "increasingly" looking for heroin or opioids instead of meth, there must be a reason, right?  Could it be that the former are now cheaper than meth?  If so, why?  Seems that the only way heroin would be cheaper would be if supply was high.  Gee, why would that be?  Seems like that would be a crucial part of the story, eh?  Nah.  Gotta be the terrible economy.  Let's see...who's president?
An astonishingly high rate of opioid prescription in Humboldt County has bred addiction, officials said, and the craving is increasingly sated by a growing market for heroin.  
If there really is an "astonishingly high rate of opoiod prescription" in the area, yank the licenses of the docs, and jail 'em.  Oh wait, "officials" won't do that?  Gee, that's...odd.
The Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction [great name!], which distributes clean needles, has also drawn the ire of many in the community who blame the organization for the proliferation of needles. Brandie Wilson founded the organization in part to combat the spread of hepatitis C, which is widespread in Humboldt County. The Center has distributed close to one million clean syringes since 2017.  
Surely "since 2017" must be a typo since it would mean just since the first of this year, and we're only thru 5 months.  But the Times said "2017."  Hard to figure.  Since the total population of Humboldt County is less than 140,000, "close to a million" syringes would be over six per resident--and just in the first 5 months of 2018.  I realize serious druggies often shoot up at least every day, but this is still a huge number.
Ms. Wilson said the organization has also distributed thousands of kits of naloxone, a medication used to reverse opioid overdoses.
The needle litter problem intensified two years ago when the town removed a homeless encampment along the Palco Marsh where somewhere between 250 and 400 homeless people had been sleeping.
The tent city, which was colloquially called Devil’s Playground, provided a place to sleep and to linger during the day, but it also saw severely unsanitary health conditions and, at times, violence. In 2016 the town decided to clear the camp and did not allow a new camp anywhere else.
Now “everybody wants to focus on syringes instead of lives,” said Ms. Wilson.
Ms. Cobine said that the town’s decision to clear the homeless encampment “tore us down emotionally and psychologically.” Ms. Cobine said she stopped taking her medications for bipolar disorder because she was afraid that a side effect, drowsiness, could leave her vulnerable to sexual assault when she did not have somewhere safe to sleep; she carries a hatchet around in her bag for protection.
“They shouldn’t have closed the playground down if they didn’t want homeless people all over town,” Ms. Cobine said. “They should have let them stay back there where they were, if they didn’t want drug paraphernalia all over town, or give us somewhere else to go.”
Steve Shockley said he and other homeless people in the area do not just use meth recreationally: they often use it to stay awake at night. The homeless in town have fewer and fewer places where they can sleep without risking a ticket for loitering, or having their few possessions seized by the police. So they take meth to keep moving at night, and take heroin during the day to feed their cravings.

Another homeless man, Michael Myers, said that heroin was easier to acquire than meth

“The state is failing miserably, and you can quote me on that,” said Mr. Stewart, the deputy coroner. “The state is failing miserably across the board. They are not putting enough funding and resources toward rehabilitation.”

Once there are more treatment options in place, the challenge will be getting the people who need them most to buy in, and to offer them mental health services as well.

Ms. Cobine, for her part, believes that housing needs to be the priority in a comprehensive program to deal with drug use in the area.

"Cuz, like, we wouldn't use drugs if you'd give us free housing!  Like, really."  And sure enough...
“I don’t know why treatment and rehab and these services always have to come into play first,” said Ms. Cobine. “If there was just affordable housing, people wouldn’t be using as much.

Finding stable housing situations for those who are most vulnerable, to encourage recovery, is another challenge. Sally Hewitt of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services said the county’s inability to expand public housing options will make that far more difficult, particularly because of local resistance. 

This echoes user Cobine: Democrats seem convinced drug use is caused by homelessness, rather than the reverse.  But it's hard to keep a home or apartment without a job, and virtually all chronic drug users can't hold jobs for long because they don't come to work when they're drugged out.  And since that's their main goal, keeping a job is a distant second on their priority list.  But by all means do, do give 'em homes, cuz that will let 'em get high in comfort and safety.  Like giving 'em needles and taxpayer-funded shooting galleries.
As a result of restrictions on public housing development in California, Ms. Hewitt said, county officials must largely deal with private landlords when seeking to house the homeless. Many of the landlords require potential tenants to have references, good credit and an income at least three times the cost of rent. Those are each obstacles for the homeless, particularly those with drug addictions.
The editors of the Times wanted to make sure you got the message, so here it is yet again: "The problem is there's just not enough public housing.  If you taxpayers would just pony up and build a few tens of thousands more units, drug addiction wouldn't be nearly so bad!"

Yeah, dat sounds really persuasive.  I mean, look how well public housing in, oh, New York or Chicago or St. Louis slashed drug addiction in those cities, right?

A local landlord comments:
“If addicts didn’t use drugs they could afford and get housing. No landlord wants a druggie as a tenant. They destroy everything they touch.  Even if they pay their rent, you often end up with more cost of damage than you make from the rent.  If addicts want housing the solution isn't hard to identify: stop using drugs and get a job.  But they refuse to do either, because they love the high the drugs provide. (Commenter is a landlord who has been burned and seen others burned by addicts.)”

The Times comments: "Many readers were unsure where to place blame, but are disheartened by the lack of action:"

“I have lived in Eureka my entire life. Addressing the lack of housing would be great, but I don’t think that is anywhere near a total solution [gee, ya think?].  I'm not convinced that giving a drug-user a home or free apartment will get them to stop using drugs [gee, ya think?] or even to cut back.  Instead it's likely they'd just damage a unit that could be used by a responsible family. This is a multi-sided issue and I do hope for these individuals’ recovery.  I just don’t see how.”

From a college student in the town:
"Does the responsibility fall on the users, does it fall on the dealers who exploit them, or does it fall on society for failing these people?” 

[It's clear that the editors of the Times want us to think drug use is the fault of "society."  Hard to get them to actually explain why they claim society is to blame, and I suspect they'd invoke a bunch of Marxist bullshit: "It's because the free market is too harsh."  "It's because of capitalism."  Bullshit.  If you love the high of drugs enough to jettison family and personal responsibility, ain't nothin' gonna' improve until you change that.]

But much more typical was the following--which exonerates personal choice and puts the blame where liberals clearly think it belongs:  On society.  That would be you, citizen.  And if you believe that, you must be responsible for fixing 'the problem':
   “In Eureka addicts are treated as criminals rather than having an illness. This community has forgotten that these are human beings. Can we save them all?  Probably not, but we do have to try. We need money to build rehabs, more [free] housing and support services for these people.  Addiction has hit every walk of life, not just the homeless. And it’s a shame on our politicians, pharmaceutical companies, and community members that this is so out if control.”

Here's another commenter with the same viewpoint:  Drug use and homeless are always someone else's fault:
   “I believe that the chronic lack of medical professionals and services in Humboldt County and other far Northern California rural areas is part of the addiction problem, along with poverty."

Leaving northern California for a moment, if you want to see how thoroughly, how utterly, how ridiculously many officials are doing everything BUT what's needed to solve the drug problem, check this out:  Prosecutors in 36 states have started charging people with involuntary manslaughter if they were using drugs with someone who died:
Between 2015 and 2017, the number of such prosecutions nearly doubled.  In Minnesota the number of such cases — sometimes referred to as “murder by overdose” — quadrupled in a decade.  Pennsylvania went from 4 cases in 2011 to 171 last year after making it easier to prosecute.
Now, I fully support prosecution of drug dealers, but this is different:  People who are getting a fix with friends clearly don't intend the friend's death.  And it's hard to imagine that other druggies will be deterred by such convictions.  After all, druggies are already willing to break the law to get a fix, so adding a (distant) possible downside isn't likely to change their calculus an iota.

What this shows is that prosecutors (and their political bosses) are willing to do lots of useless things in an alleged effort to "solve" the problem.  They'll do everything *except* the obvious:  Death sentences for heroin dealers.

This might shed some light. It's from the website of the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction:
Harm Reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.  Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of all people who use drugs.
Harm Reduction is a multi-faceted concept that incorporates a spectrum of strategies, including but not limited to:
  • Safer Substance Use (via Syringe Exchange and Other Services)
  • Managed Substance Use
The Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction (HACHR) is dedicated to Harm Reduction in the Humboldt County community, and in accordance with our partners at the HRC, our organization considers the following principles central to Harm Reduction:
  • Accepts, for better and or worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
  • Understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors...and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.
  • Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being–not necessarily cessation of all drug use–as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.  [Translation from gobblespeak:  Continued use of drugs by our clients still counts as "successful intervention."  The sole criterion for what we call "successful intervention" is if the user has an acceptable quality of life.]
  • Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.  [Trying to get druggies to stop using is not important to these liberals.]
  • Ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
  • Affirms drugs users themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use, and seeks to empower users to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use.
  • Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
  • Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.  [See, we admit that there's "real and tragic harm" associated with drug addiction.  But with that said, we'll help users keep using, because any harm is minimal as long as society provides the necessary support for users.]
It's hard to decide whether these people are just misguided do-gooders, or agents of destruction.  Seems to me they're totally encouraging drug use, and rationalizing that encouragement by saying "Hey, we're just trying to reduce the harm to users."  Okay, that sentiment gets 95% of the public to just nod approvingly and go away.  After all, who can possibly object to "reducing harm," eh?

But let's follow this to what seems to be its logical conclusion:  The people running this thing would seem to be happy if taxpayers would a) give drug addicts free homes or apartments; b) continue to give them free syringes; c) provide local police and other responders with antidote "kits" for use on overdose cases.  Ultimately the same argument can be used to have taxpayers provide whatever drug an addict wants, since that's a way of ensuring he or she won't get adulterated drugs, which after all would cause harm to an innocent user.

Is this what America wants?  Beats me.  Having had a family member who was addicted to coke and crack and meth for 20 years, my sense of it is that addicts won't stop using until they make that decision themselves.  Sorta' like cigarette smokers.  Seems to me the "let's help addicts use drugs safely" crowd is simply helping addicts use longer.


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