An acquaintance queried the other day: which is harming Baker County more — prescription pill abuse or methamphetamine?
The correct response is, I suppose, who cares? They both are taking a toll destined to bring misery to users and heartache to their families. They merely do so to varying degrees.
Is the abuse worse here than elsewhere? The correct response to that, I suppose, also is who cares? Whether it’s worse here than, say, in Clay or St. Johns counties misses the point. We don’t live in Clay or St. Johns counties, and whatever problems beset us because so many people chase drug habits are our problems.Here’s what we do know.
Local cops will tell you a high percentage of people they come in contact with (traffic stops, disturbance calls, etc.) seem to have prescription bottles close by. Some are prescribed legally, some are not.
We’re talking about mood altering drugs here, not allergy medicine. Pain killers, sedatives, anti-anxiety meds — those kinds. People are swallowing them at alarming rates, mixing and matching them and in many cases chasing them with alcohol.
Emergency room workers tell pretty much the same story. Particularly on weekends, they’re seeing a lot of people looking for drugs or being treated for their side effects.
And then there’s the overdoses, some of them fatal. When you see an obituary in the newspaper of someone too young to die from something other than an auto accident or disease, in many cases that’s what’s involved. Gone forever.
What about meth?
You’ll notice this edition of the newspaper doesn’t have anything in it about a new meth lab uncovered (remember the “mobile” lab they chased down over the holidays?). Nor was anyone arrested this week for buying ingredients for meth in a local drug store (they can’t be too bright since the those purchases immediately go into a database and the cops are notified).
Editions like this are getting rare. In fact, police are often told by defendants that meth is the new Xanax or Oxycodone now that they’re harder to procure from a physician locally, and if that’s so, we can expect to see plenty more of it.
So if Baker County is better — or worse — than other places, what are we to take from this?
We could be heading for a society where there are two key classes of people — the addicted and the non-addicted. It’s kind of like the drug version of banana republics — the very poor and the very rich.
There’s an emerging sense that the War on Drugs has been a colossal failure; a waste of taxpayer funds that has filled prisons and done little or nothing to stem the tide of newer addicts coming into the market. Education, intervention instead of arrest, treatment instead of jail — you’re going to hear more arguments on that side as the squeeze on public funds gets tighter.
This is not meant to take away from the more traditional drugs like alcohol that contribute to a dysfunctional society. But do people burglarize houses and vehicles to get money for booze? Maybe some do, but most of the property crime (think copper thefts) is drug-related. They’re either stealing to get cash for drugs or stealing drugs.
In a republic like this, with the freedoms we’re guaranteed (at least for now), the assumption is that we function as thinking human beings making rational decisions that benefit us all.
It’s bad enough when citizens don’t participate through ignorance or apathy — or both; when they don’t bother to vote or make themselves aware of their surroundings; or they can’t think critically because no one teaches that anymore.
But it’s worse when they’re too stoned to participate — or care.