Crying out loud

The Washington Times ran an editorial today, entitled “Crying out loud,” which really made me stop to think.

Deborah Simmons aptly points out the problems we are seeing in our society today as we attempt to deal with the current drug problem in this country. She had this to say…

On far too many occasions, the child of a substance abuser is labeled "special education" and the parents or caretakers are told by school authorities to get "help" by way of Ritalin or other drugs. Indeed, while attention deficit/hyperactivity activity, or ADHD, is a medical disorder that affects 35 percent of our school-age children, educrats — always happy to see more dollars but fewer children pour through school house doors — like nothing more than getting their hands on taxpayer money. And when it comes to feeding at the public trough, bureaucrats will, if you let them, label your child a neurological basket case quicker than you can say ADHD.

While I agree with her premise that we as individuals need to learn to cope with reality, instead of turning to drugs for the answer.

Simmons got one fact wrong, when she stated that, "more than 1 million prescriptions were dispensed last year for Ritalin and other methylphenidates, including Concerta. "

According to The New York Times, in a recent report entitled, “Report of Ritalin Risks Prompts a Federal Study.”

About 29 million prescriptions were written last year in the United States for Ritalin and similar drugs to treat attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, 23 million of them for children. The drugs are among the most widely prescribed medicines in the world.

Until recently I had no idea the extent of the drug problem we face in this country. Since the "war on drugs" began it’s been a losing battle. Or has it?

I have a theory that our own government has had more of hand in our continued drug dependency in this nation than many would suppose or care to admit. To understand how we got here, we must go back about 20 years or so and look at the changes, which have taken place.

Laws were passed that allowed federal and local police to seize the assets of anyone suspected of profiting from the drug trade. This seemed like a wonderful idea; let the druggies pay for the so-called "war on drugs." The problem with this is that the vast majority of those who find themselves trapped in the drug cycle are the poor, those who couldn’t find another way to support their families legally.

Drug sellers almost always end up as drug users.  You can’t be in that environment and not have it negatively affect you. Once a person has been busted for drug possession or drug abuse, the game is on. The state takes their car, their house, their cash and they are forced to depend on over worked, ill-prepared legal council, provided free of charge, of course, by the very government who is prosecuting them.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not defending the drug dealers but this is the cycle that follows. The court then orders them put in jail for a determined length of time, when they get out, they are ordered to drug treatment, where of course they make more "connections" in the drug community. Getting clean is a pipe dream for the majority.

Even those who are serious about cleaning up their lives find themselves in a sort of never never land, where finding work, with a record now, becomes even more of a challenge than before, those unable to obtain gainful employment end up selling drugs to put food on the table and pay the rent, if they still have a home and aren’t living on the streets already.

As the above article points out the vast majority of these folk are parents, which means they have children depending on them for food and shelter. So, chances are, in addition to dealing with their own legal problems, they end up faced with fighting to keep their children, because of CPS investigations. If the children have been removed from the home, the parents must mount a legal battle to have them returned, costing more money and more of the families precious resources, which are spent for counseling, child support, visitation, evaluations, etc…

Most of us regular folk would find this situation emotionally, physically and financially draining. Just try being a recovering addict and stay clean when you are getting hit from all sides. These parents are set-up to fail right out of the gate.

As the odds against them continue to stack up, most will end up back where they started, selling drugs simply to put food on the table and of course, selling leads to using and so the cycle continues unabated.

It makes me sick to see the money that is put into the foster care system. Billions upon billions of dollars are spent on removing children from parents who are poor and unable to cope with the hand that has been dealt to them.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to really help these people? Why can’t we open shelters that will actually house families? Shelters are primarily available to single men or mothers with children. The number of shelters, which house families, is very rare. We need to help these parents to learn skills they can use to work and support their families, while providing drug treatment and alternatives, while at the same time relieving some of the mounting pressures.

Family counseling, parenting classes, anger management training and other important life skills courses should be readily available to any parent who can benefit from them. Funding needs to be made available to help parents establish a home for them and their children.

I know of one family whose parents are on probation and are ordered to attend drug abuse classes, yet drug testing has not been ordered. The parents attend the classes stoned, they hide in the bathroom during the session, have their paper signed and no one cares. Well I care.

These same parents have two children; they are living in a house with no electricity, which they are in the process of being evicted from. They have no electricity because they have a past due bill, which they cannot pay. The entire family is depressed and stressed out, they don’t qualify for help to get their electric back on because the bill has been turned over to collections. Finding a job is difficult because without electricity, it’s hard to heat enough water for showers or baths for a family of four.

Facing eviction, the children are being split up forced to live with who ever will take them in. The parents continue to use drugs, using the small amount of resources they have available to them, not because they don’t care but because they are trapped and see no way out.

I’ve talked to many drug users and all express a desire to get clean but they are trapped and see no way out. So long as the deck is stacked against these parents, the drug problems facing this nation will only continue to worsen, putting the rest of us at risk.

We must start taking a hard look at the problem and coming up with creative solutions, the children deserve nothing less than our very best efforts. By allowing the state to remove children, instead of addressing the underlying problems, we are only feeding the beast. These same children will grow up and when they do, they will become angry adults prone to the same drug addictions as their parents.

The emotional scars these children carry because they have had their relationships severed to their parents are lifelong and will never heal. I know children who have spent their entire adult life searching for their lost parents. These adults are angry; they are depressed and most often turn to drugs, either legal or illegal to treat the pain.

The problem I see with providing these types of services to families, is the same problem we see with today’s welfare program, dependency. The last thing we need is to subject another generation of American’s to a life of dependency on government hand-outs.

On the other hand, we’ve seen entire industries rise up dependent on our government for jobs; namely the public school system, CPS agencies, even our court system are all part of the dependency cycle. I suppose being dependent on government for a job is better than depending on them for a hand-out but either way, the money comes off the backs of taxpayers.

What do you think? Are there any solutions? Are we doomed to repeat the past? Can we as a nation overcome the war on the family?