Right Division Blogs

The War on Drugs

The following is an excerpt from an article by Joseph A. Califano, Jr. in Americanmagazine.org, May 24, 2010. It contains some very valuable information and statistics.

“Consider these three facts: We in the United States make up 5 percent of the world’s population. We consume 66 percent of the world’s illegal drugs. We incarcerate 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

It is no coincidence that of the 2.3 million inmates in American prisons, 1.5 million—or 65 percent—meet the standard medical criteria for drug and alcohol addiction and abuse. Another 20 percent of inmates, who do not meet those criteria, nevertheless were either under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their offense, stole money to buy drugs, abused drugs, violated the alcohol or drug laws or share some combination of these characteristics.

Yet only 11 percent of the 1.5 million inmates with substance abuse problems receive any treatment while incarcerated. And the treatment they receive routinely fails to meet even minimum professional standards, much less approach that of high-end centers like the Betty Ford Center and Hazelden’s Center for Youth and Families. As a result, most inmates who have undergone treatment end up back in prison months or even weeks after their release.

The problem is growing. The prison population is rising at a faster pace than that of the general population, and the number of inmates with drug and alcohol problems is climbing even faster. Between 1996 and 2006, the U.S. population rose by 12 percent, but the number of adults incarcerated rose by 33 percent and the number of inmates with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction problems jumped by 43 percent.

Crime and drugs (including alcohol) are related. Those who committed a crime to get money to buy drugs average seven past arrests, the highest rate in the prison system. The second highest, inmates with six prior arrests, includes those with a history of alcohol treatment and those who were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of their crime. Alcohol is implicated in the incarceration of 57 percent of all inmates in America.”

The entire article is a call for more treatment and less incarceration for offenders. The only flaw that I see in his approach is labeling drug addiction/alcoholism as a disease instead of a behavior. Most prominent medical schools have long dropped the disease approach. As noted research psychiatrist, E. Fuller Torrey stated, “a disease is something you have, behavior is something you do.” The promise of sobriety (according to all AA programs) is to change people, places and things. Try that with a real disease, like cancer, and see if you get cancer free.

Our criminal justice system treats the alcohol problem and drug problem totally different. The penalties are much more severe for drug involvement than for alcohol, yet far more people are killed in alcohol related deaths than in drug related. One may go into a bar and have a drink; one may carry alcohol in his vehicle under certain conditions; one may have his own bar at home; one may drink at many public functions and sports events. Alcohol can be bought over the counter at a multitude of places. None of the options exist to drug users. If our drug laws corresponded with the alcohol laws, over-crowded prisons would fail to be over over-crowded.

While we are on this subject, let me address something that churches and Bible believing groups do not address. When God chose Israel, He established their judicial system, both legal and civil. He also instructed them in sanitation and crop rotation. There was not much that would occur in an Israeli’s daily life that God through Moses did not address. His Bible warns over and over, in both Testaments, of the evils and dangers of drinking alcohol. He begins in Genesis 9:21 and ceases in Revelation 18:3. There is no doubt that drunkenness is wrong.

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18

We could give many more verses in support of total abstinence, but any honest Christian is aware of the problems and dangers involved with drinking. Anything that influences one’s thinking; anything that affects their mental and physical functions is not good. This is why people call the various narcotics as “mind altering” drugs.

Now here is the point I want to make; though Moses, Israel and the Bible were aware of the sinfulness of drunkenness, there is not one law forbidding the use of alcohol or any other drug. In the first five books in the Bible (called the Pentateuch) which covered God’s laws and instructions for His nation, there is not one word legally forbidding or penalizing the use of drugs or alcohol. In fact, if the individual Jew lived too far from the appointed place to bring his tithe, he sold his tithe for money, took the money to the appointed place and bought what he wanted, including “…wine, and strong drink” (Deuteronomy 14:22-26.)

Is it not interesting that God gave Israel laws that were much stricter than ours in America? (Consider the death penalty for adultery (Leviticus 20:10,) for cursing or hitting parents (Exodus 22:15, 17,) for homosexual acts (Leviticus 20:13,) for bestiality (Exodus 22:19,) and being a witch (Exodus 22:18) and for being a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-5.) These things would work the ACLU to death!

Has America strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel ( Matthew 23:24?)

What we have been doing is based upon behavior modification and that never works. What does work is belief modification. Everyone in America knows about this verse, even if they can’t quote it:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

People act like they believe.

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7

Certainly people need to be educated on what the use of drugs and alcohol can do them; mentally and physically. They need to see how the story ends. They need to know how the “highs” often end in booking, the emergency room and shame! Through the years I have met clients who could teach the therapeutic class. They know the outcome, but don’t really believe it will happen to them. How many times do you send someone to rehab? What happens to those who refuse to respond to SAFP (Substance Abuse Felony Punishment,) IPTC (In Prison Therapeutic Community) or other such programs?

Until one’s thinking is changed, we are in a never-ending struggle. We can put up all kinds of ladders of opportunity, but if one does not want to climb it, we are spitting into the wind.

God made some promises that I think we can rely on.

Mohammed didn’t make them, neither did Buddha, the Pope or any other leader of a religion. God said that He could change men’s hearts, and that is the answer.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

This obviously doesn’t mean that all old habits are gone and he will never revert to them again. Every Christian has stumbled, even relapsed at times. What is brand new is an attitude; an attitude that includes Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God the Father. The “old man” remains (Ephesians 4:22,) but there is a “new creature,” a “new man” (Ephesians 4:24) with a new attitude. The “old man” does not improve or gradually depart.

Solving the drug problem won’t get one person to heaven, but as the director of our local Palmer Drug Abuse program told me a few years ago, “Our program can’t get you to heaven or send you to hell, but we will help you get sober long enough for you to make that decision.” I am for helping them sober up, but I am more for showing them the way to heaven. Warehousing people hasn’t helped much, has it?

Keep Looking Up!

Leland Maples