Thursday, August 11, 2005

Changing focus in war on some drugs

Arianna Huffington has a great post up on Iraq veterans and the war on some drugs. She points out that with the large number of returning vets suffering from PTSD, drug addiction among this group is more than likely to become an issue. So what do you do about a soldier who uses drugs to forget the trauma he suffered fighting a senseless war?

Certainly it would be cruel to imprison our troops for self medicating after they risked their lives for our country. Arianna suggests it's a good time to revisit our priorities on drug policy and shift the focus from incarceration to treatment programs. I'm not the only one who agrees with that approach.
Here in California, Nicole Parra, a State Assembly member, has introduced legislation that could be a model across the country. It authorizes judges to refer veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and convicted of a crime -- including drug offenses -- to treatment programs instead of jail. The legislation itself simply extends a 1982 law designed to help Vietnam vets to include soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what is promising is that it was introduced by Parra, who has traditionally been something of a drug warrior. It'?s not exactly Nixon going to China but it is indicative of a subtle shift in the political and cultural wind. Noting that so many Iraq vets are coming home psychologically damaged, Parra says: "?The question then becomes, do you incarcerate a soldier with a mental illness if they commit a crime or do you treat them so it doesn'?t happen again. I say you treat them."?
As Arianna says, "It'?s a rationale that could serve as the starting point for a new way of approaching not just our Iraq vets but the entire war on drugs."

It's also worthwhile to remember that research currently being conducted suggests that Ecstasy and marijuana could be useful in the treatment of PTSD and other trauma related disorders.

If the public backlash against the war in Iraq does indeed spill over into the drug war arena, preventing our government from further waging a homeland war against Americans, then at least our soldiers would have sacrificed their lives, limbs and peace of mind for something worthwhile after all.

[hat tip to Preston Peet]


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