America's Drug Wars
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Putting A Face On Recovery

I'm a member of Project Vox, a federally funded advocacy group whose goal is to reduce the stigma connected with addiction and to advocate for treatment of the addicted.

I am also a recovering addict. Because when I "hit my bottom," (got sick, scared and desperate enough to ask for help), help was available to me, I haven't had to take a drug or a drink in a little more than 10 years.

As your report points out, the problem of drugs and addiction is not going away, but the solution is. Imprisonment isn't the answer, either: lock up an addict, release an addict. What too many people don't know, however, is that treatment works. I am living evidence of that, and I am only one of millions.

There is a very large and, up until now, very quiet community of recovering people in this country. We are everywhere. We work in the nation's factories, teach in schools, practice law and medicine, preach from the nation's pulpits, and own businesses. In other words, we get up, suit up and show up. We raise families, work, pay taxes and vote.

Why have we been so quiet?

Because of the stigma. Because so many people still equate the person addicted to alcohol and other drugs with the derelict sleeping in the gutter. Because addiction is still perceived as a behavior rather than a disease. Because surveys of employers show that they still prefer not to hire workers who have been treated for addictions.

Therefore, those of us who are functioning, recovering persons are speaking up. We are saying that this, too, is what an addict looks like. We are educating our lawmakers and insurance providers to the fact that treatment works where incarceration does not, and that treatment is much more cost effective.

I agree that the only answer to the drug war is to reduce or eliminate the demand. But punishing the addicted rather than treating them for their disease is not the answer.

Kathy Olund
Flint, MI

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