Friday, January 28, 2005

Lies about drugs in Austin

Are you kidding me? Prohibition and the Media points to this KXAN TV news story that quotes an Austin police officer spreading lies and propaganda.
"Once somebody takes heroin they are addicted for life," Austin PD Sgt. Richard Burns said.
Yeah? Well once drug warriors resort to unfounded scare tactics to spook the public, they're discredited for life.

The news hook for the story is that heroin deaths have shot up in Austin, doubling from 2003 to 2004, according to a mysterious source not named in the story. Police rhetoric focuses on going after "low level dealers," but in reality they're scourging petty drug users, in a big way:

[Austin District Judge Jon] Wisser has seen it in his courtroom. Take the punishment prosecutors are asking for in one case in which a man is charged with less than a gram of heroin.

"In this case, the district attorney wanted six years in prison, and the reason they gave me is they had a wave of overdoses of heroin, and they were going to start cracking down on people who are dealing," Wisser said.

There are days when I can only sadly agree with my conservative friends about Austin's big-government politicos. Too many liberals like District Attorney Ronnie Earle never met a fly they couldn't swat with a sledgehammer. Let's face it -- if this poor schmuck was only in possession of less than a gram of smack, he's not much of a drug dealer. How many people could he be dealing to if he's only possessing that amount?

Six year sentences for overblown possession cases won't solve the heroin addiction of a small number of hard core users. And if addicts think the authorities are going to crack down hard on them, there's no rational incentive for those individuals to seek help.

Senator Jon Lindsay, R-Houston has a smarter proposal that would save money and possibly addicts lives, without all the big government trappings. He wants to allow local government to implement syringe exchange programs that would give addicts access to clean needles and basic medical care, as well as referrals to drug treatment and other assistance. Junkies are very hard for social workers to reach, and needle exchange gives them a chance to interact that they wouldn't otherwise have.

Not only does needle exchange connect addicts to drug treatment, it prevents the spread of Hepatitis C and HIV-AIDS, which in turn reduces local emergency room and Medicaid costs.

Dead addicts don't recover. But Sgt. Burns is a fool or a liar to say people can't. Addicts can turn their lives around given a chance. Instead, in Austin we seem to just want to sweep them out of the way, and pretend they won't come back when they get out of prison.

By contrast, APD Commander Harold Piatt told the Daily Texan in October that unregulated dosages and inexperienced users were the main cause of the spate of heroin overdoses:
That's a more honest assessment than Sgt. Burns'. Prohibition and the Media made the same point: "The way to reduce heroin overdoses and poisonings is to move the trade into a legal, regulated environment in which users can know what they are getting." Needle exchange won't do that (and neither will the Texas Legislature), but allowing local governments to implement syringe-swap programs would give a starting point to pursue smarter solutions.

And speaking of smart, announcing on television that anyone who tries heroin is hooked for life is embarassingly dumb. APD clearly needs to send Sgt. Burns to a media training. Or perhaps to a podiatrist -- would that be to whom one would go to remove a foot from one's mouth?


Anonymous said...

Statistics state IV heroin users recovery percent is less then 5 percent. Which is small, but does support most are hooked for life. My brother was an IV heroin user for many years, he was sent to prison for 6 years for being found with a small amount of heroin on him. He was not a dealer and always told me his little sister to never try it ever. In his almost 6 years of prison, only the last two months he spent in Kyle Unit outside of San Marcos area for drug rehab. They decided to release him early with $50 and a bus ticket, said the half way houses were full and he did not need to be sent to one. He arrived on bus to Rockport Texas, Known for its huge heroin problem that the police do nothing about. He arrived there on 2/24/06 and we buried him on 3/24/06. Still an unknown cause of death but police state possible heroin overdose. They claimed some bad stuff was in town. In my own research I found that 6 people have died in the Rockport area in the last month due to Heroin overdoses. That is alarming to me and when the police say a well known heroin dealer was who my brother met with the night of his death does not bring a family comfort to know that the Aransas County Police department in Rockport Texas has a well known Heroin dealer among the community but why is he still there. I grew up in Rockport Texas, a beautiful community by the water and flourishing with the Artists population, but for years it has been one of the biggest drug infested places known. The inadequate police department does nothing to clean it up. My brothers body was dumped and nothing can be done because the well known heroin dealers claim they thought he was alive when they dumped him? No comfort or closure for my family. We are left with horrific distorted images of how my brother was a heroin addict, sent to prison for it and did hard time except for the last 2 months they notice he was in for a drug conviction so they send him to a unit for drug offenders, but release him out to society and the communities with nothing and placed him in a community overrun with drug dealers well known but not stopped. I blame the government for not funding more to rehab or half way houses for these people that need to be helped so they can try to reenter society, instead they send them to prison for heroin for stricter sentences but do not help them with the addiction, but the heroin dealers killing 6 people in a month and exposing the drug to thousands are just well known but still pushing this drug on thousands.
What does an average family middle income do to fight this?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm very sorry for your family's loss.

It's incorrect that less than 5% recover from heroin addiction. This source, for example, says many kick the habit with no treatment at all.

I don't know what the short term answer is, but addicts need treatment not incarceration, and they need supports the criminal justice system typically can't offer. Drug courts are the way some counties are addressing this, and they work better than the rest of the system does at fighting addiction rather than exacerbating it, but there are no easy fixes.