Understanding Race and Addiction
If you’ve read this blog for some time, or even if you only just started, you’ve likely noticed a recurring theme to the nature of our posts.
It’s the notion that addiction is a disease. We emphasize that it’s not a moral failing. It’s not a matter of being a good or bad person, or a rich or poor person, or a black or white or Hispanic person. Addiction does not discriminate: it affects people across all sects of society. We’ve been saying this for years. We’ve been saying it because it’s true.
Race and Addiction
In recent months, we’ve heard some echoes. They’ve come from the media, from the CDC, and from politicians. By most counts, we can agree that opening up the conversation, looking for justice reform and changing the mindset from incarceration to rehabilitation are all good things.
But some people are calling for a look at why the conversation is shifting so dramatically.
Realization or racism?
In the last month, both The New York Times and The Atlantic published articles about addiction. In them, journalists acknowledge that addiction – and the heroin epidemic, specifically – has indeed become a front-page issue. But, they posit that race is the driving factor as to why.
As we’ve mentioned before, the topic of addiction is a hot one for political campaigners, with candidates like Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina and Jeb Bush all sharing personal stories of how addiction touched their lives.
At an addiction forum in New Hampshire this past January, Ohio Governor John Kasich also lamented that addiction is indeed a national crisis, but he pointed out that other communities have long struggled and never got this kind of public compassion.
“This disease knows no bounds, knows no income, knows no neighborhood, it’s everywhere,” he said. “And sometimes I wonder how African-Americans must have felt when drugs were awash in their community and nobody watched. Now it’s in our communities, and now all of a sudden we’ve got forums, and God bless us, but think about the struggles that other people had.”
In a New York Times
Op-ed published a few weeks later, Professor Ekow N. Tankah put it a little more starkly. “White heroin addicts get overdose treatment, rehabilitation and reincorporation, a system that will be there for them again and again and again,” argues Tankah. “Black drug users got jail cells and ‘Just Say No.’”
The efforts being made to improve the treatment of addiction are inarguably positive changes. But Professor Tankah and Governor Kasich make fair points. The scope of addiction has reached beyond city alleys and poor neighborhoods, and found its way into wealthy, white suburbia. And sad as it is, it seems like that’s what it took to give the nation pause and begin talking about it in terms of treatment and assistance instead of crime and punishment.
So while it is a good thing that the conversation has changed – few could argue with that – it’s also disappointing to see it polarized this way.
Getting help, no matter who you are
Here at The Watershed, we’ve helped addicts from all walks of life. We’ve understood from day one what the nation seems to just now be coming to terms with: Incarceration isn’t a viable means of treatment. Addiction isn’t a moral failing. Addiction is a disease. And those struggling with it deserve help.
No matter what your race is, no matter what your tax bracket is, if you’re dealing with an addiction, or if you’re looking for care to help a loved one who is, get the help you need. The Watershed can help. We’re here 24/7 and can take your call any time. Call today. 1-800-861-1768.Tags: chris christie, disease of addiction