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The House I Live In: A New Documentary On The War On Drugs

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A new film documentary was recently released called The House I Live In. The film revisits the last 41 years of the nation’s War on Drugs (and the $ Trillion dollars reportedly spent—that’s 1,000,000,000,000—twelves zeros there!), and makes some astute observations along with some very provocative allegations. These are mainly the alleged targeting of specific social strata as the country’s perpetrators of pandemic drug problems. The film’s director, Eugene Jarecki, postulates that America’s poor is being targeting in some of the same fashions that Jews were being targeted in Nazi Germany.  The film won the top prize for a documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. The film examines the economic, as well as the moral and practical, failures of the so-called “war on drugs” and calls on the United States to approach drug abuse not as a “war,” but as a matter of public health. We need “a very changed dialogue in this country that understands drugs as a public health concern and not a criminal justice concern,” says Jarecki.

This Is The War On Drugs

Stepping aside from the provocative and complex social issues that the documentary zeros in on, The House I Live In draws important parallels between addictions to legal and illegal substances and their relation to the war on drugs. In a book that helped to inspire the documentary, Drug Warriors and Their Prey, author Richard Miller offers a helpful insight: “In a general sense, an abuser of cocaine is no different from an abuser of alcohol; both engage in dangerous behavior in an effort to cope with greater or lesser psychological distress.” In a macroscopic sense, this logic rings true for any user of alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, pharmaceutical pain medications—anything that is an addictive substance carries with it the potential for abuse.

Jarecki hits the proverbial nail on the head when he hammers home the point that the nation’s substance abuse issues are not a war on drugs per say, but reveals the need to raise awareness for public health. Jarecki himself relates that neither he nor any of his immediate loved ones have ever struggled with an addiction. But because he is a citizen of the United States of America, feels the weight of a civic responsibility to be able to advocate on behalf of those who he considers to be maligned or marginalized by the legal system. Getting treatment and help for chronic drug use is the goal, not necessarily what he considers to be a subjective and punitive approach to the addiction problem. Jarecki says “being smart on crime includes a huge shift of focus away from law enforcement and criminal justice and toward compassion and public health.” The war on drugs may or may not be as malicious as the documentary makes it out to be, but the problem of addiction, alcoholism and other substance abuse issues is not sensationalized, and is a real concern and need for the whole country to take notice of.


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