Heroin at Your House?
As you read this article, there is an American special forces soldier stationed in a hot, humid jungle. As in any war, his life is in grave danger. But the war he is fighting is a different kind of war. He is not fighting in Guadalcanal—but the fighting is just as fierce. He is not fighting in Vietnam—but his guerrilla enemies are just as deadly. Where is this soldier? He is in South America. He could be in Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, or even Mexico. We must ask, who is the enemy?
Three recent Presidents, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, have identified the evil empire for us. It is not Nazism, or the Soviets. It is not Red China or any other Asian communist threat. Our 90s adversary is the international drug cartels. All three Presidents have warned Americans that the greatest threat to our national security is illegal drugs. So, our soldier is fighting a war on drugs! But we must ask ourselves: How goes the war?
America: at war with drugs; sounds appealing and convincing. But when we look at the facts of this war’s decade-long history, we must admit that the war on drugs involves a confusing combination of politics, CIA covert operations, high price tags, lies, scandals and cover-ups. And, if we look at America’s rising drug use, we must ask, are we winning the war?
Short History of Drug Abuse
We must face an unnerving reality. America has failed miserably in its effort to solve its drug-abuse problem. Our history with drugs is a sad and sobering one. The land of the free has suffered several waves of drug epidemics. People in the 60s experimented with hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD, mescaline, peyote and psilocybin. These dangerous drugs were considered to be mind expanding. In reality they were mind destroying. Many young people blew their minds—permanently! The use of heroin also became popular in the 60s.
People in the 70s popularized marijuana. Many reasoned that pot was just harmless fun. Yet long-term medical studies now show otherwise. In the 80s, people flocked to cocaine. Celebrities, actors, sports stars and even high government officials used it. Of course, this only helped to expand the problem. Soon after, in the 80s, we also learned that cocaine was a killer. Some actors and athletes became casualties of the cocaine monster. For example, in 1986, Len Bias, one of the Boston Celtics’ most promising draft choices, foolishly ended his career and life with a massive intake of cocaine. Len Bias’ proven sports ability would have made him a superstar.
Now, in the 90s, the use of heroin is becoming immensely popular. Later in this article, I will show you how serious the heroin problem is today.
Cause for Concern
By stating these facts, I do not intend to oversimplify our drug-abuse problems. In other words, there have been other drugs popularized during these same time periods. Americans have struggled with tobacco and alcohol for decades. But it would take too much space to list more drugs. The facts I have presented lead to one main question: Have we gained ground in our fight against drug abuse? Some politicians would like us to think so. But the facts speak otherwise. It is time we as a nation and as individuals rethink our strategies for conquering drug abuse.
A 1995 Gallup poll showed that many Americans recognize the seriousness of the drug problem in this country. This is cause for concern. And this same poll showed that Americans expect our government to solve the problem. However, some deep-thinking investigative journalists believe the American government shares a large part of the blame for our nation’s drug problems.
Recent history shows that drugs and politics make for a bad mix. In the early 80s, many city, state and federal government officials realized that they were losing the battle against drug trafficking in their own backyard. Illegal drugs were easy to obtain. In essence, drug dealers have been able to live the American dream. Some drug dealing operations are so organized and so wealthy, they rival some of America’s most solid large corporations.
One of the most sophisticated and profitable illegal drug-trafficking corporations was developed by the Chambers brothers in Detroit, Michigan. Their story is told in William M. Adler’s book, Land of Opportunity. These four men approached drug dealing like any major corporation would conduct business. Their family grew to great wealth and prominence by selling crack cocaine!
The point is, government programs to stop drug trafficking at home could not compete with the wealth and ingenuity of the drug dealers. So a new plan was devised to stop drug trafficking. The strategy? Stop illegal drugs from reaching our golden shores. The new plan called into action the United States military. War was declared on drugs.
In 1991, Peter Scott and Jonathan Marshall wrote a ground-breaking book, titled Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America. Using well-documented facts, they show that the war on drugs has not even begun to curb the drug-traffic problem. In fact, they feel it has contributed to an increasingly scary drug nightmare. Their book, updated in 1998, is an exposé of how CIA covert operations in Central America have actually facilitated the trafficking of drugs into our country. They write, “The most dramatic increases in drug smuggling since World War II have occurred in the context of, and indeed partly because of, covert operations in the same regions. CIA involvement in Southeast Asia contributed to the U.S. heroin epidemic of the late 1960s, just as CIA involvement in Central America contributed to the cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. Although the CIA did not actually peddle drugs, it did form gray alliances with right-wing gangs deemed helpful against a common enemy” (p. 4). Cocaine Politics is thorough in its documentation. It is well worth reading.
One shocking revelation in the book focuses on the fact that many of today’s South American drug lords are former, highly-trained CIA operatives left over from the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. These drug lords are using their sophisticated training to smuggle drugs into this country.
But basically, Scott and Marshall show that our government looked the other way when it came to drug trafficking in order to achieve political ends. These two men reveal a shocking history of events that show Iran-Contra-like operations are still happening. In other words, as some politicians shout war on drugs, hidden political agendas are being carried out. Scott and Marshall feel if our American government continues the current politics for the war on drugs, America is about to lose another war.
Colombian Heroin Dominates
Journalists working to expose CIA ties with gray political factions allied with powerful drug cartels were originally met with much skepticism. But the problems exist. And the facts do add up. Earlier this year, MSNBC featured a report on the newest CIA/military effort in Columbia. Michael Moran, in an article titled “Planning the CIA’s Next Secret War,” writes on MSNBC’s website, “On one side sits a corrupt government, commanding an increasingly restless military which, in turn, has encouraged the growth of a shadowy and murderous collection of ‘paramilitary’ death squads. On the other side are the Cali, Medellin and other drug cartels and their hired help: at least two left-wing guerrilla movements—possibly numbering 50,000 armed insurgents—allied with sympathetic peasant and Indian groups concentrated primarily in the country’s southern border provinces. And of course, stuck in the middle are millions of poor human beings who wish only to be left alone.
“Out of this cauldron of political, ethnic and ideological hatreds, the CIA and its military counterpart, the Defense Intelligence Agency, believe they can choose sides to fight the good war against drugs. As the Washington Post reported this weekend, the Clinton administration has cut a deal with Columbia that will send about $37 million in military aid to specific units of the Colombian armed forces—but only those not implicated in the country’s death-squad atrocities.
“This concept—sold to the Post as a unique policy approach—actually differs little from past American doctrine. Whether exploiting factions in El Salvador’s military junta, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party or South Vietnam’s dictatorship, American officials always claim to know the good guys from the bad guys and channel money to them with abandon. In every case, U.S. officials exaggerate both what they know about their protégés, and their ability to understand their motives.” Mr. Moran feels that if we use history as our guide, trouble is on the horizon.
In fact, trouble is already here. On January 1, 1998, the New York Times reported that Colombian heroin dominates the U.S. illegal drug market. The Times article stated, “Lower prices and a purer product have given Colombian heroin the largest share of the market in the United States with New England being the fastest-growing segment, Drug Enforcement Administration officials said today….
“Traffickers in Colombian heroin are using their well-established cocaine distribution networks to offer free samples and make the drug available in smaller, cheaper quantities. The result is that after decades of a market once dominated by Asia, Colombian heroin now accounts for more than 60 percent of the heroin smuggled into the United States, the Drug Agency said.” Is there a connection between the stepped-up CIA presence in Colombia and the dominance of Colombian heroin on our streets? Historic evidence shows that there very well could be. Heroin is our 90s drug. Its popularity is now very much on the rise. Are we not seeing a repeat of the 60s, 70s and 80s? Will we, as a people, ever learn the lesson of history? It appears we quickly forget even recent history.
Heroin Moves to Burbs
In all fairness to our American government, we would be remiss if we put all of the blame on officials for our nation’s drug-abuse problems. It is true that our national drug policies are not working well. But should the government be expected to solve the drug-abuse problem anyway?
The decision to use drugs is an individual’s choice. Taking illegal drugs reflects a serious character flaw. Only a weak people expect their government to regulate character. There is good logic in the thinking, “If there were no users, there would be no pushers.” The most vital battle with the war on drugs is being played out, not in some jungle, but on American streets and in American homes. The battle is a brutal one. If we are going to win the war on drugs we must face the problem here on our own turf.
Drug interdiction specialists are now concerned over the increased use of heroin in this country. But heroin is not just being used by some burned-out musician or some inner-city junkie. It is reaching into all economic levels and age groups in America. Heroin can now be found in our backyards and in our houses! In this arena the special-forces soldier becomes meaningless. We must learn how to protect our families and ourselves. We must face the drug problem head on and at home.
In late 1997, the nation was stunned by reports of an increasing number of heroin overdose deaths in a wealthy Dallas suburb of 190,000 named Plano. It is full of new homes. In 1989, the average annual income in Plano was estimated at $54,000. It is not the typical place you would expect to find pushers and heroin addicts. However, from January 1996 to November 1997, 10 teenagers died of heroin overdoses. These tragic deaths represent a growing phenomenon in this country. Rational adults wonder how this could be happening. How do we explain such tragedy?
Writing about the Plano deaths, New York Times reporter Carol Cropper stated, “Although the number of heroin deaths is startling for a city of this size, drug experts say that the rising use of heroin among young people is a growing phenomenon. The number of high school students nationally who have used heroin almost doubled last year—rising to 2 percent of all students—as what was once considered a narcotic for down-and-out junkies became fashionable and moved to the suburbs, said Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“Heroin coming into this country is now much purer, allowing it to be snorted like cocaine, ingested in a capsule or smoked with marijuana, Dr. Leshner said, adding, ‘Kids who would never inject themselves will snort it.’ At the same time, Dr. Leshner said, the price of heroin dropped and some fashion industry advertising seemed to glamorize the use of heroin” (New York Times, Nov. 23, 1997). All of the Plano victims were under 21. The youngest Plano victim was 14 years old.
Parents in Plano were perplexed that they even had to deal with a hard drug like heroin. The kids that overdosed and died lived in comfortable homes, had nice cars and money to spend. On the surface, heroin and the Plano lifestyle don’t seem to mix. But law enforcement officials and drug experts are working to educate parents that heroin use is becoming more the norm than the exception. In fact, since the news about Plano, the problem has grown ever worse.
Heroin at Your House
In an article titled, “Heroin in Your Backyard,” Andrea Kannapell reported about heroin’s new popularity in New Jersey suburbs. She wrote, “There’s an illegal drug making huge inroads in New Jersey, trapping not only the most hardened of inner-city users, but also the fresh-faced youngsters who weren’t even born when the nation started its war on drugs.
“The drug is heroin: same old powerfully addictive opiate derivative, brand new pattern….
“Changes in the international drug trade are bringing heroin within the price range of even a 12-year-old’s pocket, and a much purer product means users are guaranteed a satisfying high without having to contend with fearsome needles….
“‘These kids will sprinkle it on Jell-O!’ said Raymond Farley, the superintendent of Hunterdon County school district, where random drug testing was started two years ago, after a survey commissioned by Hunterdon Central Regional High School found that the 2,100 students at the school show drug use rates, including heroin use, significantly higher than averages across the country—which have been rising over the last few years. ‘This is a national epidemic,’ Mr. Farley said” (New York Times, April 12, 1998). Check any newspaper. You can find similar articles in Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis and Miami. All of this information shows that America’s drug problem is real and it can be very close to home—at your home. We must realize, the youth of this country are the drug cartel’s number one target. Some reports show that of the 141,000 new heroin users last year, the majority were under the age of 26. The warning is being broadcast. How well are we listening?
Can our drug-abuse problem be solved? Is there a real solution? Yes there is!
An Addictive Society
To solve any problem, we must first admit that there is a problem. Americans must wake up to the fact that we are an addictive society. We love our alcohol, our cigarettes and yes—our drugs. We are a nation hooked on pleasure.
The prophet Isaiah was commissioned by God to write down certain prophecies for our day (Isa. 30:8). God warns us through Isaiah about our weakness for pleasure seeking. Isaiah wrote, “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands. Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it. And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled: But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness” (Isa. 5:11-16). God warns here that our national weakness for pleasure seeking, which includes drug abuse, will be our undoing. Essentially God is saying that we are a nation which likes to party. Human history shows that any nation glutted on pleasure seeking quickly falls. Ancient Rome is a prime example.
Our drug and alcohol abuse problems have also caused us to forget who we are. America and Britain are the descendants of ancient Israel. God intended for Israel to set an example for righteous living. America’s drug problem shows how far short we are falling.
Our drug problems have also caused us to forget and ignore our God. As a nation we will be humbled. We must come to see the seriousness of our national drug problem. In essence, it is a reflection of our deep spiritual problems.
Change You First
It has been said that Plutarch observed, Drunks beget drunkards. It is a known fact that young people desire to imitate adults. Before we can solve our kids’ drug-abuse problem, we must first solve our own. As adults, have we set the right example for our kids? Do you have a drug-abuse problem? Before you exclaim a resounding no, remember that the most accepted drug-abuse problems in this country are the abuse of tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs. All are killers.
Do you abuse alcohol? Alcohol abuse is one of man’s oldest addictions. Solomon, the wisest man of his time, had it all. Much like today’s Americans, he had great possessions. But Solomon also had to deal with his own drug-abuse problem. He wrote, “I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life” (Eccl. 1:3). In other words, Solomon had conducted his own experiment using and abusing alcohol. He acquired. He lived the good life. He partied. He didn’t deny himself anything. What was the result? He wrote, “Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Eccl. 2:17). Solomon’s drinking and pleasure seeking brought him to the brink of suicide.
Solomon’s experience is similar to many people’s today. He learned that the best drug-abuse strategy is to never develop one. He warned the young of his day. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Prov 20:1). There is much publicized information about the signs of alcohol abuse. Are you courageous enough to look for those signs in your own life? If you do, your own example will inspire a young person to do the same.
What about prescription drugs? Do you abuse them? What about over-the-counter drugs? Do you abuse them? Americans are known as people who don’t have time for pain. So we pop a pill to keep us going. This does send a strong message to our young people. The message is: Got a problem? Some drug can solve it! The message we should be sending to our kids is: Got a problem? God will help you solve it!
Not Looking Cool
Americans glamorize their addictions. Over the decades, companies have invested billions of dollars in advertising cigarettes, alcohol and even drugs. These commercials generally feature the young, the tough and the beautiful. Is it any wonder we have drug-abuse problems? In 1997, fashion photography featured young models who looked like heroin addicts. Using great lighting and expensive clothes, heroin addiction was made to look in and glamorous. Is it any wonder then that we have a new generation of young people getting hooked on heroin?
Advertisers, film makers, fashion designers, photographers, pop musicians, actors and sports figures must begin to accept the responsibility that what they do affects the lives of young people. Young people need role models to look up to. If the role model lives a clean life, so will the young follower. But the opposite is all too true. We have too many role models today who lead our young people into wretched lifestyles.
Stopping drug abuse means we must educate our young people to the stark realities of drug abuse. Being hooked on hard drugs is anything but glamorous. One adult described heroin addiction this way: “It is like being possessed by the devil…. You have no freedom. You can’t go anywhere or do anything. You can’t have relationships. Everything is just about getting the heroin. It’s a horrible way to live” (New York Times, April 12, 1998). This miserable lifestyle is never communicated in a fashion-magazine photo. Medical professionals know that heroin addiction is the hardest addiction to break. Overcoming heroin addiction is a very ugly struggle. Real drug users do not look cool. We must make sure our kids see this aspect to the drug-abuse problem.
Give Your Time
Realize how vulnerable our kids are to trends and other kids. One young heroin addict, now in recovery, warned how easy it was to get hooked. He was quoted in the above-mentioned Times article as saying, “The first time I tried it was at a party, when I was 17…. This kid passed a little bit out. I sniffed it. We were playing cards, and the next thing I knew was…I feel good!” The author of the article then comments, “And the next thing he knew after that, he said, he was an addict, a dropout and a convict, prey to an obsession that has been ruining lives since the drug was developed around the turn of the century” (ibid.). If your impression of a drug pusher is an evil-looking adult, you must update your image. Today, most kids get hooked on drugs from other kids.
Peer pressure is one of the strongest pulls in your child’s life. The only way to combat this problem is for parents to stay in a close relationship with their children. Our most effective weapon against drug abuse is spending time with our kids. We should be deeply involved in our children’s lives and activities. Too many parents are not there for their children. Absentee parents open up a great void in a young person’s life. We must recognize that someone or something will fill that void. Today, that something could be heroin.
America’s problems with illegal drugs are complex. Yet there are some very simple solutions. Let’s all individually face our nation’s drug-abuse problem. Let’s take the steps to be sure that heroin doesn’t make its home at our house.