Nov 18 - Media & Newsletters, -

Letter from the Executive Director: Jeannie Little, LCSW

We were very happy to spend a day last month with Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs about the US-driven international drug war. Hari spent 3 years taking a close-up look at the causes of the drug war and its impact on communities around the world. This is an excellent and important book — a recommended read for anyone interested in drugs, international politics, or human rights.

Chasing the Scream begins with the origins of the Drug War in one man’s frenzy to rid the world of drugs and the race panic that he stirred up to achieve his ends. Hari visits street dealers in the Bronx, prison labor camps in Arizona, and terror-ridden border towns of Mexico. He also visits hopeful places like Vancouver, which has a drug consumption room that is a model of public health sensibility; Uruguay, which legalized marijuana to begin the process of putting the South American drug cartels out of business; Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalized in 2001; and Switzerland, which has heroin prescription clinics for opiate-dependent people. While Portugal has seen a 9% rise in drug use, there has been a 43% decline in intravenous drug use and an 11% decline overall in problematic drug use. In Switzerland the clinics are so stabilizing that people are returning to work and naturally leaving the program after around 3 years.

Hari spent the day in several of our programs. With a view to writing a follow-up book on addiction, he was interested to learn how harm reduction therapy works and what difference it makes in the lives of the people we work with. One thing we hope he left with, and the thing that we resonated with at the end of his book, is the importance of compassion to the health and well-being of people who use and misuse alcohol and other drugs.

Jeannie Little, LCSW