Monday, October 8, 2012

Current Obstacles to Drug User Activism in the U.S.A.

     As it stands today the drug user groups in the U.S.A are few and far between in comparison to the millions of drug users present throughout the entire country. It is important that supporters of drug user activism spend time speculating as to why this is the case. By comparison, drug user unions have been present in Europe for over thirty years and have been increasingly effective in influencing government policy as well as providing services for their members during that time. Drug user unions in Canada have also been arguably more active and successful in organizing larger numbers of drug users .
    The exact reasons as to why there are such differences is not clear presently. There are however, several aspects of American society that may contribute to the current lack of drug user activism. Number one is the fact that we live in a police state. Incarceration levels in the U.S.A. are at their highest levels ever. The number of drug users in prison for non violent drug related crimes is grossly underestimated at 500,000. To identify as a person who has used or does use illegal drugs is to become a target of the prison industrial complex. That's in addition to the psychologically traumatizing cultural stigmatization imposed on drug users whether they have been clean 10 years, ten minutes, or never. The issue of how drug user activists identify themselves will have to be resolved in order to encourage a broad spectrum of drug users to participate in the movement.
     The second reason for a comparatively inactive movement here in the U.S.A. may be the trend in american politics to discourage it's citizens from engaging in that same political process. American laws that prevent felons from voting are but one example of the disenfranchisement of drug users. With the notable exception of the marijuana legalization movement (more on that in a later blog post), users of other substances have not been supported vocally or financially in their quest for civil rights or decriminalization. It is a new idea to think of the millions of drug users as a political force and it is a new experience for the drug users themselves after generations of mind numbing oppression.
    Hopefully if enough drug users are encouraged to throw off the shackles of marginalization they will recognize their strength in numbers and organize throughout the United States of America. In places where the idea of drug user activism and organizing has so far been nonexistent the message of empowerment will be welcomed by communities sick of the failed drug war. Drug use is no longer an excuse for apathy that lie is dead. Drug users are becoming the enlightened community leaders forging a new paradigm. Join us.

1 comment:

  1. i would add that the disease model espoused by AA/NA is a major roadblock to drug user activism within the US. Not only does AA/NA discourage political activism but when a significant portion of drug users believe they are diseased they are unlikely to support their right to use substances currently deemed illegal.