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The Candid Conservative: Our drug war is fake
Wednesday, 05 April 2017 10:26
Special to the Daily Planet

Conserve (v. kuh n-surv) To use or manage wisely; preserve; save.”

atlinburg’s 2016 catastrophic fire tragedy killed 14 people. They’re busy cleaning up, recovering and making sure it never happens again. Fire gets in your face and forces you to act.

 Asheville’s 2016 smoldering drug tragedy killed seven times that number. We’re busy building greenways, wringing our hands and hoping for magic. Smoke gets in your eyes and makes you blind.

 Ours is a community where finding one’s happy place in a pill, pipe, straw or needle is cool. Those dealing with the consequences are concerned, but paralysis by analysis is not an action plan.We need one.

 Per Southern culturist Flannery O’Connor, “Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”  Mind if I take her lead? We’re taking stupid pills to fight our drug war.

A broken safety net

 Relying on a broken treatment system has been a big mistake. Of those who jump into the deep end of the drug pool, abysmal percentages drown with or without intervention. Narcotics are central nervous system superglue – handholding and “it’s not your fault’ passes can’t break that connection.  

 Note also how casually we sidestep the rippling touch of drugs on Asheville’s crime, safety net, healthcare, child-abuse, poverty and homeless stats. It’s simpler to record versus improve statistics — chasing symptoms is always easier than attacking problems.

 Witness the desperation of Narcan enthusiasms. Stacking hope on this hit or miss opioid overdose antidote is the equivalent of advocating stop, drop and roll to someone in the middle of a forest fire.

 Speaking of traps, one of the slickest is the widespread pretense of marijuana’s innocence.

 No matter what anybody sells you, marijuana is very psychologically addictive and like all forms of escape, fraught with risks. For everything it does right, it has matching wrongs.

 Yes, there’s evidence marijuana has medical applications. Unfortunately, for most conditions the assumptions of healing and symptom relief are proving sketchy. Everyone feels better when they’re stoned. That’s not the same thing as being better off.

Unlike alcohol, being high on marijuana doesn’t seem to trigger anger and antagonism. That, too, seems to be a half-truth because both arrive when the party is over.

Marijuana takes the effort out of coping. Consequently, one’s natural stress management skills tend to atrophy – or in the case of teens – never develop. When the high goes down, the stress goes up.

There are two insurmountable problems with marijuana. One, every time you use it, you get stoned. One can have a beer, cocktail or glass of wine and let it go at that. With today’s weed it’s a full on super-buzz that makes your brain want more. Two, marijuana – just like Nancy Reagan said – is a natural gateway to other drugs. I know, most hardcore drug addicts have also eaten pizza and fried chicken, but neither one taught anyone how to get high or hang out in bad places.    

Weed enthusiasts may get lost in the complexities of a demanding world, but they need not worry about running out of product. In a nation busily downgrading its culture, legalization is likely. The revenue opportunities and ‘something for nothing’ pretense – think the lottery – associated with marijuana will be too tempting to resist.

Regardless if its marijuana, heroin, coke, painkillers, or morning glory seeds, the big problem with all drugs is the reality we’re stuck on a hard world. Its clear God wants us all in and that all forms of escape are thus packaged with penalties. The greater the escape – the greater the consequence. Routinely taking time out with drugs is the equivalent of nighttime skinny dipping at Sea World.


It’s a phony war

Remember Vietnam? In spite of our best efforts to make it a police action, we actually won that one three or more times. Each time our politicians surrendered and allowed communist aggressors to seize the initiative. In the end, a Congress controlled by the Democratic Party reneged on our promises to the South Vietnamese and essentially handed the keys to some really bad guys. The results – genocide conveniently ignored by the media and our politicians. In a performance repeated by Obama in Iraq and Afghanistan, American leaders turned their backs on fifty-seven thousand American dead and faked virtue in the action.

What is commonly derided as a “Drug War” is a repeat. We’re not in a war, we’re in a holding action and always have been. Were it a real war, we’d get serious and go after everybody involved with passion matching our follow-up to Pearl Harbor.  Instead, we continue to play at containing this social scourge and drop crocodile tears on the casualties.

Ask anyone over 50 raised in WNC if in they could have ever foreseen a time where a family’s greatest nightmare was having a loved one kidnapped by drugs. We’re there – and we should be ashamed of our complacency in allowing it to happen.



In contrast to those suggesting it’s time to end the war on drugs, may I suggest we need to recognize we’re surrounded and attack in all directions? The wrong side is winning and the assuredly understated toll noted earlier confirms it.

That way out begins with a hard reset on the archaic disease theory of addiction.

This therapeutic fiction has its roots in a nineteen-seventies attempt to recognize substance dependence as more than a matter of bad character. That worthy mission was long ago corrupted into fake science essentially absolving the addict of personal accountability. “I’ve got a chemical imbalance and can’t help myself,” has become a license for self-destruction.  

The strongest hand of treatment contrastingly recognizes five fingers of opportunity – physical, social, moral, genetic, and behavioral. Getting a decent hold on recovery takes them all.   

Some remain enthusiastic about fixing chemical addiction with more chemicals. Good luck with that. The necessity of positive lifestyle choices will never be replaced by a pill.  

Most of our anti-drug energy goes into existing addicts. Lifelines matter, but better potentials lie with intercepting new recruits. Doomed to failure are those pulling drowning victims out of the river while ignoring the upstream forces throwing them in. 

On that point, our biggest drug threat isn’t Mexican cartels, street-corner dealers or home delivery agents. That distinction falls on the shoulders of hyper-regulated pharmaceutical companies and licensed physicians who, around the turn of this century, partnered to promote a second scientific fantasy – ‘non-addictive’ painkillers.

The emergence of a stealth drug source in the residential medicine cabinet followed. It’s there, and amidst the enticements associated with marijuana’s pretend innocence, that most addicts take their first step on the road to nowhere.

Spoiler Alert -— please resist the temptation of portraying drug users as innocent victims. Remember what they do to get high – fuel broken families; Mexico’s narco-terrorists; our horrific gang wars; an overwhelmed healthcare delivery system; and a host of other miseries. Let me say it clearly – drug-users are predators. They do not deserve endangered species status.


Getting serious

Reciting statistics and dated assumptions is more about motion than action. That reactive approach to drug harms is the equivalent of a walking behind a forest fire trying to put it out.

Real firefighters understand that to kill a fire you have to attack it at its source. Squirting water on a burning building is giving up.

Those looking for a global model of success might consider Singapore – zero tolerance means their culture is not being held hostage to drugs. At the local level, constructive action begins with recreating a community drug commission charged with something more than conversation and understanding. 

That commission should be comprised of those on the frontline of our drug problem – police, hospital, social service, and other safety net administrators. It can be fleshed out with change agents bringing something to the table besides obstructionism, self-service and dead-end thinking.

Developing practical strategies to address criminal justice, healthcare, family, education, technology, spiritual, cultural, economic and other forces affecting our drug problem is job one.  In turn those strategies must be tied to gradable action plans. It’s then time to stop talking and start doing.

In the 1960s film “The Sand Pebbles” – a story loosely based on the gunboat exploits of the U.S.S. Asheville – Steve McQueen’s character is forced to watch the onshore torture of a Chinese friend. 

No longer willing to endure the suffering, the sailor grabs a rifle to answer the victim’s call for relief. 

Mirroring our community’s convoluted approach to drugs, his paralyzed captain responds with the backwards declaration, “Holman, if you fire that weapon I’ll have you shot.” 

The sailor’s reasoned call for action sums it up, “Well shoot something, damn it.”    

Want to do something about a modern version of death by a thousand cuts? Start thinking like the guy on the gunboat….


 Carl Mumpower is a psychologist and former elected official. He is chairman-elect of the Buncombe County Republican Party. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .




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