Abcarian: Is “California sober” a real thing, or just an excuse to keep getting high?
In the recent past, people with substance abuse problems have made a lot of money from the public purse, on their way to becoming addicted themselves. In addition to my own personal case, and that of many, many people, the California Department of Health Care Services now counts an average of over a million people as “problem drug abusers.” In the Department of Health Care Services fiscal year 2001-2002, for example, nearly 1 in 4 adults was a problem drug abuser.
Of course, that report contains a large percentage of people who are not, in fact, substance abusers. As many people know, those who use drugs for a reason other than treatment are not considered “problem users.” In fact, they are rarely even considered “drug abusers.” But they are “alcoholics,” not “problem drug users.”
So the official definition of a problem drug user, who is now treated as people who drink alcohol and use recreational drugs, is now almost certainly inaccurate. A problem user is someone who has used illegal substances in the past, and the majority of them likely don’t actually use illegal substances on any regular basis. But they use and consume other substances for much the same reasons as regular drinkers. They are alcoholics, and when they are drinking alcohol, they are not using drugs.
But that is not the real problem with the “problem drug user.” The real problem is that the people who are now “problem drug users” are now using or consuming substances for which they have been arrested and convicted. When they are arrested and convicted, they are being treated as substance abusers, or “alcoholics,” and treated by the state as drug abusers. And the result has been that they spend tens and even hundreds of millions of state taxpayer dollars on prisons, social services, and support for families.
All of this has happened despite the fact that the vast majority of people who use drugs for a reason other than treatment are not “problem drug users.”
I’d like to propose an alternate definition of being a problem drug user that