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Letter: Where was compassion for crack addicts in ’80s?

Where was compassion for crack addicts in ’80s?

Today, heroin addicts around the country are receiving treatment that crack addicts couldn’t dream of and now that Caucasians are the main victims of heroin abuse, we are much more gentle on the issue.

The crack epidemic in the 1980s devastated African-American communities. The drug destroyed families and, as many people became addicted, jail time followed. However, politicians and lawmakers are now seeing that we should be viewing the issue of drug abuse through a much more empathetic lens. My question is: Why now?

For decades, being caught with the same amount of crack cocaine as powder cocaine meant dramatically longer jail sentences, meaning African-American addicts who were more likely to use the non-powder form received much harsher penalties, although the chemical effects of the drug are the same.

Now that the rise of heroin abuse has caught our attention, our communities have opened their eyes to compassionate alternatives, from hosting heroin-use safe-sites, to decriminalizing heroin possession. In some counties, addicts can choose treatment over jail. While recognizing that addiction is a disease is a better approach, what is the explanation for the sudden change?

We shouldn’t throw heroin addicts in jail just to make a point, but we owe our best efforts to dull the sting from the slap in the face to crack addicts. And although the convenient explanations for the change can sometimes numb the pain, the truth would be a better healer.

Jaela Williams


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