I think I have a unique perspective on this. Well maybe not all that unique, but possibly within the confines of this board. I have a brother that is a drug addict, full blown. Meth and pills. It's horrible, our family is in constant distress and worry. I have an uncle, well had an uncle, who was a full blown alcoholic. He finally drank himself to death (alcohol poisoning from trying to drink a gallon of vodka in one day). I lost my grandmother to lung cancer and my father had very advanced emphysema which led to his death. Both attributed to cigarettes.
All of these people had one thing in common. An excessive addition to a vice that was bad for their health. The only difference my brother, who is still alive, has been to prison over his vice. My father was considered a successful man, intelligent, very business savvy. We wanted him to quit smoking, but when he tried he just became to agitated to contend with. Let him smoke we said, it keeps him calm. When his illness finally caught up with him the family obviously flocked to him, took care of him. My grandmother was the matriarch. The Queen Bee. She had smoked since she was a little girl and nobody was stopping her now, to do so would probably lead her to a heart attack we were told, the stress at her age would kill her. We weren't going to do that.
But here I will compare my Uncle Pat to my brother. My uncle was just a poor old drunk, he had a really hard life everyone said. Vietnam was not hard on him and he lost his wife to cancer. My aunts would go out of their way to stop by and check on him, take him food, do his laundry. They worried about him constantly. He could be so funny when he would start telling stories. Pat would do anything for you if he could, but he usually couldn't. He was always borrowing money from my mom and my aunts, from me. They paid his rent, he was just to worn out to work. Poor guy, luckily he got disability and that helped make sure he kept the lights and furnace on. and of course a bottle by his chair, in the dining room, by his bed. I do miss him.
But my brother, now he is considered a different story. The family has given up hope on him because he's junkie, a criminal drug abuser who chooses a life of illicit behavior. Yeah dad was really hard on him, but hey that's life! Get tough son! Hey Rick, your wife left you and took your son, you gettin all depressed? Suck it up man, there are other fish in the sea and you just need to get a lawyer and fight! Oh oh, Rick hurt his back at plant, and he's off to the doctor. Chronic back pain? Just another excuse to get pills! He can't face life. He's abusing pills and now he's smoking meth? He got arrested again for possession? He's turned into such a loser. A full blown addict. He's lazy, we won't help him because it's just enabling him to commit crime by using addictive drugs. They are killing him! Best to walk away from him. Oh he wants to come over and do yard work for you? He wants a chance to earn some cash? He's just gonna buy drugs with it or steal from you...don't let him come over!
The thing that separated my uncle and my brother was that Pat could buy his drug of choice at May's and it was legal. I confronted my aunts one day over their comments about my brother and I made this comparison, pointing out the fact that Pat was addict like Rick and he too lived by borrowing and handouts. I almost got ran out the house. "You're uncle Pat never hurt anyone! He's nothing like Richard! He was a good man who loved you, he just had a hard life! How dare you speak like that of him!" When I told them Rick was basically the same they just rolled their eyes and threw their hands up in the air and said "your brother is a CRIMINAL! He's a drug addict! Get out of my house!"
I spent a decade and a half of my life as a cop. I was the supervisor of a county wide drug task force for two years. We will NEVER, EVER win the war on drugs. It's prohibition all over again. It doesn't work. The government cannot deny it's population their vices. They will get them. All we do is create a major burden on society by spending billions a year prosecuting and jailing non-violent drug users. And we simply make them worse. We expose them to actual criminals. Most drug addicts are already at risk to their social environment anyway. Take them off the street and throw them into a confined network of professional criminals and there will be an effect. Their life will get worse, and they will need their crutch more.
I voted that we should legalize marijuana and soft drugs (whatever your definition of that is). I'm not sure how we handle hard drugs like heroin or methamphetamine, but jail time is not the answer. Rehabilitation is the only thing I can think of.