Chemistry, and Co-morbidity
the substance of addiction research
time to realize that treating addicts is not a bad thing.
Kuhar, Chief of the Neuroscience Division at Yerkes Regional Primate
and medicine tend to see [the sociological and cultural factors
in addiction] as "noise" and focus on the technical solutions.
Brown, Professor of Anthropology
Policy on addiction lags far behind the
science, researchers say. Theres a lot of contradiction
between the science and the policy, especially compared to
other diseases, says Claire Sterk, chair the Department
of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education in the Rollins School
of Public Health. Take cancer research, for example. You
may or may not agree with a certain policy, but much scientific
effort and time goes into shaping it. But with addiction,
preconceived notions tend to shape policy.
People will immediately talk about a crack user as an addict
because we have a image of a crack user as someone who is poor,
who drains social resources, whos a criminal, Sterk
says. But another type of cocaine user a snorteris
treated differently. People tend to say Well, its
OK if you have a high-level job, a stressful job, if you snort
once in a while.
Stereotypes about addiction drive legal policy, as well. In federal
court, for example, sentencing guidelines for crack run a hundred
times greater than for powder cocaine. This means that someone
in possession of a hundred grams of powder cocaine gets the same
sentence as someone with one gram of crack. To land ten years
in jail, a defendant need only be caught with fifty grams of crack.
A user of powder cocaine, though, must have five kilos of the
drug to receive the same sentence. While this disparity results
in softer penalties for the typically affluent and white users
of powder cocaine, the trend is toward stiffer penalties across
the spectrum of drug use.
Recently, the penalty for possessing Ecstasy, a drug popular with
teenagers at dance clubs, rose sharply. I cant wait
to be in the county where police start picking up these middle-
or upper-class white kids and throwing them
in jail for ten or twenty years because they had a few Ecstasy
pills, says Sterk.