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Alabama's Opioid Crisis

The current opiate and opioid crisis has seen a devastatingly high number of people, most of them young, die from overdoses or suffer from the debilitating effects of both substance usage and substance withdrawal. In response, the American legal system has sought to prosecute drug users, possessors, and dealers with little consideration for how those categories overlap and intersect.

It is easy to paint all those caught in the grips of the drug trade as monsters, but caricaturing any one person as a monster rarely solves systemic issues. Although this practice can satisfy the human urge to avenge wrongs suffered by individuals and communities, especially those costing not only money but human lives, such scapegoating does not always or often prevent these injuries from recurring or from inflicting continued pain. The word “scapegoat” originated from the practice of many European communities of choosing an actual goat to release into the wilderness. The people of a community would symbolically transfer all of their transgressions and sins upon the animal and exile it from their lives.

Scapegoating someone for using drugs does not address inadequate community responses to poverty, mental illness, or addiction to painkillers prescribed by well-meaning healthcare providers. Imprisoning addicts—even addicts who share with or sell their illicit substances to others—will not lower the rate of overdoses or repair lives wrecked by addiction.

The Indian Springs School community has wrestled with the concept of justice and the dissonance between our current legal system’s definition of punitive justice, the need for rehabilitation, and the complex effects of crime on victims, perpetrators, and communities. The nebulous and quixotic war on drugs begs for further nuanced discussion about the nature of justice and reparations for those afflicted by the present drug crisis.

- Sam St. John '18