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Drugs in the Black Community

A reader asks some interesting questions about the cultural effects of drug use.

I was just wondering what type of effects drugs have on the African American Community. I also want to know what is the negative effect of the use and sale of [heroin]. What preventive [measures] can people take to stop the use and the number of people that are killed right now in the African America Community?

These are good questions. I have been attacked for saying that in modern America, heroin is primarily a "white man's drug". People have pointed out that there are many blacks at methadone clinics. This is true, but this argument is getting cause and effect messed up. The fact is that if you are a black American, you are much more likely to be poor than if you are a white American. People use drugs for all kinds of reasons, but one of the biggest is boredom. I think this is also the reason for most non-violent crime. Try the following little thought experiment. What percentage of young black men are unemployed? What percentage of young black men are in jail or on parole or probation? They are both unacceptably high, and I believe that the second results from the first.

I have long believed that if drug "offenders" were sentenced to job training rather than "drug treatment", there would be a huge reduction in "drug abuse". I would love to be able to get a pilot study going on this. But it will never happen for reasons that would take me a whole book to discuss.

All of this is to say that the limited options of blacks in America causes their notable drug use (that is: they get noticed publicly in the form of arrest for drug possession) to be higher than for other racial groups. Drug use is a cultural activity. As a result, different cultures prefer certain drugs over others. In the United States, the "black man's drug" has been cocaine. All the hysteria about crack cocaine is based upon race, not pharmacology.

Many people like to make the argument that drugs keep minority groups down and destroy urban ghettos. This is wrong. The conditions that minority groups live in dictate their drug use patterns. This is one of the many awful ways that the drug use issue is used by politicians and other vermin. Instead of dealing with the real causes of urban poverty, they just blame drugs. If a young black man gets a felony for drug use, that felony will pretty much limit his employment opportunities to fry-cook, thief, or drug dealer. Yep, that's going to reduce urban poverty.

As for deaths due to drugs: it's a non-issue from a policy standpoint. Everyone knows alcohol and cigarettes kill about 100 times as many people as all illegal drugs combined. Not as well known is that there are more fatal overdoses from acetaminophen (Tylenol™) than from methadone. It all comes down to this: if we, as a nation, care about reducing urban poverty and its negative effects (and we don't), we would promote education and entrepreneurship in the youth of those areas, provide basic health care (not emergency room health care), and stop harassing and incarcerating young minority men for consensual crimes.

Drug laws--not drugs themselves--have been a very effective tool for keeping the African American community down.

by Dr. H © 2003
Last Modified: 8 January 2004


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