Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Monday, October 17, 2011

Building the JHA

I've gotten some good input from opus, marisa, and a commenter who wants to remain anonymous, and I'm using it to start building the list of the steps along the road to drug abuse, and all the primary and collateral decision points and risks associated with those steps. At this point, we're still brain storming, so if you see something we've missed, please let me know in the comments. The only thing I don't want right now is criticism of any off the ideas listed. The first stage is to get everything we can written down and placed into a framework. We aren't editing yet; just gathering information.

So, here is what we have so far.

Drug Abuse Risk Analysis
Process StepContributing factorsSubfactorsHazards
1. Making the decision to use
External Pressures
Family History
Social Acceptance
Internal Pressures
Pain Relief
Family Isolation or Indifference
Family Crisis (Divorce, Death, Job Loss)
2. Acquisition
Their Own
Family Member
From family member
Prescription or Illegal
Dealers in Neighborhood
Dealers Outside of Neighborhood
3. Funding
4. Using
Personal Effects
Drug Effects
Brain Damage
Organ Toxicity
Cardiac Damage
Respiratory System Damage
Psychological Damage
Other Effects
Toxic Stretchers
Bloodborne Disease
Crime Related
Criminal Activity
Loss of Freedom (Arrest)
Loss of Judgment
Loss of Friends
Loss of Integrity
Family Effects
Loss of Trust
5. Addiction
Drug Effects
Brain Damage
Organ Toxicity
Cardiac Damage
Respiratory System Damage
Psychological Damage
Other Effects
Toxic Stretchers
Bloodborne Disease
Crime Related
Criminal Activity
Loss of Freedom (Arrest)
Loss of Judgment
Loss of Friends
Loss of Integrity
Loss of Job
Loss of Home
Financial Insolvency
Loss of Morality
Family Effects
Loss of Trust

Well, this is a good start, and I'm sure there's lots of missing pieces, so feel free to jump in the comments and add to the list anywhere. We can start adding more hazards to the list, as well as adding more steps, drivers, and factors.

We can already see that drug use is extremely complex, with many factors and drivers. Saying that parents are fully responsible is just as wrong as saying they are completely helpless. The truth, as it usually is, is somewhere in the middle.

What this means is that there won't be any simple solutions. Interdicting the drug supply without dealing with the drivers will only cause kids to choose different drugs, based on what is available. At the same time, making drugs readily accessible will only allow more kids who are predisposed to addiction to become trapped.

The right answer will eb a mix of approaches that is designed to answer the drivers while mitigating the risks.

We've made a good start. Let's keep it moving.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Controlling Hazards

One of the things I've been thinking about a lot recently is how to approach a problem as complex as drug abuse among children. As you have pointed out, there are a lot of different factors at work, social, psychological, genetic, behavioral, and probably some more that we haven't come up with yet. So how do we formulate a strategy to deal with all of these various factors?

The traditional approach has been to treat the problem following an economic model, breaking it down into supply and demand. On the supply side, we have the war on drugs, with all of it's heavy handed tactics and bureaucratic excesses. On the demand side, we get "Just Say No."

I think we can all agree that this approach has yielded less than acceptable results.

So I'm thinking of a different approach, one that has worked exceptionally well in another frame of reference.

Health and safety professionals in an industrial setting have to keep workers safe from all sorts of industrial hazards. Moving machinery, hazardous chemicals, toxic wastes, airborne contaminants are just a few of the hazards they have to defend against. To handle all of these varied threats, they've developed a three tiered approach that is flexible enough to adapt to any hazard, while allowing specific measures to be designed that effectively protect the employees.

This is exactly the kind of approach we need, flexible enough to account for all the different risk factors while specific enough to effectively protect our kids from the dangers of drug abuse.

The approach breaks down into three tiers of protection.

Tier one is called Engineered Controls. This is the first line of defense, and our primary tool for industrial safety. Engineered controls are those which are built into a system that function automatically to keep hazards away from the employee. Examples would be machine guards installed over moving equipment that prevent an employee from being entangled, crushed. or otherwise harmed. Other examples would be pressure relief valves, directed ventilation, or automated alarm systems. Engineered controls are divided into two classes, active and passive. Passive controls require no actions on the part of the employee. They function automatically. For example, a pressure relief valve that releases overpressure automatically is a passive control. A ventilation hood used in chemistry labs, on the other hand. is an active control. The employee must do the work under the hood to receive the benefits. The two defining characteristics of an engineered control, active or passive, is that they operate without requiring protective actions on the part of the employee, and they generally aim to keep the hazard away from the employee.

Tier two is called administrative controls. At this level, our engineered controls have not completely isolated the hazard, so now we institute policies and procedures, rules of behavior that are intended to keep the employees away from the hazards. Examples include setting up exclusion areas, stay times, and work restrictions. The focus of an administrative control is to prevent the employee from coming into contact with the hazard and their effectiveness relies on the compliance of the employee.

Tier three is work practices and protective gear. This is the lowest tier, and the last resort. At this level, the employee must, for whatever reason, be exposed to the hazard. Since we can no longer isolate the employee from the hazard, we must give him or her the tools necessary to work safely in or around the hazard. Those tools include specialized training, protective equipment, task specific work practices, environmental monitoring, and safety oversight, just to name a few.

Now, in order to determine which tier to use, and what method we can use to implement that tier, we have to understand the hazards we face. We do a Job Hazard Analysis, or JHA. In the JHA, we break each job down into it's individual tasks, then we analyze each task for the risks associated with that task. For each risk, we assign a priority based on two criteria, the severity of the risk, and the probability of it actually happening. For example, a risk with a low severity and low likelihood would be assigned to Tier three. High severity and highly likely would be Tier 1, or possibly a combination of Tiers 1 and 2.

The combination of the JHA plus the three tiers of industrial safety gives us a flexible tool to thoroughly analyze a job, determine the risks and to mitigate those risks long before an employee every clocks in for his first shift.

So, how well will this work when we apply it to drug abuse?

I think it fits very well. we're talking about hazardous substances, with multiple effects, multiple routes of entry, and dozens of secondary hazards associated with them. We've got a bunch of external factors that affect the amount of risk, all of which creates a very complex situation, but one whose parameters are right in line with this approach. For the JHA, we'll look not just at the risk of overdose and addiction, but all the other risks that go along with drug use. We'll look at each step along the path to addiction and death by overdose, and assign priorities just like we would with a JHA, by severity and likelihood. Then we'll look at all three tiers of controls and see what we can put into action to mitigate the risks. The First tier is the trickiest to adapt, since there aren't many mechanical systems we can put into place, but remember that the emphasis on the first tier is to keep the hazard away from the employee, or in this case, to keep drugs away from our kids. Tier two would then become keeping our kids away from drugs, while tier three would be the last resort, what to do when our kids have already fallen prey to drug abuse.

This approach hits the problem from all angles and all stages and I think if we work at it, we'll come up with a comprehensive plan for dealing with the dangers drug use represents for our kids.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and let's start brainstorming. For Thursday, break down drug abuse into each step, from acquiring the drugs through taking them, the high, and then the crash afterward. Build a list of the hazards involved in each step. I'll post my list on Thursday, and we'll put all of them together to put together the first step of out JHA. Please take this seriously, as the results will only be as good as the effort you put into it.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

I Need Your Opinion

I've never moderated comments or had members here, but I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should. I want to provide for solid discussion of the issues, but since I am dealing with issues that rouse a lot of passions, I want to maintain the level of the discussion, as well as the tone. The KNS removes only the absolute worst comments, allowing the noise to drown out any reasonable discussion. I don't want that to happen here, and I need to find out the best way to maintain the level of discourse without unduly burdening you.

I have a couple of options.
  1. I can moderate comments. The advantage is that nobody has to sign up or do anything different. The only change would be that comments may take a while to show up as I don't have time to revewi comments all day. That could significantly hinder the discussion.

  2. I could set up moderation so that site members comments would post immediately, while guests would have their comments moderated. The benefits are that folks who signed in would be able to comment freely while others would have their comments moderated. The draw back is the sign in process.

I'm not sure which idea I like better or if I will implement this at all. I'm undecided which is why I'm asking for your input.

I've also thought about requiring people to post with their real names; there's nothing like a little accountability to get you to think before you type, which is one of the reasons I've always posted and commented under my own name. I've decided against that for now, since some people have valid reasons for maintaining their privacy, and hen you're discussing drugs, addiction, and criminal activity, discretion is extremely important.

So, you tell me. Comment moderation? Site membership? Or just keep it open and delete/archive where necessary?

Posted by Rich
Blogging • (11) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Latest Campus Drinking Game

Students drink a shot every time a KNS headline mentions Henry Granju in a story that claims it is unrelated to him.

Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. Every story the KNS publishes about anybody related to Henry's death prominently features Henry's name in the headline along with the disclaimer that the story has nothing to do with Henry.

It's as obvious as a cat trying to cover up on linoleum and almost as futile. The KNS blew the story, and rather than admit it, they're spinning like crazy, trying to get out in front of it.

Of course, there's another possibility. The KNS is deliberately trying to wear out the Granju story so that when the truth comes out, people will be so tired of hearing Henry's name that they won't notice or care.

I don't know; is Tom Chester that smart?

Hank Williams JR and Monday Night Football

I didn't know MNF was still on the air.

Posted by Rich
Sports • (0) CommentsPermalink

Who Decides Who Lives or Dies?

It sounds like something out of James Bond. A clandestine group, operating outside the law, selecting targets for assassination. With no oversight and no accountability, these nameless faceless men gather together and decide who lives and who dies. They make their decisions, issue their orders, and people die and nobody outside of their group knows how the decision is made.

It sounds like fiction, but it isn't. This process is the one used by the Obama Administration to designate a US citizen for assassination.

The story appeared at
There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House's National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

The panel was behind the decision to add Awlaki, a U.S.-born militant preacher with alleged al Qaeda connections, to the target list. He was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen late last month.

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy.

No law establishing its existence. No operating rules. No Congressional oversight. No accountability. No way for Congress or the American people to verify that the intelligence behind the decision was accurate.

This is no way to run the most transparent administration in history.

Here's what really bugs me about this whole thing. Bush was excoriated in the press for justifying enhanced interrogation techniques, which many held equivalent to torture. Those same folks, the ones screaming for impeachment and trial by the World Court, are mostly silent while a President from their party orders the murder of an American citizens.

Folks, Awlaki was a bad man, but our President has just given himself the power to order the death of an American citizen with no eternal review whatsoever. That is far more dangerous than anything the terrorists could do.

It can't be allowed to stand. The President does not have the right to declare citizens to be enemies of the state and to execute them without trial. That power is not afforded to any branch of the government anywhere in the Constitution.

Yet Obama may very well be allowed to get away with it as his accomplices in the lap dog media remain silent.

Speaking of accomplices, let's not forget his allies in Congress, who have just introduced a bill that would allow him to seal all of his Presidential records after he leaves office.

U.S. citizens may never know how or why an individual was targeted, just that they were declared an enemy of the state.

Where this becomes even scarier is in situations where we aren't talking about the 'kill' portion of 'kill or capture.' Essentially, this panel has the power to order the arrest and incarceration of any American citizen they designate, again, without review or oversight. Based on the Reuters report, the President claims to have the authority to 'disappear' citizens, without trial and without charges. I'm telling you folks, this is bad stuff here; this is the kind of thing that brings down countries.

We can't allow this to go on.

This is beyond politics. Bush opened the door with the Patriot Act; Obama just walked through it. The next President will open it a bit wider, and so on. That's the nature of power; unless opposed, it accrues. Who will oppose these excesses? Who will speak up?

Here's a question for you to consider: Are there ANY Presidential candidates talking about the Reuters report today?

If so, I haven't heard. Instead, everybody wants to talk about Obama's jobs bill. It's safe and doesn't require any independent thought. If you're a Democrat, you're for it; Republican, against it. But the issue of the unchecked power grab by the executive branch, well, we don't want to think about that one because it cuts both ways. Political activists want the President to be powerful so when their guy holds the seat, he can accomplish their agenda. They'll tolerate Presidential power for the other team because they know eventually it will be their turn to play.

Politicians aren't the answer. It's going to have top be us.

Are we up to the challenge?

Posted by Rich
Politics • (0) CommentsPermalink

Amazon and Tennessee Sales Taxes

I hate taxes.

That being said, I'm more in favor of consumption based taxes than income taxes since a progressive tax system is inherently inequitable (notice I don't say 'unfair.' 'Fair' is relative and impossible to define while inequitable is a qualitative measure.) to the people at the higher end of the scale.

When Tennessee first started negotiating with Amazon to collect the states sales tax, I was irritated. I order a lot from Amazon and I got used to saving the money.

But then, I started thinking about it from a different perspective. I support a flat, consumption based tax system to replace our current progressive income tax system; to oppose Tennessee's efforts to collect proper sales taxes for items sold is inconsistent with that position. Tennessee voters, myself included, have made it absolutely clear that we have no interest in a state income tax, and that means out governor must look to existing revenue streams to meet our budget. Convincing Amazon to collect state taxes for goods shipped from Tennessee is one way of accomplishing that objective.

So, even though it will cost me more money, I'm supporting the new agreement. On line sales should be taxed at the same rate as brick and mortar sales, and on line retailers should collect those taxes just as brick and mortar retailers do.

Posted by Rich
Personal • (0) CommentsPermalink

What is Accountablility?

Luke asks a very good question in his comment on my last post, and I started to answer it in the comments, then decided to put it all into this post, since I was going to talk about this soon anyway.

I love it when y'all pick my next topic for me!

Luke's comment was:
Rich, I continue to appreciate your posts and your willingness to lead this conversation and keep it open.
Here, I'm troubled a bit by your comment that "when people are incapable of making rational decision... we no longer hold them accountable for their actions, and rightly so."
Maybe I don't fully understand your meaning, but as I read your post this statement struck me as incorrect - or at best, a matter of degree. We certainly hold drunk drivers responsible for their actions, however impaired they may be.
As I've followed this discussion, I've begun to wonder whether we all intend the same meaning in our use of the word "accountability." What is the difference between someone who is held accountable, and someone who is not? Who decides, and how is that decision carried out? When do we consider the account paid?
I guess what gets me started with these questions is that I see a distinction between the ideas of accountability and forgiveness. They're not unrelated in my mind, but they're certainly not the same thing. Accountability concerns consequences; forgiveness implies love and community. With respect to public policy and addiction, I can't imagine either of these points of emphasis functioning well in the absence of the other.

First of all, Luke was exactly right that my comment there was unclear. I implied far to much that I should have spelled out. Sometimes my brain runs faster than I can type. My wife would tell you I have the same trouble with my mouth, but that's a post for another day.

The key to unlocking my point lies in the phrase Luke ellided, "...whether through accident or illness..."

I was trying to point out that when people are adjudicated as impaired, say through brain damage from an accident or an illness like Alzheimer's, then we place them into a guardianship situation, recognizing that they are not capable of making rational decisions about their lives. We protect them from the consequences of their bad decisions. We also protect them from the influence of predators who would try to take advantage of them.

In a like manner, we insure that defendants are mentally capable of participating in their defense before they stand trial. Again, if they aren't, they are placed in a guardianship situation until such time as they are capable of understanding the charges and participating in their defense. We also recognize that children do not have the same capacity for decision making as a mature adult, and so we hold them to a different standard of accountability for their actions. Finally, mental incompetency is a legitimate defense against many criminal charges.

I'm not saying that addicts escape all accountability for their actions, just that there are precedents for acknowledging that a person with a diminished capacity for making decisions is not fully responsible for their actions while in that diminished capacity.

Now in the case of people who voluntarily decide to diminish their own capacity, like the guy who drinks and drives, we do hold them legally accountable for that decision, an if they hurt somebody as a result of that decision, we prosecute them to the full extent of the law. By the same token, a drug addict who commits a crime while high, say, beating and robbing a man so he can get high, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

What I am saying is that once we step outside of the criminal justice system, we must acknowledge the diminished capacity of the addict and account for it in any plan or policy we devise to deal with drugs. This becomes particularly important when we're talking about juvenile addicts, who get hooked before their brain is fully matured.

I use the word accountability a lot, and I guess I need to define what I mean when I say it. Accountability is the the recognition that actions have consequences, and those consequences devolve upon the actor. It differs from responsibility in that responsibility is internal; it refers to your perception or action. Accountability is a perception or action taken by others. For example, if I drink and drive, I am behaving irresponsibly. If I am arrested and taken to jail, I was still irresponsible, but I am being held accountable for my actions.

Because accountability is imposed externally, it is always going to be a reflection of the values of the culture. Our culture makes value judgments when it decides who is to be held accountable, and for what. When I wrote yesterday that I'd changed a position, what I was saying was that my values had changed so that I now saw the irresponsibility of drug use as no longer just an issue of personal freedom, and that the consequences of that decision were so devastating to the addict, his family, and to society at large that I could no longer say that the addict was accountable only to himself. In fact, the addict was accountable for considerable damage to others far beyond himself.

Now, if you think I'm arguing against myself, when I started out saying that we can't hold them fully accountable, and I'm now saying we must hold them accountable, well, you're absolutely right. But it is this conflict between the need to hold the addict accountable for his actions and the need to recognize that he in mentally impaired and can't be fully accountable that is driving this debate.

If we shift too far to either side in our search for a solution, we'll get it wrong. We're sailing between Scylla and Charybdis (my English teacher just swooned at that metaphor) and to make matters worse, we've got the Sirens singing as well.

Like I said yesterday, I don't have all the answers yet; right now, we're just laying out the parameters of the problem. But we have to do that honestly, accurately, and realistically if we hope to come up with a workable solution.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

An Old Dog learns a New Trick

I've changed a long held position of mine.

For a very long time, I've accepted the libertarian view that what a person chooses to put into their own body is their decision, not mine, and that as long as they bore the consequences of their choices, and didn't burden the rest of us, then it was none of my business.

In short, I favored the legalization of drugs. Tax 'em, regulate 'em, and use the revenue generated to take care of the small proportion of addicts who couldn't handle themselves. I figured, like most libertarians, that legalizing drugs would get rid of the criminal element, and that regulating them would even out the supply, reducing the chances of death by overdose or from contaminates.

I held this position even as I watched my father drink himself into an early grave. After all, he had been a successful business man, and he was never a burden on the state or anybody else, so how he chose to live his life was entirely his choice.


I don't think so anymore.

I've come to the realization that addiction and choice are mutually exclusive concepts. An addict no longer has the ability to choose rationally, neither when they are high/drunk, nor when they are sober and seeking their next fix. Their entire existence becomes reduced to the next score or the next drink. An addict may be able to function after a fashion, and may be able to accommodate their addiction somewhat, but all it takes is a short delay between highs to completely erase that semblance of rationality.

When people are incapable of making rational decision, whether through accident or illness, we no longer hold them accountable for their actions, and rightly so. However, we dismiss entirely the idea that an addict is impaired, and seek to hold them entirely accountable for their actions. The argument is that since they made the original decision to drink/toke/shoot up then they bear all the consequences of that decision, including the consequences of subsequent decision made while impaired.

Do we really want to set up an expectation where one bad decision, potentially made as a minor, can lead to a lifetime of consequences? It becomes even harder to justify this stand when we take into account the cyclic nature of addiction.

I can't do that anymore. I can't in good conscience hold people accountable for decisions they make when they are by all reasonable standards incapable of making rational decisions.

So what does that mean in a practical sense? How can I hold people accountable for the choices they make when one of those choices, by definition, robs them of the ability to make sound decisions?

Well, I'm working on it. There aren't any easy answers, but it seems to me the first place to start is to stop the easy flow of drugs, particularly to our kids. Of course, saying it is the easy part. Doing it, not so easy.

Of course, thanks to federal drug policy over the last couple of decades, we have a pretty good idea of what not to do, so at least we have a place to start.

Just say no? No.

Midnight basketball? Nope.

DARE? Not so much.

Each of these programs mean well, and are very effective at keeping the kids who wouldn't try drugs anyway from trying drugs. We need a way to reach the kids most at risk, and those kids are not the ones who immediately spring to mind. It's not an inner city problem; it's everywhere. Drugs are prevalent in every high school in East Tennessee. The mix varies, but you cam get just about anything you want in any school in the county.

So much for school resource officers.

Don't get me wrong, they're doing the best they can, but the simple truth is that so far, just about everything tried has been an abject failure.

As far as I can see, the common factor to all the approaches is that they've been from the top down, relying on centralized administration of an inflexible zero tolerance policy. In keeping with my libertarian approach, I'm leaning towards a more grass roots effort. not so much a war on drugs as a Civil Defense force. Made up of parent volunteers, and community members, each school would police itself. If you ask around, it isn't any secret who the dealers are, where the meth labs are, or where to go to buy whatever you need. The problem is that a centralized law enforcement approach is reactive rather then being proactive.

I don't have a lot of details yet, and if you have ideas, by all means, talk about them in the comments. One person isn't going to fix this. It's going to take dozens of committed parents at each school to make a difference.

In the next few weeks, I hope to bring you some statistics regarding drug use in our schools.

In parallel to keeping drugs out of school, we need to interrupt the supply as well. Despite the laws passed making it nearly impossible for me to buy cold medicine that actually works, Tennessee still leads the nation in meth labs. Go Vols, right? We need an effective strategy. Again, I don't know what that will look like yet, but I do know what an ineffective strategy looks like. If insanity consists of doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results, then the men in white coats should have come to take our drug enforcement policies away a decade ago.

This has turned into more of a rant than a post, and I don't have any clear ending point in sight, mainly because I don't see an end to the problem yet. But I do know that we can't keep going the way we are; we're losing far too many good, talented people to addiction.

It has to stop.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Addressing the Blnd Spot

Our culture currently has a very large blind spot when it comes to addiction, and that's one of the things I'm trying to combat here. Now that the KPD have moved against the folks involved in Henry's overdose and death, this is becoming Katie's primary goal as well. Far too many believe that addiction is a choice, and that if we believe in personal accountability, then we must hold addicts solely responsible for the consequences of their addiction. This short sighted and logically flawed approach lies at the heart of the problems Katie had with getting anybody to investigate Henry's death by overdose.

That's why I'm promoting Michelle's comment from this post. Her comment illustrates that blind spot perfectly. I'm going to fisk the comment, not to make Michelle look bad, or to run her down in any way, but to try and expose that blind spot, shine some light into that darkness, and by doing so, dispel it.

What happened to Henry is sad. It could happen to any body's child--mine, yours, anybody's. But my problem with Ms. Granju is she refuses to accept the reality that Henry made choices in his life and those choices led to his death.

This is categorically untrue. Katie's actions prior to Henry's death shows that she held him accountable for his actions. Through the years, she tried everything to get Henry off of drugs, going so far as to forbid him from being in the family home while he was using. She showed him that there were going to be consequences for his choices. When Henry and his girlfriend were arrested, she didn't bail him out, hoping that the stay in jail would lead to rehab, drug counseling, or other forms of intervention. And again, she was allowing him to deal with the consequences of his choices. Far from refusing to accept the reality of Henry's choices, dealing with the consequences of those choices was the defining factor in the Granju family household for the last couple of years of Henry's life.
In blaming the drug dealer, she absolves Henry of the choices he made as an adult.

This is a logical fallacy. Apportioning responsibility is not a zero sum or binary game. To say that other people bear responsibility for Henry's death does not in any way absolve Henry of his responsibility. Conversely, holding Henry accountable for his choices does not absolve the people who took advantage of him from their responsibility for their actions.

Let's look at this another way. Take the case of a young girl who ran away from home. She was being abused at home, and made a desperate choice to run away to escape the abuse. Young and impressionable, instead of going to a woman's shelter or church home or other resource, she lights out on her own, deciding she'll be a star in the big city. She gets off the bus and realizes she has no place to go, no freinds, and no money. She's alone and scared.

What happens next is so predictable, it's almost a cliche. A predator has the bus station staked out, looking for vulnerable girls like her. She's been warned her whole life about men like him, but she's alone, frightened, and still a little rebellious. She chooses to go with him, accepting his offer of food and shelter. She believes she can stay there just for the night, and then move on, without getting trapped.

But he's older, smarter, and well practiced. He takes care of her for the might, leaves her alone, lulls her into a sense of security. She stays another night. There's a party and she chooses to stay and party with her new friends. They tell her it's okay to try a line of this or a snort of that. She's in the big city now; everybody does it. Desperate to fit in, she goes along. Within a few days, she's trapped. Bad things begin to happen to her, and she is told that after what she's done, there's nobody that would want her, certainly not her parents. Only her new family wants her, accepts her.

So, she made every choice. She was never forced, never faced with violence, never actively coerced.

Does she bear the full responsibility of her choices? Does the fact that she ran away absolve the abuser at home of their responsibility? Does the fact that she chose to go with the pimp absolve him of knowingly preying on her vulnerability? Does her choice to use drugs absolve the people around her from manipulating her into a situation where the only realistic choice was to go along?

Obviously not.

Just because she made bad choices does not absolve the people who manipulated her into making those choices, who took advantage of her vulnerability from their responsibility. By the same token, Henry may have chosen to take drugs, but that does not give anybody else the right to manipulate him, to assault him, to drug him, and ultimately, to kill him. His status as a drug user/dealer did not make it open season on him. He still had the full protection of the law.

And that is what Katie and I, and so many others, are fighting for.

He was not an innocent child, playing in the sandbox when a drug dealer forced him to take illegal drugs. He was a hard core addict who had spent a significant time in rehab and CHOSE to go back to using drugs. Henry had a multitude of options if he wanted to stop using drugs. He had a family that would have done anything to help, which many addicts do not have. He CHOSE not to avail himself of those options and elected to continue to use.

This section shows absolutely zero understanding about addiction. The addict doesn't chose to continue using; the addict is compelled to continue using or else suffer debilitating physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, followed by a lifetime of abstinence maintained through rigorous self control.

A daunting prospect to say the least.

I say this as the son of an alcoholic father. I know that Dad would have stopped drinking if he could; in the end, the bottle's grip was stronger than his grip on life. He may have chosen to take the first drink; after that, his ability to chose was impaired by his addiction.

This impairment is even more profound in the drug addict, particularly so when opiates are involved. Addiction creates a self reinforcing cycle, a sort of positive feedback loop that traps the addict in a downward spiral. There's a reason why most addicts relapse, and so very few ever get clean and stay clean. You take a young man, whose brain has not yet fully developed the ability to make reasoned choices. He makes a bad choice. For many kids, no big deal; they learn from the mistake, and go on with the rest of their lives. But in some case, there's a predisposition to addiction. There is a genetic component to addiction, and that's the major reason why I've never drank. For those with that predisposition, that first drink, the first joint, the first line of coke sets into motion a sequence of events every bit as destructive and unstoppable as a single rock fall that triggers a landslide.

Even when an addict has gone through rehab, an opiate addict's brain chemistry is still off kilter for years. Their pain receptors are screwed up; their emotions are volatile, and their ability to reason remains impaired, sometimes permanently. While these are consequences of the original choice, should we still hold them fully accountable for decisions made when they are impaired?

Of course not. To do so flies in the face of both logic and compassion.
This isn't about fear that my child will use drugs. It is about the fact that so many in society refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. There is no personal accountability.

Dying from an overdose is not accountability, unless you think that taking drugs is a capital offense. Had Henry been arrested for using or dealing; he would have served prison time, demonstrating that the system and his parents held him accountable for his actions. His death came through the illegal actions of others, as well as his own. You want to hold him accountable for his actions, but let the others off scott free for theirs.

Henry killed Henry. He chose to take drugs. He knew the risks. In fact, he googled whether 80mgs of methadone was a high dose before he took it and discovered it was. Despite this knowledge, he took it. Chose to take it, not forced to take it.

Already addressed in the comments. Your timeline is incorrect.

I think that many of the comments by the community reflect this sentiment--that Ms. Granju does not want to face the fact that Henry made the choices he did, and those choices led to his death. I am sorry for Ms. Granju's loss, but this does not change the facts.

As I have shown, your grasp of the facts is incomplete. You address only one side of the equation, and prefer to ignore the other. I choose to believe that you are not purposely being hateful, but your inability to accept the truth and your constant desire to refute the idea that those who took advantage of Henry have some responsibility for his death are hurtful. You insist that Katie is denying Henry's responsibility when she has specifically stated the opposite several times. You call her to account for a position she does not hold, showing that you have not read her posts, or that you have read them, and believe she is lying. That is what is hurtful.

Again, I didn't single out Michelle to embarrass or hurt her, but to point out a series of very common misunderstandings about Henry's case in specific, and the nature of addiction in general. My hope is that by reading through this post, some folks may gain a better understanding of the battles fought by addicts, both against their addictions, and the people who prey on their vulnerability.

Monday, October 03, 2011

A Comparison

In California, a licensed physician is on trial for prescribing and administering a legal drug to a patient who died from that drug. Malpractice is one thing, but this doctor is being tried criminally for manslaughter. The trial is making headlines globally because the victim in this case was Michael Jackson.

Meanwhile, here in Knoxville, we can't even count on prosecuting known drug dealers for giving illegal drugs to people who die from those drugs.

Sorta makes you wonder, doesn't it?

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