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News (Media Awareness Project) - US NM: OPED: Police And Our Penchant For Mind-Altering Drugs
Title:US NM: OPED: Police And Our Penchant For Mind-Altering Drugs
Published On:2012-01-07
Source:Silver City Sun-News (NM)
Fetched On:2012-01-09 06:04:52

Consider, please, the police officer, the sheriff's deputy, the state
police trooper. They are all that stands between us and the mayhem
and chaos of intentional lawlessness. Most of what goes wrong that
they must try to contain stems from our insatiable appetites for
drugs and alcohol. We are careful to distinguish between "our"
substance use and "their" abuse, though it is law enforcement that
has to sort it out.

With that in mind, think of the less than alert citizenry they must
deal with in our community. There are the suburbs and the
professional community, where substance abuse is more nuanced, where
designated drivers are more likely to come into play, where, when law
enforcement comes into the picture, there might be specialized need
and arrests are less likely than rehabilitation.

There's the university student community, supplied beyond reason with
sundry conscious altering substances that some believe to be their
due as students. One wonders if arrests are commensurate with
substance use during this odd hiatus when students expect to be given
a four year pass from law enforcement just because of their peculiar
status, adults at play.

Lower to middle class use is more often reflected in the police
blotter and other records of arrest - drug arrests for use and
trafficking, drunk driving arrests, possession because they are in
the places where law enforcement is most likely to be lurking.

I encourage you to substitute your own notions of places, proportions
and degrees of enforcement, so long as you reflect the fact that a
literally mind-numbing amount of drugs and alcohol are consumed on a
regular basis in this valley. And many consumers don't wait until
they have some reason or rationale to indulge themselves. And there's
the time it takes for the substance to leave someone's system so that
it no longer has an effect on performance.

We all see the residual effects at work, at school and throughout the
community. A colleague who can't get enough sleep, a classmate who
cannot concentrate on the matters at hand, a neighbor who seems a
little twitchy, distracted and irritable.

And they're encouraged by the popular media. Beer and liquor
commercials featuring joy laden people courtesy of the featured
beverage. Movies where consumption of the appropriate illegal
substances brings mirth to all. (Do you know how many young people
think marijuana is already legal in California?) Television programs
where hard drugs bring bundles of money but little of the attendant
misery. Sort of like politics.

Not only do people under the influence loll about the house turning
their brains into test tracks for chemical experiments, damaging
interpersonal relationships, rending apart families, marriages and
psyches, doing untold damage in the classroom and the workplace,
causing interpersonal conflicts in the form of damaged professional
relationships, physical fights, sexual assaults and other criminal
acts, they just won't stay still.

They insist on driving vehicles of all manner and sort, despite the
fact that their judgment, timing and vision are affected. Worst of
all, they refuse to put little yellow flags on their vehicles to let
us know that they are impaired so we have to guess.

Most, but not all, of these substances which we insist on having and
consuming (I, for one, would like to hide the lighters; users are
always patting themselves for a lighter) are of foreign origin. In
fact, thousands of people die so that we Americans can sate our
sundry habits, something to keep in mind the next time you casually light up.

Were I inclined to relive my callow youth, this alone would be enough
to dissuade me, this and the illegality factor. There are people in
foreign countries fighting and dying, and killing innocent bystanders
wholesale, for the privilege of controlling the most lucrative routes
for getting drugs into and across the United States. I should mention
that we sit squarely across one of the most sought after routes.

Young Las Crucens are part of this distribution enterprise and
identify with the several competing entrepreneurs in this illicit
trade. They wish to do each other harm, in keeping with the way of
things, so that those among us so-inclined can get a buzz every now and then.

So we're back to the police, who have a monumental job to do
essentially protecting us from ourselves. Drug and alcohol users
usually think they're hurting only themselves, if anyone. Marijuana
users think it's a sacrament.

The police, if we're lucky, stop the damage before it's done. They
might be a bit heavy handed at times and they might not communicate
with us the way we'd like, but it's an exceedingly difficult job and
I think they're afraid of what we might do, too, especially if we're
under the influence. It might not be a lighter we're reaching for.

Bill Varuola is 33-year resident of Las Cruces who is employed by the
Las Cruces school district as a teacher at the Dona Ana County
Juvenile Detention Center.
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