The Politics of Frustration
The problem of narcotics addiction has evoked proposals for solutions ranging from hard line punishments to the legalization of heroin. That all of these proposals have been taken seriously at various times is some proof that the politics of addiction is a politics of frustration. As official estimates of the number of addicts on the street climb, as related crime continues to increase, as purported solutions fail, the electorate increasingly seeks a definite and final answer to the problem. These demands are fed by shocking revelations—one out of every forty children delivered in New York City hospitals is addicted at birth; addicted mothers sell their children to get money for their habits. The issue is especially compelling in New York State, home for at least half the nation's addict population.
The political fight for resources from the government for the several different types of addiction treatment programs is dramatic testimony to the fact that treatment has become big business. Because of the general ignorance about the subject, each proponent of a cure can muster tremendous political support. Boards of directors, staffed by well-meaning citizens from every walk of life, become proselytizers for their agency's solution.
Each group plays with statistics to support contentions and applies pressure to have its way. Each group seems to make sense because each spots flaws in the others' arguments. The "drug free group," such as Synanon, Daytop, and Odyssey House, propose withdrawal combined with medical treatment and counseling. The "maintenance group" propose use of another drug but one which permits an addict to lead a normal life. The drug free supporters argue that the methadone people