During recent late night channel surfing and laundry, I happened upon a National Geographic Channel series called Drugs Inc. profiling the narcotics industry.
Now in its 5th season, this year's focus is on American Cities and their drugs of choice. In each locale the show documents drug production, dealers, users, doctors who treat the addicts, and police charged with managing the problem. My curiosity was peaked when I learned that the next episode would be about Washington DC, so I decided to watch; what I learned was disturbing, to say the least.
For instance, since 9/11 the trade in DC for crack all but dried up, to be replaced by PCP (sometimes referred to as "Water"). I remembered hearing about PCP when I was in Jr. High school, when it was called "Angel Dust." What stuck in my head was that Phencyclidine contained cyanide; it drove you insane, and kept you from feeling pain.
In the two years I've lived in DC, until now I hadn't realized how far away the intersection of Malcolm X Blvd and MLK Ave was from the world where I live and work in Northwest Washington -- and yet how close. The scant 10 miles between St. Margaret's and the hub of DC's PCP trafficking seems a universe away. I don't see addicts high on PCP stripping in the streets and public buildings. I don't see the hundreds of cops raiding apartment buildings and risking their lives chasing down dealers and addicts, rushing people who've overdosed to the hospital before they hurt themselves or someone else. I don't see the thousands of dollars that are spent during every home football game due to the correlative spike in overdose cases flooding UMC.
And if I'm honest with myself, I really don't want to see that side of DC. I find myself conflicted over the matter of drugs. For it's not just a matter of the rights of users to do what they want to their own bodies; the problem is always the collateral damage. In addition, the poor and vulnerable are always affected disproportionately by the use of drugs and the violence that surrounds them. And I wonder if our resources might be better spent on regulating and taxing the trade rather than the seemingly hopeless cause of stopping it.
I just know that watching these shows, I couldn't help but hurt for the addicts: men, women, kids who are so desperate to escape something that they turn to these chemicals that will kill them. On the one hand, they were truly pathetic, broken people; but on the other hand, as I watched I thought of my Grandmother saying, "But for the grace of God..."
Drug abuse is a massive problem all around our nation and world. It seems the only way we could stop the drug industry would be to fix the real problem -- the problem of hopelessness that rules "that other DC." This is the problem that permeates our world and the one to which every follower of Jesus must speak.