Ten Substance.com Editors’ Picks of 2014
We trawled through our archives to find some good‘uns that you may have missed the first time around. Happy holidays!
This holiday season, we on the Substance.com team wanted to oh-so-generously give you the chance to revisit some of our favorite articles. We decided to leave out a bunch of our most high-profile or highly trafficked pieces of 2014, however—and to avoid picking between the work of our three eminent columnists: Maia Szalavitz, Stanton Peele and Jeff Deeney.
Instead, we scoured our archives for an eclectic mix of stories that you may have missed the first time around, but that struck us as well worth another read. We hope you enjoy them too.
Will Godfrey, editor-in-chief
One of the happiest Substance.com-related events of 2014 was the release in July of our writer, Seth (he at first had to use a pseudonym for his own protection). He had been in federal prison since 1993 for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense. There’s a great deal left to do to end the suffering of many thousands of others who shouldn’t be in prison and their families—like killing off the mandatory minimum sentencing laws of which Seth was a victim. “The big thing I noticed,” he wrote on coming out, “is that everyone seemed to be walking around like a zombie, with their attention on a smartphone or tablet.”
Lieutenant Commander Goldstein (Ret.) was on the other side of the lines during her 20-year law enforcement career in California. But now she and her Law Enforcement Against Prohibition colleagues campaign against our damaging drug laws—and this op-ed explains the reasons behind her change of heart. Advocates like Diane are important because they reach people who would never normally listen to drug policy reform messages. And as she asked, “Who exactly is prohibition meant to be helping?”
Walter Armstrong, deputy editor
“Alcohol problems permeated the factory floor—a workplace full of decent, hard-working people who also happened to be badly damaged,” wrote David Macaray of his time at a large paper mill in Southern California. This story was memorable because of the access it gave to a very specific world, where the loyalty of fellow workers may allow you to get away with being drunk on the job, and where hierarchy is everything, with two separate AA meetings: one for workers and one for management.
Price gouging by Big Pharma is nothing new. But the story of Sovaldi, a revolutionary hep C treatment produced by Gilead, is extreme, with US pricing in particular condemned by ACT UP as “bloodthirsty.” Prejudice against drug users is predictably part of the mix. Bob Lederer’s outstanding report examines the story and the ethics. One interviewee asks: “When did we shift from producing drugs that can save lives to producing drugs that can make the biggest profit?”
May Wilkerson, senior editor
Kevin is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. His story, about how his drug addiction led to a life on the streets, is one you rarely get to hear. “That was my first night inside the bush where I would live, in a cardboard box, for five months,” he wrote. “It was a miracle that I’d found the place.” Then he began selling the plasma out of his arms. It’s pretty amazing that he survived to write this.
Recent protests surrounding the lack of justice over the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner serve as more examples of why our country’s criminal “justice” system needs to change. Urgently. And the war on drugs has played a pivotal role in allowing this racially biased system to continue. So what can we do to move forward? Yolande Cadore of the Drug Policy Alliance breaks it down in this powerful piece.
Samantha Felix, community editor
Trainspotting, one of my favorite books, was penned by Irvine Welsh, a compelling writer and personality. Tony got to spend a chaotic, revealing night on the town in New York City with the larger-than-life Scottish author, learning about books, movies and drugs—and why a writer should never write about drugs they haven’t tried for themselves. The experience must have been hard to forget, and so was the resulting profile.
This moving essay examines the complicated realities of dealing with addiction within a family system. Kate Shaw discusses the painful experience of not only discovering her father’s hidden addiction, but of dealing with her own alcoholism too. In the end, this father and daughter were able to come together in a supportive and loving way. If only every family could say the same.
Douglas Capraro, editorial intern
Drug issues are too often seen in black and white, and to me, one unfortunate example of this was the demonization of Silk Road and the recently busted Silk Road 2.0. As the standard-bearing “Dark Web” drug market, the possibilities for Silk Road to lead a new de facto harm reduction model—potentially involving safer buying, selling and use of drugs—were huge. Colin Moore showed this side of the Silk Road story, asking a provocative but valid question and uncovering some tantalizing possibilities.
Our fretting over illegal drugs makes it easy to forget—still—that the drugs that do the most harm are sometimes the ones we refill at the local pharmacy. But the idea of drugs as a tool of social control is seriously sinister. Josiah Hesse produced this important investigation of the depressing charge that unnecessarily drugging up toddlers, rather than addressing social problems, is the best we can do.
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