A Narcotics Officer Ends His War on Drugs
As a narcotics cop, Kevin Simmers locked up hundreds of drug users. In Jeremy Raff’s documentary and the accompanying article he published in November, Simmers explained how his ideology on drug treatment and punishment changed when his 18-year-old daughter became addicted to opioids: “I now think the whole drug war is total bullshit,” Simmers said.
This article was informative and deeply touching for several reasons. I used to live in Hagerstown, and I remember Kevin Simmers. I’m grieved to learn of his loss and offer to him my deepest condolences. When the YMCA was located downtown, we played basketball there two to three times a week for years in what was known as the “Lunch Bunch.” I was involved in the trafficking of illicit drugs and when the Feds from New Jersey came to apprehend me, Kevin was involved as a member of the local drug task force. Now my own daughter is addicted to opioids and I’m praying, hoping, searching for something that will help her.
The article “A Narcotics Officer Ends His War on Drugs” offers a false choice: treatment versus incarceration. I’m a doctor who specializes in treating drug addicts. I use medication-assisted treatment, but the No. 1 reason my heroin-addicted patients come for help is the fear of going to jail. Drug courts are one of the most successful programs for hard-core addicts, and they work because the threat of jail gets cooperation from addicts who otherwise wouldn’t care about treatment. Most addicts and alcoholics don’t want to quit, but if we use the threat of jail to get them into treatment and keep them there, many of them gradually realize that living clean and sober is far preferable. This is happening all across the country. The pro-legalization forces want Americans to believe tough drug laws work against treatment, and this story pushes that false message. We need tough drug laws not to punish but to convince addicts to get the help they need.