A Sensible Way to Deal with Addiction

03/05/2011 02:58 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

One Pill Makes You Larger
One Pill Makes You Small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all

- Jefferson Airplane

My first exposure to "White Rabbit" when it was the theme song to a mid 1970's television movie called "Go Ask Alice."

The movie about a high school drug abuser was a haunting description of many of my friends. Some of experimented with drugs.

They needed treatment but treatment wasn't a popular concept then.

I made it through college, graduate school and the rest of my life isolated from the drug culture. I've never seen cocaine or harder drugs and wouldn't know how to find them. Drugs are not a part of my world.

I was lucky. As it turns out, my friends were too. Few were ever arrested and most overcame their addictions.

As we got older, my friends settled down, raised families, went to college and lead productive lives. I follow them on Facebook. They seem to be doing well.

The key phrase is that they developed productive lives.

Those productive lives would not have happened if they had spent a few years in the slammer.

Charlie Sheen and others are bashing AA and other forms of treatment. I don't really see Charlie as a role model but maybe I am wrong.

Kentucky recently took a bold step when State Representative John Tilley, a Democrat from Hopkinsville, and Senator Tom Jensen, a Republican from London, led a bi partisan effort to reform the corrections system. (Disclaimer, I gave money to Senator Jensen's campaign several years ago.) It puts more focus on treatment and less focus on jail time for addicts.

It's been called a "landmark effort." And a courageous one. It's far more popular politically to play to the crowd and lock up anyone with a problem. However, we are running out of space in jail and even more importantly, throwing away people who can be helped.

When people fall into the abyss of drug and alcohol abuse, it is because they don't see a reason to stay connected to reality. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous work because people in the group make others understand they have an important reason to be in the world.

I asked a friend who stopped drinking 50 years ago how he was able to stop. He said it was because others in his AA program were able to lift him up and let him see the good in himself.

My friend is one of the most productive and influential people I know. All he has contributed to society stems back to those people in AA who helped him turn around his life.

It is easy to give up on addicts and try to warehouse them in jails. Many people think along the lines of Ted Nugent, a washed up rock star, who says that "drug addicts screwed up their lives and we need to lock them away from those of us who have not."

I don't think everyone articulates the thought as coldly as Nugent does, but there is a big part of America that wants drug abusers to go away and die.

The best hope for society is to follow the lead of programs like AA and help people one day at a time, one person at a time. It is love, support and recognition of a higher power that will allow addicts to turn around their lives and make a contribution.

States like Kentucky, who address the problem in a compassionate and reasonable manner, gives addicts that chance.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC of Richmond, Kentucky is the founder of McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement company. He is the author of the book, Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery. .

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