First and foremost is the recurrence of addiction with which Ms. Stone has struggled her entire life. This reflects the powerful dependency which is a distinct feature of heroin as is this compares to other substances. Indeed, Ms. Stone makes explicit mention of the intense physical and emotional rigors of withdrawal that are associated with detoxification. The number of times that Ms. Stone has engaged in detox and relapsed back into heroin use is startling. According to her own report, she has undergone the painful process of detox ten times. This underscores on an anecdotal level what is true for New York on a general scale. Namely, the continued availability of heroin combined with the relative lack of effectiveness of programs aimed at rehabilitation tend to make addiction relapse a highly probable occurrence.
Ms. Stone's case is rendered yet more persistent due to what seems an apparent failure to address that which is at the root of her addiction. This statement is made with the caveat that Ms. Stone has been addicted to heroin use since she was thirteen years of age. Again, by her own report, the 33 years which were to follow would include only 2 total years of sobriety. Thus, it can be said that her addiction is deeply ingrained and that she represents a particularly challenging individual case.
That said, it does seem clear that the sexual abuse suffered at the hands of her stepfather as a child have contributed directly to both her heroin addiction and the manner in which this substance has been used to numb and repress the pain caused by this childhood trauma. Her stepfather had reportedly forced heroin upon her beginning at the age of thirteen in order to gain her compliance during repeated episodes of rape. Though Ms. Stone reports that she had made her mother aware of these actions, her mother refused to intervene. Upon fleeing from these circumstances at age 15, Ms. Stone entered into a cycle of addiction, homelessness, prostitution, robbery and incarceration. This cycle reflects a condition for many of the heroin-addicted inhabitants of New York City, whose numbers coincide directly with the homeless and prison populations.
For Ms. Stone, it is clear that the emphasis on incarceration rather than treatment has had a direct impact on her circumstances. Namely, she declares that her relapses are part of the inherent relationship established in her psyche between the traumas of her childhood and the relief provided by heroin. Even following the physical rigors of rehabilitation, Ms. Stone finds herself emotionally incapable of being released from these connections. The emphasis on incarceration over treatment bears a close relationship to Ms. Stone's personal disposition. The presence of her addiction and the need for money are directly responsible for her recurrent tendencies toward prostitution and robbery. These have only helped to further confound the prospects of her recovery by leading to the contraction of HIV and Hepatitis C
Ms. Stone's case could serve effectively as an analogy for New York's own recurrent struggles with heroin addiction. As a city, its desire to be removed of this condition is constantly beset by its own dependencies. Indeed, evidence in its current efforts to address the issue of heroin suggest that its public health agencies are no closer today to unlocking its addictive mysteries than they had been in Nixon's time. Particularly, a recent flap in New York between the city government and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reflects a great uncertainty as to how heroin addiction should best be approached. For the former, the priority of limiting its role in the spread of HIV / AIDS and Hepatitis would be elevated as a priority.
Accordingly, Stanglin (2010) reports that "a new guidebook funded by New York City for heroin users has drawn the ire of some DEA officials because it offers information on how to prepare drugs for injection and how to inject properly. Take Charge, Take Care, also offers information on HIV testing and the dangers of sharing needles." (Stanglin, 1) That the guidebook appears to openly tolerate the continued use of heroin by addicts with the condition that dangerous needle-sharing practices be reduced strikes a sharp contrast to the approach of criminalization long endorsed by the federal government. This has placed New York City at odds with federal lawmakers and enforcement groups where the issue of heroin addiction is concerned.
In many ways, Ms. Stone's case is a direct reflection of this divide. With great certainty, we may argue that the focus on incarceration has not successfully helped Ms. Stone to be removed from her state of addiction. Further, this has come at the cost of proper education and psychological counseling such that the former might have reduced her chances of contracts HIV and Hepatitis C and that the latter might have helped to unburden her of the association between heroin dependency and remission from traumatic childhood memories.
Unfortunately, Ms. Stone's case parallels that of so many New York-based heroin addicts. Indeed, New York's police blotter is disproportionately marked by those with signs of heroin addiction. However, punishment and incarceration play the greatest role in contending with heroin abuse. The NDIC reports on this point that "according to ADAM data, 20.5% of adult male arrestees tested positive for heroin abuse in New York City in 2000. In Albany 6.5% of adult male arrestees tested positive for heroin abuse." (NDIC, 1) This seems a clear-cut demonstration of the disconnect between the policy of criminalization for heroin use and the treatment needs of specific cases.
Among said cases, Ms. Stone's is sadly not unique. It is a microcosm of the practical and cultural permeation of heroin in New York City. Beyond its wanton availability and relative popularity, the power of its addiction and the difficulty of rehabilitation there from make heroin a distinct presence on the American drug landscape. In cases such as Ms. Stone's we can see that the strategy of incarceration is a faulty counterpoint to more intuitive approaches such as psychological counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, employment support, living assistance and a host of other public health services that represent a transition from criminalization of drug addiction to proper treatment.
Epstein, E.J. (2006). Agency of Fear. Edward J. Epstein.
National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC). (2002). Heroin. Justice.gov.