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Amy Winehouse: Reflections from Two Drug Policy Activists

While speculation is rife about a possible drug overdose, it doesn't really matter. Winehouse was haunted with struggles none of us will understand.

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Addiction Doesn't Discriminate

Drug misuse and addiction don't discriminate. Addiction can take over and ruin anyone's life, whether you are a Grammy award-winning artist or someone who sings for money on the subway. Betty Ford, Rush Limbaugh and Patrick Kennedy all remind us that addiction can touch anyone, rich or poor, left or right, famous or unknown.

 

People Use Drugs for Pleasure -- and to Cope with Pain

We don't know the reasons Amy Winehouse used drugs or what triggered her last binge. Some reports talk about a big fight with her boyfriend after he found out she was still in touch with her ex-husband behind bars. Other coverage describes the booing and panning that she recently endured at a recent concert in Serbia, where she was unable to perform. But what we do know is that people use drugs for both joy and for pain. We're sure that Amy, like so many of us, had a lot of good times when partying. On the flip side, Amy appeared to have some demons and pain that she was trying to soothe by self-medicating with drugs.

 

The War on Drugs is Not the Answer

Despite spending more than $50 billion every year on the drug war, and locking up more than a half a million people behind bars for drug law violations in the United States on any given day, drugs are as available as ever - and, more importantly, more people are dying of overdose than ever.

We need to accept that drugs have been around for thousands of years and that they will be around for thousands more - they are part of human society, whether we like it or not.  We need to understand that drug addiction can touch every family. We need to understand that people use for both joy and pain. We need to educate people about the possible harms of drug use, offer compassion and treatment to people who have problems, and leave in peace the people who are not causing harm.

 

We Must End the Stigma Against People Addicted to Drugs

We must--and this is perhaps most important of all--stop our barbaric stigmatization and stereotypes of people addicted to drugs. People like Amy endure a hell we can only imagine. The agony of being made into a ridiculous caricature, something less than human, for nothing more than our own casual amusement is beyond what any young person should ever be forced to endure. We targeted her, mocked her and cast her out as an irredeemable "crackhead" for nothing more than sport. It's shameful. It's too late for Amy to hear us now, but our apologies should be sent out en masse to her and to all others like her, struggling, surviving.

Meghan Ralston is the harm reduction coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance . Tony Newman is communications director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Tony Newman is communications director for the Drug Policy Alliance .

 
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