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Do you have sympathy for heroin addicts?

Drug syringe and cooked heroin on spoon (FotoMaximum, ThinkStock)
FotoMaximum, ThinkStock

It was a very different State Of The State address from Governor Chris Christie Tuesday afternoon. He focused almost entirely on one issue. Opioid and heroin addiction. He pledged to make this his passion and priority for his final year as governor. Already he’s taking heat for it. Democrats are saying while the drug crisis is important, there are so many other problems New Jersey is facing that the governor needs to help solve. I suppose when your approval ratings are in the toilet it’s a safe and noble cause to go out with something that is certain to have bipartisan sympathy.

Lawmakers react to Christie: Drug addiction important, but can’t be only focus

The vast majority of Christie’s speech centered on heroin addiction, overdose deaths, personal anecdotes related to it, and lots of numbers and initiatives designed to save lives. “This is the single most important issue to every New Jersey family touched by this and perhaps the most important issue I’ll have the chance to address while I am governor,” Christie said of the epidemic. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto shot back, “I don’t think it’s the single most important issue.” Assemblyman Gary Schaer said, “I fear that if we focus only on one issue, we will forget about the others.”

Before knowing what Christie’s address would be, we took calls yesterday from listeners asking them to do their own State Of The State address and tell us what they thought New Jersey’s biggest problem was. I thought for sure it would be property taxes. It’s a perennial complaint in the Garden State. Sure enough, the most common problem called in was the heroin scourge.

But there was one woman who called in that surprised me. In reaction to other callers, she said the only sympathy she had regarding the heroin issue went to the victims of crime committed by those addicts trying to get money for their fixes. She had no sympathy for people on heroin. I had to wonder, after all we’ve learned is this still a common feeling? Yes, you can argue heroin is a choice. But to dismiss it as only that ignores how many people started their addiction after an injury and were legally overprescribed an opiate for pain management. You don’t necessarily know the very moment that addiction kicks in. You just suddenly realize it’s somehow already taken hold. Do we turn our backs on these people?

For that matter, do we turn our backs on anyone addicted to heroin? Even if it didn’t start as innocently, do we still put these people in such a completely separate category that we refuse to see this can happen to anyone no matter how good a family and how strong a moral code? I was more than shocked to hear this woman call in and so easily dismiss these people. I suppose you can choose to go with the “Just Say No” to drugs approach and decide this pesky heroin addiction thing was entirely in their control the whole time. But for those who do that, I’d ask if they ever smoked cigarettes, or ever had a hard time sticking to a diet and always found themselves sneaking a Twinkie. I have to think deciding heroin is nothing more than a moral failing means ignoring your own moral failings. Trust me, you have them.

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