Bereaved Mother Attacks Her Daughter's Heroin Dealer in Viral Post—But We Should Resist

Aug 23 2016

Bereaved Mother Attacks Her Daughter’s Heroin Dealer in Viral Post—But We Should Resist

August 23rd, 2016

On August 15, Tina Wells Louden marked the day that her daughter, Ashley, would have turned 28.

“It had been eight years since Ashley started using heroin,” reports the Washington Post, “and three years since it killed her.”

Her mother, who lives in Missouri, took a selfie of her face resting on the urn that holds her daughter’s ashes. She posted it to Facebook with a message:

Tina Wells Louden

She got her wish regarding the post going viral. At publication time, over 251,000 people had shared it on Facebook.

It is difficult to imagine something as horrific as losing a child. No one would question Tina Wells Louden’s cause for grief, nor her right to anger. Everyone should understand her desire to blame. The purpose of this post is not to criticize her.

But it is to dispute the narrative that drug dealers are primarily to be blamed and targeted for heroin-related deaths.

There has been a recent spate of long—even lifelongprison sentences for dealers whose drugs have been involved in fatalities.

We should object to such sentences on humanitarian grounds. We should do so in the knowledge that in most cases, dealers’ customers are making their own choices to buy; that many drug dealers are from poor communities and many struggle with drug problems themselves; that many people who use drugs share them, or buy for friends, making the line between “user” and “dealer” frequently meaningless; that drug dealers, as much as anybody else, come from what Tina Wells Louden refers to as “our families.”

But even if you don’t find such sentences, driven by a desire for revenge, to be inhumane, you ought to acknowledge that they are ineffective—that for every drug dealer locked away, three more will take their place; that many decades of fighting a War on Drugs have failed to reduce the demand for heroin and other drugs.

If Ashley had died from alcohol poisoning, it is unlikely that her mother would have posted this kind of criticism of the person who works at the local liquor store. We need to ask ourselves why that is, what the difference is here—and to remind ourselves that the biggest reason heroin is illegal while alcohol is not is racism.

If we want to get angry about drug-related deaths—and we should—the targets of our anger should be rather different.

Let’s get angry that the prohibition of heroin and other drugs means that people who use them—and remember, however hard we try, we can’t stop large numbers of people from using them—have zero guarantees regarding the identity, purity and dosage of what they buy, jeopardizing their safety.

Let’s get angry that many basic services that have been proven to keep people who use drugs safer are inadequately provided or not provided at all in the US. Needle exchanges to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases are still not as widespread or well funded as they should be. Naloxone, the lifesaving overdose reversal drug, is still not available everywhere it should be. Methadone and burprenorphine, maintenance drugs that hugely reduce mortality, are inexplicably restricted. Heroin-assisted treatment and supervised injection facilities, unequivocally successful at reducing deaths among heroin users in places like Switzerland and Canada, are still banned.

Let’s get really angry at the hypocrisy of lawmakers who wring their hands at heroin-related deaths, yet block or fail to back interventions that are demonstrated to work—either because their misguided ideology baulks at accepting the reality of continuing drug use, or because they’re afraid that their constituents will feel that way. (For good measure, the inequalities, poverty and other social factors that often drive addiction are significantly influenced by politicians, too.)

Tina Wells Louden’s post is understandable. But if only a quarter of a million people could have been encouraged to look at the real culprits behind the bereavements of so many people like her.

  • Many of these people were killed by the bullies at their local AA/NA groups. Who then say to their parents, “I’m sorry about your kid but you know, they had a disease. And it started with the pusher.” Sadly, the parent may accept it hook line and sinker – the local AA group is sometimes their only social network.

    • massive

      Yes Addcition Myth- Great point. We know they dont have a disease. But I do think That if a drug addict sells you bad heroin and you die he should go away for 25 years. Like a killer does. Trial and all. Drag all the parents who he sold drugs to. DONT Let him get off and play the I am an addict card– and now he is going to NA and AA meetings …and the cycle continues.

      • Tom

        I think this makes sense if the drug was not what the person thought it was and the drug seller did it intentionally to ‘wow’ the client or was seriously negligent.

  • Tom

    Blame drugs, blame the drugsellers, but never, ever blame the people who tell your kids that they have a lifelong disease which will kill them unless they admit (often for tens of thousands of dollars to help them admit) that they are powerless, selfish, dishonest, defective, morally bankrupt, warped, incapable, and unmanageable for the rest of their lives unless they have a deeply transformative spiritual experience in the dysfunctional, anti-intellectual, and depressing church basements of Alcoholics Anonymous.

    • massive

      good point Tom . I think AA parents have a big part in the death of many young poeple from Opiates. The all or nothing. The black & white perspective. ALL BAD>

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