As the debate continues on budget cuts and the importance of different programs and organizations funded by the government, the US Coast Guard is quietly continuing to do what they do every day. Despite this, some suggest that reducing their budget is not in direct conflict with the country’s best interest and the best interest of families who are struggling due to an ongoing drug use disorder.
During a single 26-day period, Coast Guard cutters patrolling waters along Central and South America intercepted 17 different drug shipments, adding up to 16 tons of cocaine – an amount estimated to have a wholesale (not street sale) value of $420 million. Crews unloaded the drugs at Port Everglades, as media stacked up to document the event.
This is just one incident in a sea of drug interdiction arrests and seizures that the USCG performs every day. The organization offloaded another 4.2 tons of cocaine with an estimated value of $125 million at Coast Guard Sector San Juan at the end of February.
The Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) made its 500th drug interdiction when they stopped a go-fast boat weighed down with narcotics in the Eastern Pacific in mid-March. Over the course of 2016, HITRON intercepted and seized a total of 73,550 kilograms of cocaine, estimated to be worth $2.8 billion, by working jointly with other agencies.
Even though the Coast Guard is in need of updated and new vessels, they continually deploy around the clock, every day of the year, playing a huge role in drug interdiction efforts and stopping tons of narcotics from ever crossing our borders. It is a significant effort that would immediately be missed if they were no longer able to continue their work.
On Every Front
The work of the US Coast Guard is one important piece of a huge puzzle, a combined effort of federal, state, and local government agencies as well as community organizations across the country working together to stop large shipments of drugs from coming into the country, educate young people and families about the risks of use of different substances, and increase access to treatment and medical care for those in need. If any piece of this puzzle were to disappear, the picture would not be complete.
As we work to lower rates of death due to drug overdose and make a shift in how the courts handle the issue of addiction, we must also to continue to stop the influx of substances into the country and increase access to the treatment services that have proven to make a difference in the lives of those who are struggling.
What Can I Do to Help?
Intercepting drug smugglers on the open sea may feel very far removed from your day-to-day experience, but the fact is that there are a number of things you can do at home and in your community to positively impact the problem of drug use and addiction.
- Call your legislators. If there are bills up for review that could impact local addiction treatment services, access to naloxone, or drug courts, reach out to your congressmen and let them know how you feel about the issue by calling, signing petitions, and/or working for lobby groups that support your opinions.
- Share your story. If you, or someone you love, have dealt directly with addiction, you can decrease stigma and increase awareness by putting a human face to the problem and sharing your story. Speak at local community meetings, 12-Step meetings, support groups, and government meetings designed to give a voice to the community and let people know what it’s like to face addiction.
- Volunteer. If you find an organization that is doing work you believe in, offer your services in support. Even if you feel that you are not skilled enough to be of great service, there is no level of assistance that is too small, especially for nonprofit volunteer organizations that are working on a shoestring budget.
- Help the people you love. If someone you love is living with addiction, do not ignore the problem. Help them to see the effects of the disorder and connect with treatment services that will help them to begin the healing process.
How will you support your community and your loved ones in dealing with addiction head on?