The real lessons from "Traffic"

Discussion in 'General' started by Superjoint, Feb 18, 2001.

  1. By William J. Bennett
    Source: Washington Post

    The critically acclaimed film "Traffic" is a poignant movie about drug use and the war on drugs. By almost all accounts, it captures the hopelessness and tragedy of drug addiction, as well as the perils inherent in combating a moral and legal wrong, in a forthright and convincing manner.
    In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Stephen Gaghan claimed that he wrote the movie script to save the life of his friend Robert Bingham, a heroin addict who died before the film was completed.

    In that interview, Gaghan blamed me for Bingham's death: "The reason he's dead is that he couldn't talk about his problem publicly, because of the stigma, and the stigma comes straight from William Bennett."

    In response, Herbert D. Kleber -- the director of the division on substance abuse at Columbia University, who served as my deputy director for treatment and prevention when I was "drug czar" -- pointed out that stigma related to drug addiction long predated my tenure in the drug position and that Bingham's drug use was well-known before his death.

    In a more recent article in the New York Times, Gaghan conceded that much of "Traffic" stemmed from his own real-life addictions. He hit the wall in July 1997 and -- after seeking treatment -- has now been sober for about 3 1/2 years. He pointed again to "the stigma and shame of drug addiction" as "what makes it difficult for people to raise their hand and ask for help." The lesson he put into "Traffic," which he hopes viewers will take out, is that "drugs should be considered a health care issue rather than a criminal issue."

    I write not to settle a score with Gaghan but to use the tragedies that befell him to illustrate some larger points about drug use and drug addiction. I have spent more than a decade studying, commenting on and fighting America's drug epidemic, and Gaghan's story makes clear many of the lessons I have learned.

    One key lesson is that prevention is indeed the most important weapon we have in the fight against drug use. We must encourage parents to educate children about the dangers of drug use. As Carroll O'Connor has said in his eloquent advertisement for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, "Get between your kid and drugs any way you can, if you want to save your kid's life."

    But prevention involves more than simply teaching that drug use is wrong. It entails making drugs scarcer, more expensive and less pure. When drugs are more readily available, more people try them and more people become addicted.

    Once users are addicted, we must do what we can to free addicts from the grip of drugs. We should make treatment -- effective treatment -- more available. But effective treatment entails more than just filling slots in centers. To promote truly effective treatment, we must first recognize that treatment doesn't always work and that even the best treatment works only some of the time.

    Approximately half of all addicts fail to complete the treatment programs that they enter. For those who do complete a good treatment program, there is about a 75 percent chance they will still be drug-free in five years. In other words, of those who enter a sound treatment program, we can expect about 38 percent to be cured.

    One clear fact about drug treatment is that success in treatment is a function of time in treatment. And time in treatment is often a function of coercion -- being forced into treatment by a loved one, an employer or, as is often the case, the legal system. People who are forced to enter treatment under legal sanctions are more likely to complete treatment programs and thus more likely to get well. If we treat drug use as a purely medical problem, and treatment as something that can be only voluntarily taken up, fewer people will enter treatment -- and those who enter treatment are less likely to get well.

    Gaghan's own story mirrors those of many people I have encountered over the past decade. He started drinking and using marijuana as a teenager, graduated to cocaine and heroin and ended up with crack and freebase. It was always easy to score the drugs -- until his three primary dealers were arrested in one weekend.

    "I was left alone, and I just hit that place, that total incomprehensible demoralization," Gaghan told the New York Times. "I just couldn't take another minute of it." In the end, Gaghan sought the aid of a friend who had recently quit drugs, entered treatment and began, as the Times put it, "What he hopes is a whole new life."

    When the criminal justice system took Gaghan's dealers off the streets, it started him on the road to recovery. Gaghan was fortunate to have his personal catharsis before his addiction destroyed him. Many others -- like Robert Bingham -- are not so lucky.

    In treating drug addiction, scientific and medical advances are indispensable tools that hold great promise for more effective treatment. But the criminal justice system plays a critical role as well. It can help prevent drug use by people who are fearful of being arrested and by the majority of Americans who have respect for the law. It can also help through coercion: By forcing addicts to seek treatment, as in the case of Stephen Gaghan. The story of "Traffic" and, behind it, the story of Gaghan's life are both powerful and instructive. But we must learn the right lessons from them.

    The writer is chairman of K12 and co-chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

    Source: Washington Post (DC)
    Author: William J. Bennett
    Published: Sunday, February 18, 2001; Page B07
    Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
    Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company
  2. I had no Idea there was so much history behind the movie Traffic, now all I have to do is see it :)

  3. that move sucked
  4. I was going to see it but I was in the city visiting my mom and she was offering to pay my way in so I decided to see 'Cast Away' with her. It was a good movie, actualy. Could have been better with a shark though ;)
  5. i just saw this movie last night, and to say the least, i thought it was brilliant. it covered every aspect of drugs, not just the trafficing. from prep school kids doing heroin, to tijauna cops, the film doesn't miss a BEAT. besides that, the photography and score (by the original drummer from Red Hot Chili Peppers) is fantastic.

    i also caught how there was an obvious seperation between marijauna and hard drugs. two kids smoking pot on the couch and watching tv, as opposed to two kids clearly withdrawn from the group carrying the bong, snorting lines. this film clearly pointed out that there is a much larger concern with hard drugs. and, i believe this holds true.

    all in all, i loved this movie...

    AND there was a trailer for A.I.!! this one i am going to HAVE to check out. it's a flick that was originally taken on by Kubrick, but he was unable to finish (rip). so, spielberg has taken it over. let's hope it rocks!
  6. Aero! you realy think it sucked! why? very curious to hear your opinion :confused:

  7. ive yet to see it, but ive heard Benicio del Toro is great. anyone seen Fear and Loathing? he was awesome in that, had to gain 40 pounds.
  8. i absolutely LOVE benico del toro. i thought he WAS traffic. without him.. it just wouldn't have been the same.

    i think i like him best in his short lived, but awesome role in Usual Suspects (one of my fav movies anyways).

    he's just a great actor.
  9. i like how the movie told how fucked up the drug war was and how its on going and pointless but the movie draged, it had littel action. i have a very small attention span i need lots of action, horror or comidie in a movie.
  10. Thanks for resurrecting a 17 year old thread LMAO:laughing:
    • Funny Funny x 1

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