Wall Street Journal
November 24, 2012
I met Shirelle as she entered treatment for cocaine addiction at the height of the crack epidemic in the 1980s. An ancient-looking African-American woman who was in fact in her late 30s, she met my gaze with a look that I had seen all over the blighted neighborhoods of Detroit: a disturbing combination of twitchy facial movements and inert, vacant eyes. Feeling ashamed and suicidal about how her addiction was destroying her family, she had entered treatmentâ€”out of desperation, not with any confidence that it would help her.
Shirelle had already been through rehab, counseling and 12-step meetings, to no avail. She spoke slowly because her lips were badly burned from her crack pipe, but her direct question was easily understood: “Isn’t there anything else?” “Not really,” I responded.
As an expert in addiction treatment, what depresses me is that a quarter-century later, I would still have to give her the same answer. But another possibility is now on the horizon: a vaccine for addiction to cocaine and other stimulant drugs.