Why do so many people risk throwing their lives in the toilet for the pleasure of a temporary anodyne?

Why do so many people feel the need to escape from the routine of daily life into a world that takes away their ability to care for themselves and others?

Why is there addiction?

Why are there drugs that have the potential to do so much good while also having the potential to do great harm at the same time?

Why do some people find it easier to stay on the side of good drug effects while others easily stray into the land of being dependent on harmful effects?

Why do we ask questions that can't be answered?

Why do we have a society that allows greater and greater distance between wealth and poverty?

Why do we have a society that allows the concentration of great wealth in the hands of so few?

Why do we have a society that spends so much on punishing people when it only makes matters worse for too many people?

Why does a mother take food away from her children so she can buy another bag of something to kill the pain of daily life?

Why is it easier for a person to buy an unlimited supply of heroin on the street than it is to get into a rehab program?

Why does someone ignore their humanity and obliterate their conscience so they can make money selling something that has such great potential to ruin people's lives?

Why do we ask questions that society refuses to find the answers to?

Most of these questions cannot be answered, but they do need to be raised and given some thought. Based on Governor Shumlin's speech last week about drug addiction, it looks like Vermont may, once again, be poised to be a leader in forward thinking on a pressing social issue.

A small minority might argue that all drugs, even heroin, should be legalized but that would be too much of a stretch during a time when so many lives are being harmed by heroin and opiate addiction.

Shumlin has proposed giving those caught using heroin and abusing opiates the chance to enter rehab instead of jail. In my mind it is just as good as decriminalizing bad drugs and, one might argue, that it is even better.

The Governor also recognized the need for more treatment programs because there are waiting lists. When it comes to drug rehab, a waiting list is pretty much useless. If someone says they are ready for rehab, or if the legal system mandates rehab, then a program needs to be immediately available. Given the choice of waiting a month or two for rehab, or continuing to use is really no choice at all.

Critics may ask where the money to create more rehab capacity will come from but that is a moot question. Instead, they should be demanding that we need to find the money to create more rehab capacity because it will save us a tremendous amount of money in the short and long run.

The state's Medicaid program realized how much money they were throwing away on unsuccessful efforts to provide rehab and prevent addiction so they created a comprehensive program to get the job done. It is called the Hub and Spoke and it provides the support that addicts need to get back on their feet and become productive members of society.

Expansion of this program, so that waiting lists are gone, will ensure that the Governor's vision is realized. We already have a structure in place. We need to find the money to expand it. Last year's decision to cut back on Medicaid reimbursement for inpatient drug rehab needs to be reversed to provide an adequate safety net.

It is even possible that if comprehensive rehab programs are in place for a number of years that the overall number of addicts will drop and that rehab programs will eventually be able to be scaled back.

Coupling stricter laws for drug dealing with increased rehab capacity may create a model for the rest of the country. Sadly, the heroin and opiate addiction epidemic is not confined to a single state.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at rbdav@comcast.net.