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[P]
Harm Reduction: the basis for rational drug policy

By dipipanone in Op-Ed
Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 01:36:04 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Online discussion of drugs and drug policy tends to be polarized between those who argue in favour of the status quo of drug prohibition, and those who favour complete legalization. Is this dichotomy the only way to debate drugs and drug policy, or is a more subtle and nuanced approach available to us?


It's clear to everyone that the sorts of drug policies that we've had over the last fifty years or so have been woefully unsuccessful in their outcomes. They have been hugely expensive, have failed to prevent steady, year on year increases in illicit drug consumption, and send thousands of people to prison, whose only real crime is the desire to change their consciousness.

In order to evaluate the success of any policy, we first have to identify the goals. What are we trying to achieve here? In the past, the goal of drug policy has been muddied and confused. We pretend that the goal is the health and well being of the population, when in truth there were ooften very different agendas at work.

For example, the reason why some drugs are illegal, while other substances, often more harmful than those that are completely prohibited, is due to the racist origins of much of our drug policy. These laws were passed as a result of various racially-focused moral panics. Moral entrepeneurs created campaigns that played to society's prejudices about various races, and the possibility that they might use the drugs that they preferred but most white people were unfamiliar with to sexually defile our pure and innocent women. Such prejudice led to the original legislation against marijuana, one of the most harmless substances known to man, on the grounds that it incited insanity in black people and gave them the strength of ten men. Similarly, laws were passed against the smoking of opium, predominantly a chinese practice, while it was still legal to buy opium based patent medicines and even heroin over the counter of through the post. However, these forms of administration were preferred by the white majority, and as such, were not regarded as being problematic.

Nevertheless, it's unarguable that there are many negative health consequences associated with illicit drug use, and any drug policy worth its salt has to seek to address these deficits as a primary goal. The question then becomes to what extent do our existing policies really promote health improvement among drug users?

It is my contention that rather than promoting health, many existing drug policies actually works against it. Anti-drug propaganda propagates information that is so patently false that any serious attempts at drug education and information are seriously undermined. The stories that the prevention lobby tells about drugs and drug use simply don't fit with the widespread experience that people now have of illicit drugs. By stigmatizing and criminalizing those people who prefer one particular type of intoxicant rather than another, we place obstacles in the development of a culture of moderate and safer recreational drug use, and positively dissuade people from seeking expert help for their drug problems. Furthermore, the ideology of drug prohibition has, in some countries, skewed treatment and rehabilitation services, many of which are based upon a quasi-religious ideology and are militantly opposed to scientific enquiry and a rational approach to the problem.

The extent to which this quasi-religious ideology skews the discourse on drugs, and drug use, and consequently has a powerful negative effect on both advances in treatment modalities and on drug policy as a whole, is well illustrated by the story of Dr. Alex DeLuca.

DeLuca was a clinician at one of the most celebrated facilities in the USA -- Smithers, in New York City. Smithers has traditionally been associated with the 12 step fellowships, and the 'Minnesota Method' of drug treatment, which effectively elevates the self-help philosophy of the fellowship to a full blown treatment system. There can be little argument about the fact that many, many people feel that their involvement in programmes of this nature have saved their lives, and that they derive a great deal of help from participating in such programmes. However, there is a large core of people associated with the 12 step fellowship that believes this should be the sole form of treatment available -- despite the fact that only a very small proportion of the people who actually need help for drug and alcohol problems feel that this would be a helpful or appropriate route for them to take. DeLuca made the terrible mistake of speaking publicly about the fact that Smithers was now offering a wider range of options, including making space available for Moderation Management, another self help group with a similar form to Alcoholics Anonymous, only the people who join that particular programme have no desire to stop drinking and simply seek to moderate their alcohol intake. When the article was published, a cabal of rich and influential 12 steppers kicked off a 'Get DeLuca' campaign, and he was fired from his position within days.

The approach to drug treatment that DeLuca was espousing, was one that has been winning increasing support all over the world during the last fifteen years. Harm Reduction is a theory that outlines certain principles for responding to drug problems that was first articulated in a coherent fashion in Liverpool, England in 1986, in a Regional Health Authority strategy document titled 'The Mersey Model of Harm Reduction'. Prior to this point there were a whole range of practices that we would today describe as Harm Reductionist that the authors drew on for inspiration. Examples included the old 'British System' of prescribing heroin and cocaine to addicts, the Dutch Coffee Shop policy and the junkiebond (addicts union) and prevention programmes aimed at trying to teach young solvent misusers how to reduce the most serious risks associated with the practice.

The thing that gave Harm Reduction its greatest impetus though, was the spread of HIV and AIDS in the injecting drug use population. In the mid-80's, epidemiologists working on HIV and AIDS had identified the fact that AIDS was spread by the tendency to share injecting equipment. The cheapest, swiftest and easiest way to do this would be to provide injecting drug users with clean, sterile equipment. In 1986, the World Health Organisation suggested that all countries should start doing this immediately as a matter of priority.

Here in the UK, we had our own evidence of how this disease was being spread and how to prevent it. In Edinburgh, local pharmacists had gotten together of their own volition, and agreed not to supply sterile injecting equipment to anyone who they suspected of being an addict. Back in Liverpool though, there had been a consistent policy of maintenance prescribing for the previous ten years or so, a policy that included the prescribing of injectable preparations like methadone and diamorphine. When a comparison of the HIV rates in the two cities was performed, half of Edinburgh's iv drug using population were found to be infected with HIV. In Liverpool, in contrast, the infection was completely absent. Even when infected iv drug users moved back home to the city from places with a high rate of HIV like Amsterdam and Edinburgh, infection rates stayed below .001 percent because the city's drug users had an established culture of buying and using sterile equipment.

One might think that this sort of data might be evidence enough to persuade people that needle exchange was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, prohibitionist ideology is grounded in moralistic and quasi-religious underpinnings, and so the people who buy into this sort of world view weren't going to give up without a struggle. It was a struggle that saw some very peculiar alliances forming. Liberal drugs workers, feared for their jobs because their identity was tied to the old way of thinking. Trotskyists objected on the grounds that it was a plot by the Thatcher government to sap the revolutionary will of our youth through state sponsored addiction. Black groups objected, arguing that this was yet another form of genocide, another Tuskeegee experiment. And of course, the US government opposed it, saying that the data was inconclusive.

It was, of course. And pretty well every other country in the world had needle exchange schemes, while the Federal government passed laws that pull the funding from any US program found to be involved in Syringe Exchange Schemes.

Nevertheless, there were those who saw the light. Stout hearted Americans who were determined to do the right thing, whether the state approved or not. Guerrilla Exchange programs sprang up across the USA, and the people who worked for them went out and talked to the rest of the world, and today they are carrying Harm Reduction theory into the belly of the beast.

So, what is Harm Reduction?

Basically, it's a theory that insists that the core of any drug policy or treatment philosophy isn't the desire for a drug free society. As the psychopharmacologist Ronald Siegal has pointed out, human use of intoxicants is so ubiquitous, that it may actually constitute a fourth innate drive. Human beings need food, shelter, sex and then we need to get high. Harm Reduction theory accepts that this is the case, and doesn't make any judgements about it one way or the other. It isn't good, it isn't bad, it just is. Now how do we best deal with it?

So firstly, Harm Reduction is non-judgemental. Unlike other approaches, we aren't interested in saying that drug users are bad people, or even that drug use is bad, per se. Which is not to say that many criminals don't use drugs, or that many people don't suffer severe drug problems. But we insist on separating out our judgements about people's behaviour, rather than condemning people because they happen to use drugs.

Secondly, it's pragmatic. Harm Reduction recognizes that Rome wasn't built in a day. Even people with the most severe problems aren't necessarily going to stop using immediately. Are there any other, positive changes that we can encourage that improve health and well-being? If so, let's deal with that.

Thirdly, Harm Reduction is evidence based. Any intervention, whether it be at the treatment level or at the grand policy level, should be based on the available research into what works and what doesn't, and this process of evaluation should be ongoing. I know that to those of you who have no experience outside the drug treatment field, this won't sound particularly radical. However, you should ask yourself why so many US addiction facilities have closed since the move to Managed Care and HMO's. The old 28 day rehab, once a flourishing industry in the US, has now been decimated.

Fourth, and finally, Harm Reduction says that any treatment service should be user friendly rather than confrontational. This is *not* an insistence that individual workers should never be able to challenge somebody when they are talking bullshit, but rather it seeks to address the fact that the vast majority of people who are hired by treatment services tend to think that the people they are hired to help are the lowest form of scum, and so rather than treatment being a collaborative project between the drug user, who has the desire, and the clinician, who has the information and the skills to impart, you have a relationship characterised by mutual antagonism. In the past, the idea that all addicts are liars was a fundamental tenet amongst people working in addictions treatment. Today, we recognize that people don't lie for no reason. People lie to avoid punitive sanctions. Remove the punitive sanctions, and what you start to see is an open, honest relationship emerging. Can any talk therapy really be based on anything else?

Harm reduction recognizes that some people will always want to continue to take drugs. So what? Nobody has ever managed to find a way to stop them from doing that yet. If we're honest about these things, we can work on the issues that really do concern them, rather than having to pretend that we're pursuing the goal of abstinence. This frees up much more time to help those who genuinely do want to become drug free, but are having some difficulty doing it on their own.

People try to categorize Harm Reduction as being on the left or right, politically. The truth is, it's neither of those things. In the UK, the initial support for needle exchange and services based upon Harm Reduction principles came from the Thatcher government. Their thinking in this area was diametrically opposed to that of their opposites in the USA, where you had Nancy Reagan and 'Just say no'. When the Conservatives were defeated, and Labour gained power, they thought it would be politically popular to 'try to do something about Britain's growing drug problem', and so like other governments in the past, they made the mistake of looking to the USA, perhaps on the basis that more experience gives you more knowledge. They hired a liberal police chief as Drug Czar, who immediately recanted his previous positions on the need for a re- examination of UK drug policy, and took to parroting Nancy Reagan's 'Just Say No' mantra.

Fortunately, this u-turn in British drug policy didn't go unremarked, and after several years of widespread criticism, by the media, the public and the drug treatment field in the UK, the New Labour government has finally had the scales removed from it's eyes and sees Harm Reduction as the only sensible basis for their drug policy. Over the last twelve months, it has established the National Treatment Agency -- a special health authority whose role is to try to ensure that UK drug service provision is consistent, coherent and of high quality, and the Home Secretary has indicated his intent to reduce Cannabis from being a Class B drug, to a Class C -- rendering possession as a non-arrestable offence (and thus effectively decriminalizing it.) He has also announced his intention to increase the amount of heroin prescribing to heroin addicts.

At last, the UK has a government that is seeking to provide a rational basis for drug policy. Of course, just as with drug treatment, there's no magic bullet, but if we agree that our goals are to improve health and reduce crime, at long last we will have objectives that are measurable and attainable, and the basis for a consensual policy that all members of British society can sign up to.

How long must we wait before the USA follows us down this same route?

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Poll
Current drug policy is:
o Badly broken. We need a policy based on Harm Reduction 72%
o Broken, but I've no idea what to do about that 8%
o Not broken at all. Works just fine 0%
o Needs more money. More cops, more interdiction 2%
o Policy? We don't need no steenking policies! 13%
o Don't know 2%
o Don't care 0%

Votes: 73
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o racist origins of much of our drug policy
o a quasi-religious ideology
o the story of Dr. Alex DeLuca.
o the 12 step fellowships
o a cabal of rich and influential 12 steppers kicked off a 'Get DeLuca' campaign,
o Harm Reduction
o Stout hearted Americans who were determined to do the right thing
o As the psychopharmacologist Ronald Siegal has pointed out
o drug treatment field in the UK
o establishe d the National Treatment Agency
o Also by dipipanone


Display: Sort:
Harm Reduction: the basis for rational drug policy | 122 comments (91 topical, 31 editorial, 0 hidden)
Harm reduction isn't new to anybody (3.83 / 6) (#11)
by driptray on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 09:19:43 AM EST

Online discussion of drugs and drug policy tends to be polarized between those who argue in favour of the status quo of drug prohibition, and those who favour complete legalization.

It is? How come I see people arguing for harm reduction all the time? You act like you're telling us something new that will break us out of some terrible impasse, whereas the reality is that harm reduction is always embraced by legalisers like myself as we recognise that it is, by definition, NOT prohibition, whereas prohibitionists always reject it as they recognise the same thing.

It's clear to everyone that the sorts of drug policies that we've had over the last fifty years or so have been woefully unsuccessful in their outcomes.

Clear to you and me, but the average prohibitionist may well believe that without prohibition things would have been a lot worse. Also, for many people who view drug use as immoral, legalisation would be worse than prohibition strictly on moral grounds, regardless of the harm it causes. They are quite happy for drugs to cause harm, as they believe that drug users deserve whatever bad things happen to them. As for drug "harm" spreading to non-drug users (in the form of increased burglaries, increased risk of AIDS etc), this just gives such moralisers more ammunition to crack down on "evil" drug users who are considered to be the cause of all this.

Look, I agree with you that harm reduction is a sound policy. The question is one of strategy in terms of framing the argument. In my experience I've seen middle-of-the-road people almost swayed by the harm reduction argument, but fail to get over the line because of their fears about "sending the wrong message", and of a possible explosion in drug use. I have two arguments to counter that.

Firstly I'd reassure them that taking drugs is similar to a lot of other activities - it has certain risks, including health risks, and may be extremely inadvisable, however that doesn't mean that it should be a criminal offence. All sorts of dumb dangerous things exist without them being made illegal, and their legal status isn't usually considered to be "sending a message" that such activities are condoned.

Secondly I'd argue that a strict regulatory regime would be just as effective, if not more effective, in reducing drug use. I honestly think that people have no idea how to imagine a post-prohibition world, and by discussing the details of the regulatory regime, you move them over the hump and into the business of imagining a better future rather than clinging on to a failed past.


--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
Did you read further than the intro? (4.00 / 4) (#15)
by dipipanone on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 09:31:36 AM EST

You act like you're telling us something new

On the contrary, I point out that it's been with us as an explicit concept since 1986. However, I've not seen any formal discussion of the issue on K5, so it obviously isn't quite as well known as you'd imagine outside of those circles with a specific interest in drug policy.

that will break us out of some terrible impasse

Again, the whole point of my article is that Harm Reduction in the UK and elsewhere in Europe has done precisely that, along with evidence of just how it's managed to do it.

Is it that you don't think US drug policy is at an impasse, or something?

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Not extreme enough maybe? (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by zakalwe on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 12:48:20 PM EST

However, I've not seen any formal discussion of the issue on K5, so it obviously isn't quite as well known as you'd imagine outside of those circles with a specific interest in drug policy.
I think this is more because people here prefer to argue the more controversial extremes of prohibition vs legalisation. Harm Reduction is a more "safe" middle ground, and I'd guess most people would be in favour of it, but possibly not entirely satisfied. Prohibitionists may have some disaproval because it could be seen as a tacit approval of drug use.

Pro-legalisation people (like me) approve, but perhaps consider it only a partial solution. It helps to reduce harm, but does nothing about other issues such as funnelling money to criminals.

Still, its true that taking extremes is a bad way to solve problems. Its a good idea to encourage such moderate, practical solutions since they're something that can actually get implemented within a timeframe that can save lives now.

[ Parent ]

Perhaps... (4.66 / 3) (#42)
by dipipanone on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 01:29:15 PM EST

I think this is more because people here prefer to argue the more controversial extremes of prohibition vs legalisation.

I'm not sure that prohibition really counts as a controversial extreme. Until fairly recently, it was a largely unchallenged status quo.

Harm Reduction is a more "safe" middle ground, and I'd guess most people would be in favour of it, but possibly not entirely satisfied.

That's the whole point, really. It provides us with areas on which we can build agreement and consensus, rather than having total ideological opposition and being unable to move forward at all. If the real problems are about health and drug related crime, then lets say so, and do something about those things as soon as possible.

Pro-legalisation people (like me) approve, but perhaps consider it only a partial solution. It helps to reduce harm, but does nothing about other issues such as funnelling money to criminals.

What's that expression? The best is not the enemy of the good? The idea of a free market in all intoxicating substances doesn't appear to be on anyone's political agenda any time soon, and the various polls that I've seen don't actually seem to indicate widespread popular support for such an option.

In light of that, I think we can fairly safely asssume that there won't be very many politicians sticking their necks out to take the risk of proposing a pro-legalization argument any time soon. What Harm Reduction offers us is a way of moving in that direction, but in a gradual fashion. When people see that these issues haven't resulted in the collapse of the economy, widespread pot-smoking in the workplace or the sky falling in, my guess is that we, as a society, will be much more inclined to take further steps in that direction.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Regulation (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by jmzero on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 11:32:16 AM EST

Secondly I'd argue that a strict regulatory regime would be just as effective, if not more effective, in reducing drug use. I honestly think that people have no idea how to imagine a post-prohibition world, and by discussing the details of the regulatory regime, you move them over the hump and into the business of imagining a better future rather than clinging on to a failed past.

I think well thought out, tough regulation is the only way to avoid huge problems with legalization.

I think of it like this:

A 10 year old isn't equipped to make decisions about having sex, so we take away their choice (or at least sanction it) by making it illegal.

Most adults are not equipped to make decisions about using crack. They don't understand it. Similarly, many people are not informed about actual dangers from, say, marijunana. Eg - How long should you wait before operating a vehicle?

Of course, there's tougher questions to be answered when talking about something like heroin - but that shouldn't be the first thing legalized. How that gets dealt with would have to be determined by how it goes with marijuana, lsd, ex, etc...

With a regulatory regime, we could make sure that (for the most part) only those who understood the decision they are making would obtain drugs. Why seek out illegal drugs, when legal ones are only a safety course away?

I, for example, wouldn't mind trying LSD - but I don't want to:

A: complicate my life by doing something illegal - giving an excuse to anyone who wants to arrest me, fire me, etc...

B: take "something" purchased from a grubby man on the street

Bring on the regulation!
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]
Not entirely accurate (none / 0) (#61)
by carbon on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 04:08:37 PM EST

A 10 year old isn't equipped to make decisions about having sex, so we take away their choice (or at least sanction it) by making it illegal.

I think what you mean is 'the vast majority of 10 year olds aren't equipped to made decisions about having sex'. As has been said before on other articles (which I am of course too lazy to dig up) there are very mature 10 year olds, and very immature 25 year olds.

The same theme applies to drug use. Making something illegal because most people don't understand it's effects fully is an over-compensation, although perhaps (but only perhaps) a neccessary one, because it can be difficult or prohibitively inefficient to judge things like this on a case-by-case basis, even if that's what's needed for total accuracy.


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
True, but... (none / 0) (#74)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 06:16:00 PM EST

We shouldn't allow our uncertainty about the age at which it is appropriate to allow drug use to stand in the way of the real goal, which is legalizing/decriminalizing drug use by adults. If it were a choice between leaving things as they stand or instituting mandatory drug testing of everyone between the ages of 10 and 18, I say bring on the tests. It might not be fair, but it is the lesser of two evils.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Have to understand it to use it? (none / 0) (#113)
by Dyolf Knip on Sun Apr 28, 2002 at 12:42:01 AM EST

Most adults are not equipped to make decisions about using crack. They don't understand it. Similarly, many people are not informed about actual dangers from, say, marijunana. Eg - How long should you wait before operating a vehicle?

So what? I don't know jack squat about aspirin or tylenol or caffeine or nicotine or any of the legal prescription drugs that I can't even pronounce, yet I can go out and buy them. If I have any problems I just look on the back of the box and read the stuff there. Why would legal marijuana be so radically different?

And don't forget things like the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act (or whatever it was called). Actively trying to limit the spread of information about controlled substances. "This drug is illegal because you don't know anything about it. You don't know anything about this drug because it's illegal." Nice little catch-22 there.

---
If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

The War on Drugs (2.66 / 6) (#52)
by Six on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 02:08:07 PM EST

Personally, I've always thought the real reason some substances are illegal lies not in any moral justification, but in protecting the revenue of governments and large corporations, as well as for reasons of social engineering by Uncle Sam. The US government/CIA is the largest drug importer/expediter/dealer in the world. The majority of long-term/chronic/addictive (illegal) drug use in this country takes place in the inner cities, by the poor, disenfranchised, and minorities. By assuring a steady supply, the government keeps such neighbourhoods poor, dangerous, and subdued. Drugs aren't against the law because the government thinks they're "wrong", they're illegal so they can keep their virtual monopoly and have an excuse to lock certain people up. When the voices of dissent are addicts, dealing with addicts, or trying to protect their possessions from addicts, there is not much time for social outcry. This strategy was used very effectively against the Native Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The government packed them onto reservations, with the only food obtainable being high-starch surpluses and sugar. This in turn lead to high rates of diabetes and thus alcoholism in the native populations. I don't buy this "most people think drugs are wrong" argument. Alcohol was illegal for a time. People didn't "support" that, they just swallowed the government propaganda. The wealthy and middle-class keep billions of dollars flowing into the coffers of the pharmaceutical companies. Tobacco and liquor producers make billions because their drugs are "legal" (not to mention the billions in tax revenue Uncle Sam receives.) Scare tactics, propaganda, big business - drug war = class war.

[ Parent ]
harm reduction ==> force people to smoke pot... (none / 0) (#96)
by jforan on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 11:15:20 AM EST

But not a hell of a lot would get done.

What a painful, strict, boring life we would all have if we lived or governed to reduce harm.

Brave new world and 1984 thoughts come to mind.

Jeff
I hops to be barley workin'.
[ Parent ]
How damn US-centric can you become anyhow? (1.66 / 6) (#17)
by boxed on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 10:05:49 AM EST

These laws were passed as a result of various racially-focussed moral panics. Moral entrepeneurs created campaigns that played to society's prejudices about various races, and the possibility that they might use the drugs that they were most familiar with to defile our innocent white women. This led to legislation against marijuana, one of the most harmless substances known to man, on the grounds that it incited insanity in black people and gave them the strength of ten men.
So how did the laws agains marijuana come to pass in practically all other countries in the world? You give wierd skewed arguments that are doubtful at best, and that have no relevance whatsoever outside the USA. The same goes for opium, and all other drugs. There was no wierd racial issues behind the abolishment of these drugs in Europe.

Same as it ever was... (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by dipipanone on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 10:41:00 AM EST

The rest of the world adopted these laws in response to various international agreements. Unfortunately, I can't lay my hands on my copy of Thomas Szasz's, Ceremonial Chemistry at the moment, but you can find descriptions of how this happened in that book, Arnold Trebach's 'The Heroin Solution' and a host of other texts on the history of international drug policy.

This all happened at around the same time as prohibition. Certain US politicians were building careers out of their proposals for a moral panic. They had no expertise in drugs or addiction, but they saw that it was an area in which they could build empires.

And so they convened an international convention in order to get all of the other countries to agree to pass the same laws. Initially, it didn't go completely the USA's way, and some countries where cannabis use was a part of the local culture (India, Iran, possibly Egypt and others) refused to agree to these parts.

The UK refused to agree to the proposals on heroin -- which is why it's still available here as a painkiller, and USians can't have it.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
full of it (4.50 / 2) (#29)
by boxed on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 11:05:10 AM EST

Throwing out rumours you've heard and claiming them to be facts is pretty silly of you. Just look at Sweden as an example, anti-drug laws in Sweden match and surpass the American laws, and have ALWAYS done so. In fact, we were a few percent of votes from banning alcohol totally in a referendum a few decades ago. Also, looking at the muslim or buddhist parts of the world you'd see how tame american laws are.

[ Parent ]
Don't take my word for it (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by dipipanone on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 11:29:58 AM EST

Do yourself a favour and read a book on the subject.

Of course, if you're seeking to argue that the Swedes are rabid prohibitionists, you'll get no argument from me on that score. They are the only people outside of NIDA who take a researcher as incompetent and intellectually bankrupt as Gabriel Nahas seriously, for example. The truth is, Swedish drugs research is the laughing stock of the world everywhere outside of the USA.

However, I'm not sure exactly what you're claiming here? Are you really arguing that Sweden had laws prohibiting cannabis use prior to the various International Conventions? Do you have a citation to back that up?

And why exactly is it that a country like Sweden bothered to pass a law prohibiting the use of a drug that it didn't actually have a problem with, do you suppose?

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
preemtive strike (none / 0) (#88)
by boxed on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 04:24:39 AM EST

The truth is, Swedish drugs research is the laughing stock of the world everywhere outside of the USA.
Except in all muslim countries. And the entire asian world. Please define this "the world" you speak of.
However, I'm not sure exactly what you're claiming here? Are you really arguing that Sweden had laws prohibiting cannabis use prior to the various International Conventions? Do you have a citation to back that up?
Swedish law bans drugs, as long as a substance can be proven to adhere to the specifications of an illegal drug by Swedish law it is banned. If this happened before or after international treaties is irrellevant, there is no law in Sweden agains cannabis in itself, nor will there ever be.
And why exactly is it that a country like Sweden bothered to pass a law prohibiting the use of a drug that it didn't actually have a problem with, do you suppose?
It's called a preemptive strike. The Swedish govt has been aware of the huge damage caused by alcohol to society for significantly more than a hundred years and the policy of hard reduction through limiting of access has been hugely successful. In fact, during the time of the "motbok", the most restrictive alcohol laws in sweden, alcoholims didn't exist in Sweden. Think about that for a second. The reason Sweden bans drugs is to avoid them being in wide use and suddenly discovering that it's very dangerous. We have learned the lesson from alcohol, there is no need to learn that lesson again.

[ Parent ]
Swedish policy is not hugely successful (none / 0) (#91)
by Bakunin on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 08:33:52 AM EST

Drug use in Sweden dropped to record lows during the 80s, under the same laws as during the 70s whith levels of use that's only now are about to be passed. Drug use is increasing now, and has been throughout the 90s. At the same time we've been making the laws stricter. Ie first making consumption illegal and then including prison in the possible punishments to make the forced testing of bodily fluids possible.

Even though the hard addicts in Sweden are dropping dead like flies (seven times the mortality rate than in the Netherlands) their numbers are increasing. How is this a hugely successful policy?

[ Parent ]

Yes it is (none / 0) (#108)
by boxed on Sat Apr 27, 2002 at 03:09:30 PM EST

Drug use is increasing now, and has been throughout the 90s. At the same time we've been making the laws stricter.
The laws were made stricter because the drug use increased when Sweden's economic situation became worse. These laws, like the alcohol restriction laws, aim at reducing the total amount of damage done by drugs to our society. That the hard addicts get a tougher life is not entirely relevant, althought it is always sad with human suffering. The point of all law enforcement is to lower the damage done on society. Restrictive laws have proven again and again that they do this. Basing your political policies on the fate of an extreme minority, instead of the good of the many, is dangerous at best, and fatal at worst.

[ Parent ]
How is it effective? (none / 0) (#114)
by Bakunin on Sun Apr 28, 2002 at 04:25:33 PM EST

The laws were made stricter because the drug use increased when Sweden's economic situation became worse.
Exactly. The laws had nothing to do with the increase in drug use. Drug use increased for other reasons. The laws were hardened and drug use still increased. The levels of drug use are influenced by many things. Laws are not the most important.
That the hard addicts get a tougher life is not entirely relevant, althought it is always sad with human suffering.
It is extremely relevant! But you highlight a frightening position common in Sweden. The tough laws are costing hundreds of human lives each year. The laws are not helping to decrease drug use, but they are making the use of drugs much more harmful!
The point of all law enforcement is to lower the damage done on society. Restrictive laws have proven again and again that they do this.
Where is the proof of that? I'd very much like to see any research that has come to the conclusion that the prevented damage in Sweden is greater than the damage inflicted by the prohibition.

You began yourself by stating that it's not the laws but other factors that control the levels of drug use. The UK and the USA, like Sweden, have hard laws. Yet the use of cannabis is greater there than in the Netherlands with notoriosly lax laws.

Drugs are available everywhere, also in Sweden. Some people will always find the risks of drug use acceptable. No laws will ever change this. But the laws can change many other things, like the actual risks involved in drug use and who profits from the sale of drugs. Today, the laws greatly increase the risks and they also place insane profits in the hands of organised crime. We can change this easily. Just as under the current laws, we will still have to take on the challenge of fighting drug abuse. But we can use all the resources now spent on the impossible efforts to enforce the current laws.

[ Parent ]

I've already said how it's effective, look it up (none / 0) (#116)
by boxed on Mon Apr 29, 2002 at 03:14:17 AM EST

The point of all law enforcement is to lower the damage done on society. Restrictive laws have proven again and again that they do this.
Where is the proof of that? I'd very much like to see any research that has come to the conclusion that the prevented damage in Sweden is greater than the damage inflicted by the prohibition.
As I've already said, there is 100% evidence to support my position since the age of the "motbok", and throughout the muslim world. If a substance is damn hard to get to, less people will have access to it. This is basic logic. Just look at the amount of substance abuse of pure endorphins. This is the most poweful drug known to man, but the total amount of addicts sums up to 0 because it's not accessible at all.
The point of all law enforcement is to lower the damage done on society. Restrictive laws have proven again and again that they do this.
Where is the proof of that? I'd very much like to see any research that has come to the conclusion that the prevented damage in Sweden is greater than the damage inflicted by the prohibition.
See above.
You began yourself by stating that it's not the laws but other factors that control the levels of drug use. The UK and the USA, like Sweden, have hard laws.
You misinterpreted. What I said was that the increase of drug use was the result of economic suffering. Laws do have a profound impact on the number of people that get addicted (some won't have acccess to an addictive substance in sufficient dozes to get addicted for example), and what compound they get addicted to (in Sweden, alcohol is the #1 addictive substance, as in most of the world).
Yet the use of cannabis is greater there than in the Netherlands with notoriosly lax laws.
Then where? Than Sweden or the US? In any case you are clearly mistaken. The official number of cannabis addicts according to Netherland statistics is no doubt zero. Just as the official number of alcholics in Russia is zero, or the number of caffeine addicts in for example sweden is zero.

[ Parent ]
This isn't about the "motbok" (none / 0) (#117)
by Bakunin on Mon Apr 29, 2002 at 05:50:21 AM EST

As I've already said, there is 100% evidence to support my position since the age of the "motbok", and throughout the muslim world. If a substance is damn hard to get to, less people will have access to it. This is basic logic. Just look at the amount of substance abuse of pure endorphins. This is the most poweful drug known to man, but the total amount of addicts sums up to 0 because it's not accessible at all.
The days of the "motbok" are long gone. If Sweden would pass such laws again, we'd see an even greater black market for alcohol than there is at present. No doubt with the accompanying problems of more organised crime, methanol poisonings, availability to children etc. And drugs are not damn hard to get! They are available in every damn city of the country. There is a demand for drugs. Somebody will make money supplying them. That is basic logic. I have no knowledge of pure endorphins, but if they were a feasible drug we'd see (mis)use of it I'm sure. But never mind pure endorphins, look at the illegal drugs that are being used. They are supposed to be damn hard to get too, no? Then how come so many are using them?
Then where? Than Sweden or the US? In any case you are clearly mistaken. The official number of cannabis addicts according to Netherland statistics is no doubt zero. Just as the official number of alcholics in Russia is zero, or the number of caffeine addicts in for example sweden is zero.
Use of cannabis is in both the US and the UK is greater than in the Netherlands. See for example This study or this article. This is true for other drugs as well. And the official number of cannabis addicts according to Netherland statistics is not zero. Where did you get that idea? This is a controversial topic in the Netherlands as well, with top politicians advocating prohibition, so don't try to give me the "of course their statistics support their position" bs. And they are under the scrutiny of many prohibitionist countries' experts.

[ Parent ]
Outside the US? (5.00 / 2) (#54)
by Woundweavr on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 02:37:42 PM EST

Then what about Japan? It made opium illegal in the mid 1800s and has stricter drug penalties than the US does.

China? Made opium sale illegal in 1729 and made harsher laws until 1800. Of course this led to the Opium Wars.

The Middle East and Islamic States? Are you going to claim the US made Mohamed restrict alcohol and such?



[ Parent ]

China (4.66 / 3) (#66)
by DJBongHit on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 05:20:30 PM EST

China? Made opium sale illegal in 1729 and made harsher laws until 1800. Of course this led to the Opium Wars.

China has been flip-flopping its opium/tobacco policies for a hell of a lot longer than just since 1729... for most of its history, one or the other has been illegal (though, interestingly, never both at the same time :)

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Don't take my word for it... (none / 0) (#111)
by dipipanone on Sat Apr 27, 2002 at 10:33:39 PM EST

There are a whole bunch of highly respected historians of drug policy who *aren't* antiprohibitionists. People like David Musto, David Courtwright, and Virginia Berridge and Griffith Edwards.

Go out and take a look at the evidence for yourself instead of whining about my presentation of it. In fact, I'll make it easy for you. Here's a piece by Musto on this very subject.

Read it and weep.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Harry Anslinger (5.00 / 3) (#87)
by kingcnut on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 11:18:05 PM EST

So how did the laws agains marijuana come to pass in practically all other countries in the world?
Harry Anslinger and the federal bureau of narcotics is the reason both that marijuana is illegal in the US and for exporting this policy to the rest of the world. For a well-written explanation of why read this book. The Pursuit of Oblivion by Richard Davenport Hines. It covers the period 1500-present day and details the patterns of drug use and policies of governments relating to this use. Briefly, the US browbeat and bullied other countries into adopting a unified drug policy. Which is exactly how the US has always implemented it's policies in other countries. Where the hell have you been living?

The "weird racial issues" didn't exist in other countries due to differing drug use, but the policies were implemented anyway. That's one of the things that's so fucking awful about them.

The British Government historically had a reasonably even-handed policy of harm reduction based primarily on medical opinion - and having effectively industrialised drug trafficking from India to China had access to a whole bunch of experience to base this understanding on. By the 1980s though UK drug policy had aligned to the US in all but the tiniest details (eg. cannabis, not THC is illegal)

For why the War on Drugs is so attractive to governments (if not to the governed) might I offer some ideas from Bob Black in his essay The War on Drugs as the Health of the State which I'm pretty sure I heard about on k5 first anyway... ...anyway, since the widespread use of Ecstacy and Cannabis has been reported ad nauseum in the newspapers drug usage is commonly regarded as affecting all strata of (a "classless") society. Without a social underclass to identify with drug usage patterns (eg. ghetto = crack) the politicians have less ammunition to support their poorly thought out prohibitionist reactionary policies.

[ Parent ]

Harmless? (3.93 / 15) (#21)
by rdskutter on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 10:35:00 AM EST

marijuana, one of the most harmless substances known to man

Hardly, I can think of a lot more substances that are a lot less harmful than Marijuana. Water for example, or potato crisps.

Maybe you meant that marijuana is one of the least harmfull controlled substances.


If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE

Lethal dose (4.00 / 4) (#26)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 10:53:52 AM EST

Actually if you look at the lethal dose in comparison with a normal dose, water is more dangerous by orders of magnitude. You can become 'water intoxicated' by drinking as little as a gallon. This is a serious condition that can lead to coma and death. In contrast, it is pretty much impossible to overdose on marijuana - not one death has ever been reported.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Potato crisps (3.66 / 3) (#31)
by Happy Monkey on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 11:18:29 AM EST

And any sort of fried carbohydrates have been recently shown to have high levels of carcinogens. I'm not sure there is any safe substance.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
wow (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by karb on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 01:49:01 PM EST

That's like saying that more people drown in water than they do in marijuana.
--
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?
[ Parent ]
Analogies (none / 0) (#49)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 02:01:52 PM EST

Since you appear to be analogy impaired, I'll explain it to you. In order to have an effective analogy, you must compare two separate relationships.. You on the other hand, said that comparing marijuana to water is like comparing marijuana to water. Doesn't that sound silly?

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Ha! (4.50 / 2) (#63)
by karb on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 05:03:02 PM EST

Every good argument in K5 must begin with an insult.

Dooming myself, you compare water and marijuana in an OD'ing sense, which is pointless. I compared water and marijuana in a drowning sense, which is equally pointless.

Nobody, anywhere, thinks that marijuana should be illegal because it is possible to OD. Or if they do, they are relying on data of which I am not aware, or are just idiots. Your argument is a red herring.
--
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?
[ Parent ]

Uhh (4.00 / 1) (#58)
by mindstrm on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 02:57:33 PM EST

It has no lethal dose in a standard biochemical way.
Neither does water.

If you drink too much water, the physical realities of the quantity of water you drink will kill you.

Similarly, if you eat 25 kilograms of pure crystalline THC, I'm sure you will suffer some equally bad physical effect.



[ Parent ]
Not true. (5.00 / 2) (#82)
by RofGilead on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 08:20:14 PM EST

There is a biochemical overdose of water.

Take a human cell. Put it in regular tap water. It will be fine, because the concentration of water to the concentration of ions within the water is such that it will not cause a too large of a concentration gradient to be formed.

If you put that human cell in absolutely pure water, no ions, it will die. Why is this? You have created a concentration gradient, whereby the concentration of ions inside the cell is MUCH greater than outside, so the ions will diffuse out of the cell. In the same way, the concentration of H2O is greater outside than inside, and water will diffuse into the cell.

Since human cells don't have cell walls, under these conditions so much water would go into the cell that it would explode.

This is the biochemical level.

If a human being drinks too much water, they can actually die from that, though this is not related to what I described above, I believe. There was atleast one reported death from someone at a dance club who overdosed, on guess what, water.

This death would be of a similar nature to the biochemical example above. By drinking huge amounts of water, you can effectively lower your Na, P, and other ion levels which are important to the correct functioning of the human body, which can lead to death.

Something interesting to compare, which I think another poster hinted at, is that if you compare the "recreational" dose of marijuana(lets say, by ingestion) to the lethal dose, and the "recreational" dose of water to the lethal dose, marijuana could be "safer" by those levels.

Another thing of interest: there has never been a death due to marijuana use by itself. This is most likely attributed to the fact that the user passes out after a certain level of ingestion, and/or throws up if injestion is too high. Deaths from smoking marijuana have only been seen in monkeys where the monkeys actually died from oxygen loss to their brains. (The levels of oxygen to smoke were too low, the monkeys were forced to wear gas masks and inhale only marijuana smoke. What great scientists those researchers were.)

And as I already pointed out, there have been deaths from water consumption.

Note: Someone who smokes marijuana should theoretically have the same cancer/lung disease issues as a smoker of similar level.

My two cents. :P

-= RofGilead =-

---
Remember, you're unique, just like everyone else. -BlueOregon
[ Parent ]
Okay. (none / 0) (#115)
by mindstrm on Mon Apr 29, 2002 at 12:59:05 AM EST

Cool. Thanks for the good explanation.

And as of yet, I don't think they have found a lethal dose of THC.




[ Parent ]
Potato crisps? (4.33 / 3) (#32)
by Altus on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 11:28:26 AM EST

maby you should take a look at this

follow the link in the story for a more indepth article

I wouldnt freak out about it, but maby some of the things you take for granted arent as good for you as you think :)


"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the money, then you get the women..." -H. Simpson
[ Parent ]

You're right (4.66 / 6) (#37)
by epepke on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 12:17:10 PM EST

While I am completely sympathetic to the attitude expressed in the article, such statments as that make me think "dope-addled brain."

Marijuana is smoked. It is set on fire, and the products of destructive distillation deliberately concentrated and inhaled. This smoke contains chemicals other than THC, including more of the various gummy and resionous substances known as "tars" than tobacco. These irritate the lungs. You can tell that because people who are not used to smoking cough. Chronic irritation is associated with many adverse health effects.

Remember that the connection between cigarettes and lung cancer took decades of long-term studies to confirm. The connection between cigarettes and heart disease took even longer. Such long-term studies don't exist with marijuana to anywhere near the same extent.

I would probably guess that marijuana is probably safer than cigarettes, simply because people don't generally smoke between 20 and 60 joints a day. However, to assert that marijuana is known safe is absurd. A reasonable default assumption is that nothing is safe to smoke. Even wood smoke contains formaldehyde and methanol, both toxic.

Marijuana is probably at least as safe as basil or oregano to eat, however. The intestines are pretty well hardened against undigestible plant substances. The lungs, however, have little protection other than mucus.

We simply do not know how harmful marijuana is. Of course, it should be legal, because it is almost certain that the harm it turns out to have, multiplied by any reduction in use caused by illegality (it is questionable whether this is even positive) is dwarfed by the harm caused by the War On Drugs and the criminal networks resulting from its illegal distribution. But let's not go overboard, people. It's smoke. Lungs aren't optimized to breathe smoke.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Two small points. (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by FredBloggs on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 12:50:52 PM EST

1) "Marijuana is smoked."

Often..usually...sometimes... etc.

2) If you were to smoke high quality grass, neat, in a pipe, you`d need such a ridiulously small amount, i`d be interested to see whether it caused any harm or not - even if you did one every hour, 8 hours a day, 7 days a week your whole life. How would it differ from passive smoking, living/working near a main road etc?

[ Parent ]
That wouldn't be mine... (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by dipipanone on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 01:44:19 PM EST

While I am completely sympathetic to the attitude expressed in the article, such statments as that make me think "dope-addled brain."

That wouldn't be mine as I haven't used the stuff for years. Mainly because I don't like the way that it makes me feel. My own personal preference has always been for opiates.

Seriously though, the risks that you describe are risks associated with *smoking*, not risks associated with the drug itself. I'm pretty sure that if you injected a jar of jam it wouldn't be very good for you either, but that doesn't mean that we spend much time worrying about the health risks associated with jam consumption, does it.

As far as the safety record on cannabis goes, it's been used for thousands and thousands of years, and has had millions and millions of dollars spent on research in an attempt to find some sort of serious health risks.

The score so far is no known deaths attributable to the drug -- which makes it far, far safer than any of the legal intoxicants, alcohol and tobacco, but also far safer than the most common over-the-counter drugs like asprin and paracetamol (tylenol).

Seriously, how much safer could you want it to be before you're prepared to accept the 'harmless' label?

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
I already acknowledged this (4.50 / 2) (#53)
by epepke on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 02:08:46 PM EST

Note the comment about oregano and basil.

Seriously, how much safer could you want it to be before you're prepared to accept the 'harmless' label?

The label wasn't "harmless," the label was "one of the most harmless substances known." Don't you think that's a bit extreme? I think wheat is pretty harmless, but I wouldn't call it one of the most harmless substances known, because a lot of people have sprue.

To accept a hypothetical harmless label, all it would take is long evidence of a lack of connection between marijuana in its most popular delivery system. If the most popular delivery system changed to, say, use as a bittering agent in beer or cooking in brownies, then I'd accept the provisional judgement of it as harmless as any other food. However, when the term "marijuana" is used, it basically indicates smoking cannabis. Eating cannabis is usually called "hash" (even if it isn't, technically), and beer-flavoring cannabis is usually called "hemp" (even though hemp is a broader category). Just like "cocoa" (once called "drinking chocolate") in common parlance generally means powdered cocoa sold primarily to be mixed with a hot fluid such as water or milk.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
OK, sorry (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by dipipanone on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 02:48:00 PM EST

And actually what I should have written was one of the most harmless *drugs* known to man -- which is much more accurate, and doesn't gush quite so much with an enthusiasm I don't actually share.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Fair enough (3.66 / 3) (#70)
by epepke on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 05:40:52 PM EST

I suppose I pointed this out because I am embarrassed to hear other advocates of drug legalization talk. This is not in spite of the fact that I otherwise support them but because I do.

For example, when people like NORML say "marijuana isn't a drug; it's an herb." Well, it's a drug. It's also an herb. It's a drug by both old meanings (a non-nutritive plant substance that is consumed anyway) and modern meanings (an injested substance that is not a food and causes an effect on the body). Maybe somebody's been smoking too much Ayn Rand books.

I think that one has to be extremely pedantic when dealing with advocacy of legalizing a substance that is widely believed to make people stupid.

While we're on the subject, one of the most dangerous drugs known to Man is acetominaphen, paracetomol outside the U.S. and Tylenol by brand. It is deadly enough that it is possible to kill oneself by taking just a few cold medications that contain it but sticking to the recommended dose of each one. It also has some rather nasty interactions with alcohol. Yet it is sold over the counter.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Corrections (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by mikael_j on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 05:03:29 PM EST

However, when the term "marijuana" is used, it basically indicates smoking cannabis. Eating cannabis is usually called "hash" (even if it isn't, technically), and beer-flavoring cannabis is usually called "hemp" (even though hemp is a broader category).
Marijuana - the dried flowers of the plant.
Hasch/Haschish - Sticky gooey stuff that has been dried (can't remember the name for it, english is not my native language).
Hemp - normally used when talking about industrial hemp. That is, cannabis grown to make clothes/ropes/food/whatever.

/Mikael
We give a bad name to the internet in general. - Rusty
[ Parent ]
Technical definitions versus usage (none / 0) (#68)
by epepke on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 05:25:15 PM EST

Those are technical definitions. I'm talking about popular usage in English. I don't see "Marijuana Ale" or "Cannabis Ale"; I see "Hempen Ale." I don't hear about "marijuana brownies"; I hear about "hash brownies."


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
In Sweden... (none / 0) (#75)
by mikael_j on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 06:21:01 PM EST

We use the "technical" versions in Sweden, but I do know that it's a bit different in the US...

/Mikael
We give a bad name to the internet in general. - Rusty
[ Parent ]
A few summers back, I remember... (none / 0) (#92)
by PixelPusher on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 08:37:02 AM EST

Buying a sixpack of "Hemp Beer". Now, it's a matter of course that we crazed Canadian folk have strange and wonderful ideas about beer, but since I bought it in Ontario, and have since moved, I don't know if it still exists...

Didn't get high or anything... Had an interesting taste, though. Really wheaty.

Any Ontarians out there who can tell me if this stuff still exists?

[ Parent ]
Popular useage isn't... (5.00 / 2) (#104)
by SvnLyrBrto on Sat Apr 27, 2002 at 02:38:41 AM EST

1)

The "Hemp Beer", that our crazy friends up north drink, isn't made from pot, it's made from hemp. And it doesn't contain enogh THC to do anything to you. It just has an odd flavor... which really doesn't even remond me of pot.

>I'm talking about popular usage in English.

2)

Popular useage that is dramatically drifferent throughout the english-speaking world....

Remember, California slang is not Canada slang is not east coast slang is not midwest slang is DEFINATELY not British slang.

I dunno 'bout where you come from. But around here, if someone's talking about marijuana brownies, they just call them "pot brownies". Saying "Hash Brownies", means you started with hashish... that stickey gooey stuff, and not the plain old leafy plant that goes into "pot brownies".

I ran into something like this just a few days ago talking on the phone to someone back in Florida. My friend started talking about tweakers. On the east coast, a tweaker is just any fool who's awake at night (usually working in a computer lab) moreso than during the day. Here in California, a tweaker is someone who uses some variant of amphetemine (meth, or no). And tweak is the drug itself. You might imagine the idea I got when he said that his class was full of tweakers; and I wasn't translating from California to eastcoast.

Likewise, we say "hella" here, where eastcoasters say "wicked".

I'm still not sure where in the country they call soda "pop"... somewhere in the midwest I think. Some parts of the south use "coke" to mean a sugared carbonated beverage; and if you just ask for a coke, you'll be asked: "what flavor coke would you like?"

Back to pot... no one calls it "chronic" here. It's herb, buds, or just plain pot. Calling it "chronic" would get you same funny looks, definately no pot, and maybe suspicion that you're a narc.

Depending on where in the country you are, MDMA is E, X, adam, beans, rolls, eggs, or just plain pills.

In the UK, they call cigarretes "fags".

I could go on, but you get the point, yes? Talking about "popular english useage" is pretty useless in a forum which spans the whole english-speaking world.

Much better to stick with the proper technical terms.


cya,
john

Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

Heh (1.00 / 3) (#45)
by The Eradicator on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 01:45:02 PM EST

Of course, it should be legal, because it is almost certain that the harm it turns out to have, multiplied by any reduction in use caused by illegality (it is questionable whether this is even positive)

I agree, mahijuana is pretty lame. I wouldn't be surprised if consumption drops to almost 0 if it was legalized - everyone would be using opium and/or speed instead.



[ Parent ]
Potato Crisps and Water Kill (none / 0) (#122)
by overtoke on Fri May 10, 2002 at 01:39:38 AM EST

marijuana is safer than both you can die from too much water you can certainly die from potato crisps...

[ Parent ]
Interesting Article... (4.33 / 3) (#47)
by skyknight on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 01:50:48 PM EST

And now for my two cents... I'm not going to write fresh material, but rather point you to something I recently wrote for one of my school's publications... Take a glance if you please.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Edinburgh pharmacists (3.00 / 2) (#51)
by pavlos on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 02:07:57 PM EST

So the pharmacists, not the government, decided to withdraw clean syringes? Where they eventually shot, or merely imprisoned?

Pavlos

Neither, sadly (none / 0) (#55)
by dipipanone on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 02:41:33 PM EST

But they have managed to get over their dour presbyterian puritanism to some extent.

Today, many of the same pharmacists earn extra income by doing 'supervised consumption'. Unlike US methadone programmes, where the dose is dispensed at the methadone clinic, in the UK, methadone has traditionally been dispensed at your local pharmacy and so all doses are effectively 'take home' doses.

In some parts of Scotland, the puritanical ethic was so strong that many doctors and addiction treatment services refused to take part in methadone treatment -- which meant it was unavailable in large areas. Then, somebody came up with the bright idea of paying pharmacists to watch people to drink their dose in the shop, and so today 'supervised consumption' is the norm for methadone maintenance treatment in Scotland.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Innate Drive? (3.85 / 7) (#59)
by Woundweavr on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 03:07:33 PM EST

I'm going to try and stay out of this since I'm rather tired of drug flame wars. However...

. As the psychopharmacologist Ronald Siegal has pointed out, human use of intoxicants is so ubiquitous, that it may actually constitute a fourth innate drive. Human beings need food, shelter, sex and then we need to get high.

This is a rather ridiculous statement. Food/water, shelter and sex are necessary for the survival of the individual or the species. Getting High is not. Nor is it universal. Even the most common substance to "get high" is not universal. About 15%-30% of the population (18+) are lifetime abstainer of alcohol and only about 1/2 are or have ever been "regular" drinkers and generally about 60-75% of the population have had a drink in the last year. This is in 1st World Countries and varies somewhat but nowhere approaches 100%. Illicit drug use is around 5% of the overall population worldwide.

If its an innate drive, wouldn't the stastics, especially for alcohol which carries little to no social stigma, be much closer to 100%?

Don't forget to factor in drug usage... (4.66 / 3) (#62)
by dachshund on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 04:56:58 PM EST

... which is common in many parts of the world where alcohol is generally abstained from for legal or religious reasons. Your numbers might still be significant, but they go down a bunch.

But you're right. Though most people enjoy getting high, they don't all do it. Ditto with sex, though. If it weren't necessary to carry on the species, I imagine it would be subject to many of the same outright moral/religious bans that alcohol is. We certainly have enough evidence that sexual gratification is frowned upon in many circumstances, don't we?

My point is that the prohibitions on getting high/drunk or having promiscuous sex are often fairly cerebral. They don't necessarily indicate basic animal desires, or a lack of them.

[ Parent ]

Actually.... (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by dennis on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 05:23:45 PM EST

Food/water, shelter and sex are necessary for the survival of the individual or the species. Getting High is not.

Two anthropologists are making an argument that psychoactive plants can be a survival aid in primitive conditions - stimulants for physically harsh conditions, and various others when the local diet makes people short on certain neurotransmitters.

New Scientist article

[ Parent ]

Irrelevent Survival Aid != Innate Drive -nt- (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by Woundweavr on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 06:03:22 PM EST



[ Parent ]
The point... (5.00 / 1) (#77)
by dennis on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 06:25:04 PM EST

...is that if it's a survival aid, then it's not farfetched to think that maybe people evolved some kind of drive to consume it, sometime in the last ten million years or so. Just because it's not a strong, universal drive doesn't mean there's nothing there at all.

[ Parent ]
If its not strong and universal (3.00 / 1) (#79)
by Woundweavr on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 06:56:38 PM EST

Then its not an innate drive now is it? Violent behavior is a survival aid as well. Does that provide any kind of argument that is should be legal? The fact that something might be a survival aid does not mean the something is an innate drive equal to the need for food/drink, shelter or sex.

[ Parent ]
Innate (none / 0) (#84)
by dennis on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 09:27:55 PM EST

Innate:
1. Possessed at birth; inborn.

Magnitude or prevalence of the characteristic not mentioned.

[ Parent ]

Sorry (4.50 / 2) (#97)
by Woundweavr on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 01:00:04 PM EST

Innate 2. Possessed as an essential characteristic; inherent.

Read the statement again. ...human use of intoxicants is so ubiquitous, that it may actually constitute a fourth innate drive. Human beings need food, shelter, sex and then we need to get high.

The researcher claims that use of intoxicants is universal, or at least omnipresent and that it is of a level of need equal to food, shelter and sex. The need for shelter and food in universal. The desire for sex is nearly universal and can only be repressed by very very few. The same can not be said of "getting high."

The theory that all humans need to get high doesn't have a leg to stand on. Just because a Timothy Leary wannabe wants it to be so, doesn't mean it is. And if the drive is not both inborn and universal, it does not have relevence in this debate.

[ Parent ]

innate drives (4.50 / 4) (#69)
by patina on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 05:32:08 PM EST

Siegal's argument is not ridiculous at all.

If you broaden you're understanding of what constitutes an intoxicant, the argument is much more persuasive. Think of:

Cocoa
Coffee
Tea
Tobacco
Cloves, other spices

Also consider mood-altering substances such as lavendar or chamomile

While it appears to be true that no particular psychotropic substance is as universal as, say fire, the use of psychotropic substances is pretty darned ubiquitous. Much like clothing.

The botanist Michael Pollan makes a related argument vis. Cannabis in his book, The Botany of Desire (which I have yet to read-- I heard him on some NPR shows and am interested). As far as I can recall, he argued that the ability to make people forget things gives certain plants an adaptive advantage, because human beings sometimes NEED to forget.





[ Parent ]
Degree (3.50 / 2) (#76)
by Woundweavr on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 06:21:50 PM EST

I agree those you listed are mood altering. However, the site linked is not speaking about those substances.

However, within the past two decades there is a growing understanding that all animals seek out experiences that will alter their consciousness.

and

. In every instance drug taking is viewed as abnormal. And, based on the "medical model" of addiction, taking drugs when you are "well" is considered "sick"... a pathology.

As drinking coffree or tea or eating chocolate, etc. are not viewed as abnormal, seen as "sick" nor do they create an altered state. Also from the site linked to...

The Drug Workshop provides a harm reduction perspective to the use of psychoactive drugs, and supports the use of psychedelics as an alternative euphoriant.

Its clear they aren't talking about hot cocoa with Mom after sledding. There is a difference between substances that can make minor changes in mood and emotional state and those that makes major changes in state of consciousness.

[ Parent ]

Re: Degree (4.50 / 2) (#80)
by lewiscr on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 07:29:43 PM EST

As drinking coffree or tea or eating chocolate, etc. are not viewed as abnormal, seen as "sick" nor do they create an altered state. Also from the site linked to...

I don't know about you, but I've had a caffine buzz that felt like moderate drinking. Maybe it was the 8oz of espresso, but I didn't trust myself to drive.

At the time, I thought the coffee machine was broken, so I kept hitting the button....

[ Parent ]

Not an altered state? (3.00 / 1) (#110)
by Dyolf Knip on Sat Apr 27, 2002 at 08:10:41 PM EST

As drinking coffree or tea or eating chocolate, etc. are not viewed as abnormal, seen as "sick" nor do they create an altered state

Go out and drink 10 espressos and tell me that caffeine doesn't put you in an altered state. Go out and drink an entire bottle of vodka and tell me that alcohol doesn't put you in an altered state.

Its clear they aren't talking about hot cocoa with Mom after sledding. There is a difference between substances that can make minor changes in mood and emotional state and those that makes major changes in state of consciousness.

So, what, there's a chart somewhere with some single numeric measurement of how much a drug affects you and everything above a certain line is controlled? Tell me something, since it is quite possible to overdose to death on legal substances and quite possible to use without any harm whatsoever illegal substances, isn't it possible that this chart of yours is messed up in the extreme?

---
If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

"High on Life" (gag) (4.66 / 3) (#86)
by eann on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 10:44:52 PM EST

Okay, the phrase makes me gag, but "high" isn't just a pharmacological state. As a species, we were getting high on adrenaline (&c.) long before anyone had the idea to deliberately ingest other stuff 'cos it was fun.

That was actually my first thought when I read that line about it being a fourth innate drive. We do artificial things to stimulate ourselves. Originally we related those things to the other three drives, but I'm sure it didn't take us long to figure out that it was fun to swing from vines, or body-surf a wave, or slide down a snow-covered hill, or whatever it is we did when we weren't immediately directed at food, shelter, or sex, regardless of whether we did those things in the normal pursuit of food, shelter, and/or sex.

I have very little difficulty believing that the botanical precursors to many of our modern chemical agents were not a big conceptual leap from that kind of existence. You know that rush you get when swinging? It's even better if you've been chewing on these leaves. Later on, the psychotropic stuff often got relegated to religion, because it was so hard to explain otherwise.


Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


[ Parent ]
It's about pleasure (5.00 / 2) (#94)
by dipipanone on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 10:39:12 AM EST

Originally we related those things to the other three drives, but I'm sure it didn't take us long to figure out that it was fun to swing from vines

My own take on it is that Siegal is actually over-specifying. The real innate drive is actually the search for pleasureable sensations and activities. Drug use is really just a subset of that.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Who knows? (5.00 / 3) (#93)
by dipipanone on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 10:32:50 AM EST

This is a rather ridiculous statement.

It isn't one that I have any particular emotional commitment to, but I do think it's an interesting hypothesis.

Food/water, shelter and sex are necessary for the survival of the individual or the species. Getting High is not.

Well, we don't actually know that do we? It may well perform some evolutionary function as yet undiscovered? Again, this isn't an idea that I'm committed to, but just because we don't have evidence that something is definitely true yet, doesn't mean that it isn't possible.

Nor is it universal.

His point is rather that it is universal to all societies, not to all individuals. The only known human society that doesn't use intoxicants was the eskimos, who had neither plants nor the warmth to allow fermentation. Of course, as soon as someone imported alcohol, they rapidly made up for lost time.

Even the most common substance to "get high" is not universal. About 15%-30% of the population (18+) are lifetime abstainer of alcohol and only about 1/2 are or have ever been "regular" drinkers and generally about 60-75% of the population have had a drink in the last year.

And some proportion of the population are lifetime celebates, but that's not a fact that contradicts the claim that sex is an innate drive, is it?

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Not So Ridiculous (none / 0) (#118)
by czolgosz on Mon Apr 29, 2002 at 06:39:28 PM EST

There are numerous documented instances of animals self-medicating. Most of this behavior doesn't involve getting high (getting rid of intestinal worms seems more popular, and eating clay to detoxify plant alkaloids). But there are also cases of animals seeking intoxicants. Hard to say why. Maybe there are other worthwhile nutrients in overripe berries?

So I wouldn't be greatly surprised to find an instinctual drive contributing to drug use. Maybe it's like some theories of the origin of obesity, where an instinct that had survival value in conditions of hardship or scarcity is maladaptive in another context.

And the argument that a behavior doesn't have a genetic cause, or didn't have survival value, because it's only seen in 70%, or even 5%, of the modern population doesn't hold water. Consider the adaptive value of the single recessive sickle-cell gene. Most people survive malaria, and tough luck if you're homozygous. Similarly, the phenonemon of heavy use could be the side-effect of something else of more immediate benefit to the larger population.
Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
[ Parent ]
How about a harm threshold then? (3.00 / 2) (#60)
by otis wildflower on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 03:29:12 PM EST

In the US, as a society, we've deemed alcohol and tobacco to be permissible without a prescription. We applied the same standards to alcohol that we do now to pot, coke, etc. It was called 'Prohibition'. Prohibition was quickly and rightly relegated to the ash-heap of history, but not before costing millions (if not billions) of dollars in damages and hundreds (if not thousands) of lives. There are many other drugs with narcotic or psychological effects that are available legally with a prescription.

So, how about forming a scientifically and rationally valid group of planners (scientists, sociologists, psychologists, MDs) together to create 3 categories of drugs:
  • Drugs that cause less or equal harm to society than tobacco and alcohol. These drugs should then have the same level of legal oversight as drugs and alcohol. Rename the ATF to the Bureau of Dangerous Shit (or something similar). Tax it, restrict it by age, proscribe its use in public or while operating heavy machinery or while pregnant, whatever. Just as long as it's as or less harmful than tobacco or alcohol, it should be legal.
  • Drugs that can cause more harm to society than tobacco and alcohol, but have legitimate pharmacological uses that outweigh their harm aspects. These drugs should only be prescribed by legit physicians and regulated as we regulate prescription drugs now. Morphine, Valium, Codeine, etc. live in this category now, as does Marijuana in some states.
  • Drugs that cause more harm to society than tobacco and alcohol, and do not offer pharmacological uses that cannot be handled by safer and/or cheaper substitutes. Treated the same way we treat illegal narcotics today.
Please note the frequent use of 'harm to society': someone harming him or herself in the privacy of their own home may be stupid, but if it doesn't affect others (such as children, spouses, public trust, etc) it should be just as permissible as smoking alone or drinking alone.

I'm thinking pot, hash and coke would become legal, though LSD probably would NOT be (flashbacks, birth defects, etc). Heroin may be available as a prescription drug for a 'weaning off' regimen, or it may be legalized if it is found that its destructive impact is related to its criminality (high cost + desperate junkies = crime)

Of course, I'm not holding my breath.


[root@usmc.mil /]# chmod a+x /bin/laden
Hrrm (5.00 / 3) (#65)
by mikael_j on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 05:13:08 PM EST

though LSD probably would NOT be (flashbacks, birth defects, etc).
IIRC most serious experts agree that flashbacks aren't caused by LSD itself but rather by your mind linking what is happening around you with something that you experienced while on LSD. And AFAIK the birth defect thing is like the cromosome damage scare, just plain old scare tactics (I tried to find some info on it, the only places that mentioned anything about it were anti-drug websites), once again IIRC it can cause uterine contractions but not birth defects...)

/Mikael
We give a bad name to the internet in general. - Rusty
[ Parent ]
What do you think they have now? (none / 0) (#78)
by Woundweavr on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 06:50:11 PM EST

I think you should check US law. There is already such a system in place and it is the one that makes the current drugs illegal and makes the drugs that need a prescription need a prescription. Basically what you seem to have a problem with is what drugs are on what "schedule."

Also, prohibition was supported by the population throughout. Use of alcohol dropped. However, those who decided to break the law funded Capone like gangsters which lead to lawlessness and violence. Consumption dropped dramatically. The law was repealed mostly to stop the violence and create a source of income (alcohol tax). I never understand why people for more lenient drug laws or legalization use Prohibition as an example. It just paints the legalization in a negative light, as it testifies that there'd be an increate in drug use afterwards.

[ Parent ]

Prohibition (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by pietra on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 07:37:18 PM EST

Far from causing a spike *after* its repeal, Prohibition actually increased alcohol consumption in America while it was in effect. In addition, as you alluded, Prohibition gave America the Mafia. Without the money and organization required to run rum, the Mafia would not have gained anything like their Prohibition-era prominence and power. Other avenues of illegal activity just didn't provide the cash. It's quite likely that we wouldn't have our current drug situation today if Prohibition had never happened--the distribution networks (bribery of officials, cash reserves, connections, etc.) would have never been set up to sell illegal products in the first place. Pro-legalization advocates use Prohibition as an example for two primary reasons:

1) It caused far bigger problems than the ones it was intended to fix, and

2) It didn't even come close to fixing the intended problems. Husbands still beat their wives, people still died, prostitutes still turned tricks, and people still got drunk and did dumbass things while drunk.

We also bring it up for one other excellent reason: it only took us 13 years back then to clue into the fact that Prohibition wasn't working. It's taking a lot longer now.

[ Parent ]

Repealing as an Action (none / 0) (#83)
by Woundweavr on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 09:22:15 PM EST

What did Repealing Prohibition do to cure the problems is solved?

There certainly was a marked increase of consumption. This document includes per capita consumption of alcohol from 1935-1997 in Figure 1. That statistic is about twice what it was in 1935 if you don't want to get the PDF. And I'd be interested on how the figures for Prohibition use were reached. Since no official figures are available (obviously) most use cirrhosis data and the post-Prohibition figures. Cirrhosis dropped in proportion to temperance laws and prohibition. If you go to page 16 of the previously linked report, you'll see that in 1934, consumption was .94 gallons (ethanol) per capita. This was .99 less than pre-Prohibition levels and .30 less than the use reported in the Cato Institutes report of 1929. In fact, the official reports are different than the libertarian's. Perhaps his figures are skewed for his political agenda?

As for causing problems, I don't know if that is true. Homicide rates increased yes, but it increased more from 1900-1920 both proportionately and absolutely than during Prohibition. And if repealing the structures left the Mafia and such in place, did repealing it do any good? And yes there was a drop afterwards but that was as much from catching organized crime leaders as it was making them non-criminals.

[ Parent ]

It's not so much a problem with repealing the law (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by pietra on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 10:43:50 PM EST

It's the problems caused by the negative effects of the law. Many of the problems caused by our current drug laws would not exist if drugs had always been legal. However, that doesn't mean that if we remove the anti-drug laws, we'll instantly solve the problems. We're still going to have plenty of addicts, and they're still going to have health problems, just like we still have alcoholics--which is a large problem with citing cirrhosis studies as proof of Prohibition's effects. Repealing Prohibition did not fix many of the problems that had existed prior to its passage. Neither did passing it in the first place, which is why our country got a clue and decriminalized booze. It caused more problems than it was worth. The main accomplishment of repealing Prohibition was the eradication of the primary new problem caused by its passage--the rate of organized crime's ascendance. Alcohol would not have been a moneymaker for the Mafia if it was not for Prohibition, plain and simple.

Obviously, we can't go back in time and derail our anti-drug legislation. That leaves us with two options for dealing with our current drug problems: we can either try to come up with something that works better--like revamping or repealing those laws--or we can continue to make matters worse. Decriminalizing drugs will not provide us with an instant solution, but it will give us a broad range of options to actually fix a wide variety of new and unintended problems that have arisen over the past 90 years. That's why Prohibition is relevant--we eventually managed to make matters better after passing a well-intentioned but stupid law with unforeseen consequences. Alcohol abuse still exists--it will always exist--but criminalizing alcohol clearly was not the right approach. Instead, we tried changing social mores, education, regulation, and targeted laws regarding specific behavior (drunk driving, etc.). While it's not perfect (particularly relating to, say, fraternities), it's a vast improvement over the conditions that encouraged the Prohibition movement.

[ Parent ]

Reform (none / 0) (#98)
by Woundweavr on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 01:28:25 PM EST

Truthfully I would support reform of the drug laws in the US and the penalties associated with them. However, I would not support legalization, nor would I support Harm Reduction.

Legalization would increase drug use. Both the cyclical natures of opium laws in Asia and the increase of alcohol use after Prohibition show this. I do not believe crime would decrease due to the addiction in drugs currently illegal.

Harm Reduction takes the worst of both worlds. If the drug is illegal it says breaking the law, and continuing to do so is not bad. If these drugs are legal, you have all the problems of legalisation unless the Harm Reduction carries punishment powers. But as it would be "non-judgemental" and such it would not have such powers.

Should drug users addiction's be treated? Definitely. However, help can't be forced on him or her. And as the people of the United States still supports the prohibition of these drugs, there has to be a punishment for violations of the law. The methods of the government should focus more on treatment and education than punishment. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't punish.

[ Parent ]

You're missing the point (4.00 / 1) (#99)
by pietra on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 02:46:09 PM EST

Criminalization increased our drug use in this country. Heroin was around more than a hundred years ago. It became a common recreational drug starting in the 1930s, nearly 40 years after its invention. Why? There was money in it because it was restricted. Likewise marijuana--been around longer than people, not widely used until the 1950s and 1960s. Cocaine--see heroin. LSD--invented in the 1930s, didn't gain prevalence until it was outlawed in the mid-1960s. Take a look at practically any controlled substance over the past century. You'll notice a pattern. Likewise, you might want to take a look at alcohol stats in the 18th century, if you genuinely think that repealing Prohibition made Americans drink more than ever before. When was the last time you saw someone put away a pint of hard alcohol a day? That was the national *average* circa 1750.

[ Parent ]
Sigh (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by Woundweavr on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 05:13:19 PM EST

I'll let you have the last word after this.

Heroin was outlawed in 1920 in the US "The Dangerous Drug Act" to all but prescription holders and that was quickly banned as well. If it still surprises you that a drug did not quickly catch on in 30 years, I'd check the use of Morphine/opium smoking/"Bayey heroin" and the effect the temperence movement had on their use.

Cocaine - One word. Coca-Cola.

Your alcohol figures are kind of ridiculous. You do realize that would place the average consumption at 45 gallons of alcohol a year. This places 1790 figures at 6. And actually, I have seen people put away a pint a day. My father is a bartender in South Boston. I had a roommate who drank three or four 40oz bottles of vodka a week (boy did he suck). The entire population was not a nation of alcoholics. And do you know what? Its irrelevent. Should I bring up opium use statistics from Ancient Egypt, Rome or Greece, or China in the 1400s? No because it has nothing to do with it.

Now tell me, if Prohibition is so similar to drug laws, can you tell me why a repealing of drug laws would not lead to a large increase in use much like there was an increase in alcohol use?

[ Parent ]

Lord. (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by pietra on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 06:16:19 PM EST

Heroin was outlawed in 1914, along with cocaine. By your logic, as it has been illegal to use heroin or cocaine for nearly 100 years, the current rates of heroin and cocaine use should be much smaller than the pre-criminalization rates. Instead, we have more users than ever before. Do not confuse opium users with heroin users, by the way--I suspect you're conflating the two groups in an effort to prove a dubious point.

The original recipe for Coca-Cola contained a relatively small amount of cocaine, as detailed here. To put matters into the sort of perspective you seem to need, think of it this way: cocaine is not soluble in water. You'd have to drink more pre-1903 Coke than even your typical coder on a deadline at 2 in the morning to remotely approximate the amounts used by most cocaine addicts. Two words for you: Stevie Nicks.

My alcohol figures are from a History Channel documentary on Prohibition; their material tends to be very carefully researched, if occasionally broad. I am well aware that a pint a day comes out to 45 gallons a year. A significant percentage of the US population in 1750 consisted of Irish and Scottish immigrants, my ancestors among them. Many of them, though not all, considered hard alcohol as necessary as food. In addition, do keep in mind that the figures you cite are based on sales of alcohol at a time when most people distilled their own whiskey. Those figures are not irrelevant to any discussion of Prohibition; Prohibition passed in large part because of the long history of alcohol use and abuse in this country, dating back to this time (i.e., when the US first started regulating intoxicating substances for tax purposes). Citing other substance addiction rates would not be irrelevant either; history is useless if we cannot learn from it.

Which brings me to my final point: for the fourth time, alcohol use rates did not rise after Prohibition; they rose during Prohibition, and they are lower now than they were during Prohibition. This is a result of a variety of social programs and laws which can only exist if a substance is legal, as we have no real control over illegal substances. We cannot regulate them, we cannot tax them, and we cannot wean our citizens off them if they are afraid that they will be punished if they seek treatment. All we can do is hand production of them to people who do not have anyone's best interests in mind. See the parallels between Prohibition and current legislation? I think that drug use rates might well spike dramatically after legalization, particularly substances like marijuana and Ecstacy, but I believe that we would eventually see a decrease in extremely addictive substances like heroin and cocaine, as they tend to be rather hard to live on, even with a steady cheap supply. Even if they didn't, we would be able to ensure a certain level of purity (getting rid of the overdose problems), implement health legislation to help deal with the problems caused by these addictions (needle exchanges, hepatitis C screenings, infected injection sites, septum damage, etc.), and encourage people to kick their habits in ways that actually work, as opposed to shoving them in jail where they usually manage to maintain their habits. The net result would be a healthier population.

Either that, or we can let the nastiest and most vicious people in the world continue to make exponentially higher profits off of an exponentially higher number of people, while we freak out and scream about morals so much that we won't give morphine to terminally ill cancer patients.

[ Parent ]

Lies, damn lies... (3.00 / 1) (#103)
by Woundweavr on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 07:56:12 PM EST

Ok I lied, one more responce since you are going to post things clearly untrue. This one, really will be the last one, you can say all the untruths you want.

Heroin - You seem to have missed the point. First, the Harrison Act (primary sources...) made small scale sale of the opiates still legal OTC, and at large scale by prescription; the Dangerous Drug Act of 1920 made heroin illegal. If a drug is invented 20 years could it be that in a radio-less, airplane-less world, the drug had not yet "caught on"? And heroin and other opiates act in the same way, with only a difference in degree. In fact, after the Harrison Act, which outlawed morphine use, most morphine addicts converted to heroin after the passing of the Harrison Act.

Cocaine - an urban legend website that doesn't specify an amount is not the most reliable source. The typical serving of Coca-Cola in 1903 contained 60mg of cocaine. Intravenous cocaine use it usually between .1 and .25 g and 1 gram makes about 30-40 snorting lines.

And finally...what!? By your own numbers, alcohol consumption has increased. Check the report you linked to, then check the modern figures I linked to. And it has been higher than the numbers you listed since Prohibition, generally about 2x what it was in Prohibition. Furthermore, even in the 25-40% of the population that matures out of heroin addiction, the average time needed to do so is over 10 years. In the meantime, individuals who become addicted generally become pretty damn useless whether you're talking about cocaine, meth, crack, heroin or whatever. If not provided with drugs for free, you'll get the type of situations that exist amongst drug users today. If given away free, you don't discourage drug use at all and cost the tax payer billions.

[ Parent ]

Tax. (4.00 / 1) (#109)
by RofGilead on Sat Apr 27, 2002 at 03:52:14 PM EST

You mention drug users costing taxpayers millions.

The alcohol and tobacco industry, regulated by the government, provides millions in taxes.

Wouldn't it make sense to have a regulated, TAXABLE, industry instead of a dangerous underground market?

You want to save lives? Give addicts clean needles. Give ecstacy users pure pills. Give marijuana users pot that doesn't have mexican pesticides on it (or coke!).

We have over 2000000 people behind bars. That's the highest per-capita of the world. Non-violent criminals make up the largest percent of that figure.

Stop being so goddamn cold. For all your facts and figures, about the numbers of drug users, the important figures are: how many people are addicted, how many people are dying, how many people are sick, and what the levels of crime are.

If you looked at THOSE figures, you WOULD see that alcohol prohibition was significantly worse than regulation, and that the larger prohibition of modern times is significantly worse than a regulated market.

Goddamn, atleast your whiny, drug fearing ass could benefit from the taxes.


-= RofGilead =-

---
Remember, you're unique, just like everyone else. -BlueOregon
[ Parent ]
And statistics (none / 0) (#112)
by pietra on Sun Apr 28, 2002 at 12:17:34 AM EST

Have you ever considered going into government work? Seriously. You've got a real knack for willfully misinterpreting statistics and missing the big picture. I think Asa Hutchinson needs you.

[ Parent ]
Your right (none / 0) (#121)
by BLU ICE on Sat May 04, 2002 at 11:52:29 AM EST

Prohibition actually increased alcohol consumption in America while it was in effect.

My great uncle never drank in his life. But during the prohibition, he began brewing beer in his bathtub.

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

Look at motives behind prohibitions (4.54 / 11) (#71)
by pavlos on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 05:54:22 PM EST

I agree that harm reduction is the sensible policy and that the motives of "war on drugs" policies are something other than 100% genuine desire to improve health. But what are the likely motives of such policies? I can see the following likely motives:

Prejeudice
A fear that people who get high are strange/antisocial/capable of doing things you'd rather they didn't. I would place parent's desire to control their children's access to pleasure (such as they do also when it comes to sex) in this category too. Prejeudice does not require that drugs are harmful at all, just that they work, and give you a visibly altered state of consciousness.

Prejeudice is not a policy-making entity, but it is easy to see how even a moderate amount of anti-drug prejeudice can yield a rampant "war on drugs" policy. For example substitute "black people" with "drugs" and you've got a very effective and polictically acceptable (for now) scapegoat through which to grab all the reactionary vote.

Economic Pressure
Drugs are very cheap to make. They are expensive to buy, but only because they are illegal. If they were legal, they would be very cheap to buy too. As such, they would be fantastically more efficient at making people happy than other goods, such as fast cars, x-boxes, movies, and restaurant meals. A widespread (and healthy) level of recrational drug consumption would be very bad news for our consumption-dependent economies. Again, this motive doesn't require that drugs are harmful.

A similar-sounding but actually quite different problem was articulated in the Victorian period. Namely, it was argued that excessive drinking would harm the efficiency of workers and hence the economy. The opposite is true today. Nothing much would break if the efficiency of workers was reduced a bit, since there is already much unemployment, but all hell would break loose if people suddenly did not feel compelled to work their lives off in order to consume material goods.

Corruption
Prohibition of any highly desirable thing invariably results in a lucrative and corrupt black market for it. This can be seen today for drugs, sex services, children for adoption, ancient artefacts, stolen art, and passage to industrialized countries. The stiffer the penalties for trafficking, the higher the premium in the black market, and also the higher the violence and other crime that accommodates it.

While the black market and associated crime make fantastic news fodder and material for standing on higher moral ground on, direct involvment in such corruption may be a motive behing "war on drugs" policymakers. Junkies sometimes accuse police of selling drugs, but I have no idea if that is widespread or not. More likely, drug war policymakers want to maintain the financial justification for their war machine, just as conventional war policymakers want to maintain their conventional war machines at the expense of peace.

Genuine motives
For completeness, I would like to list what I see as genuine (i.e. well-meaning) motives for drug prohibition. These are:

  1. Preventing violent crime.
  2. Improving general health.
  3. Saving acute users from ruining their lives.
Personally, I think that the ranking of motives in politician's minds is as it appears on the paragraphs above, possibly with economic pressure above prejeudice depending on their sophistication. I also imagine they can clearly see that crime and general health issues would all but evaporate with legalization, and that they really care very little, if at all, about the serious problems facing acute users. Acute users' issues dominate "debate" because they are interesting and atypical cases and this is safe material for "politics", just as celebrities dominate the "news".

That is what I think, make your own mind up.

Pavlos

Harm reduction? Close the schools. (4.20 / 10) (#73)
by wytcld on Thu Apr 25, 2002 at 06:15:41 PM EST

If we really cared about wasting children's minds, we'd shut down the mind-numbing, creativity-destroying public (and most private and religious) schools in America. Children may not have an innate urge for holy intoxication (for the contrary view see Andrew Weil's first best seller, The Natural Mind), but they have a natural desire to experience a vivid and real world, and to feel deeply for life. Because schools (and most of the media) work to frustrate that urge (out of the notion that it is necessary to break the spirits of the children to have compliant workers) the children seek at least temporary cures for the damage done to their souls. Holy intoxicants, from tobacco to alcohol to grass to the psychedelics, can be harsh medicines, but we must consider the disease, and the true threat its rot presents both to civilization and the future of the Earth.

Long term, the more extreme drugs may not be needed, and the civilization may be maintainable with a daily glass of wine and a Saturday joint. Short term, trying to cure the "problem" of drugs is going after the cure rather than the disease. Yes, the cure itself has negative consequences; so to most all of our cures for serious diseases. Yet are we advocating shutting down organized medicine?

Nonsense (2.33 / 3) (#95)
by WildDonkey on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 10:44:21 AM EST

If we really cared about wasting children's minds, we'd shut down the mind-numbing, creativity-destroying public (and most private and religious) schools in America.

Total nonsense.

Btw, everyone who i've ever known who smoked or drank underage did so because of:

a) They wanted that image
b) Peer pressure

It had nothing at all to do with seeking a release for wildly creative minds that were being stifled. If it did then they'd have been getting straight A's in class anyway, as it was straight F's would be more usual. That type of behaviour is (usually) dropout behaviour. They were the same ones who had trouble reading in primary school, but then again I suppose you would consider learning to read as "mind-numbing, creativity-destroying" and that their preferred activities of trying to look up a girls skirt by dropping an eraser on the floor is extremely creative and insightful. HAH.

[ Parent ]
F students and drop-outs (none / 0) (#105)
by MindMesh on Sat Apr 27, 2002 at 09:24:27 AM EST

are not necessarily unintelligent. There is a whole <a HREF="http://asfar.org/zine/13th/cover.html"> host of successful people</a> who never finished high school. School seems to work 'ok' for many people but for others it is soul crushing or simply not the best option. Individuals learn differently. Systems have problems. A major one in my opinion is that they dehumanize people by treating them like numbers. <a HREF="http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ASFARSLC/message/293"> Something I wrote this morning</a> about the German school massacre goes into this more.

[ Parent ]
That would be me as well... (none / 0) (#106)
by dipipanone on Sat Apr 27, 2002 at 11:16:48 AM EST

I didn't complete secondary school (the UK equivalent of high school) primarily because I felt that the material they were teaching was irrelevant to my interests, and the rules and regulations were arbitrary and incoherent. I also wasn't prepared to submit to being beaten for infractions of those rules. As a result, I regularly failed courses and dropped out to avoid a formal expulsion.

When I went to University (college) in my early 30's, I was able to 'matriculate' to gain admission (ie, write an essay that served in place of prior qualifications, like O and A levels.)

I graduated with a first and was awarded one of five national postgrad studentships in my field, which funded my postgrad studies.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Successful people. (none / 0) (#107)
by WildDonkey on Sat Apr 27, 2002 at 02:39:06 PM EST

I can't help but notice that most of these successful people listed are entertainers, media or sports people. Considering the number of people working in a restaurant/whatever looking for a big break in their acting/sport career because they don't have the education to get a better job, I do not think this is a very good argument in favour of saying that "great" people regularly drop out of school. In fact, being famous+rich after dropping out of school is more a matter of luck than anything else. Much like buying a lottery ticket, not really the kind of decision most rational people would make whether or not they liked school.

Furthermore, contrary to what is written in the article, Einstein did not leave school to study on his own. He performed very well in school. A straight A's student more or less.

Aside from the factual inaccuracies of the article there are several points which while earnestly presented are ridiculous. I can't be bothered to go into them, but essentially it seems to imply that getting an education when so many other people are getting an education makes it worth less. What a joke.

If someone is really not bright enough to pass exams then they shouldnt be in school. This does not make them less of a valuable human being in whatever contribution they make to society with their lives. Trying to suggest that dropping out of school is worthwhile when you have the intelligence to get an education is way off though. Only someone with real ignorance would suggest that.

[ Parent ]
Of course (none / 0) (#119)
by Happy Monkey on Wed May 01, 2002 at 12:52:22 PM EST

I can't help but notice that most of these successful people listed are entertainers, media or sports people.

Most names listed in any list like that will be entertainers, media, or sports people. Entertainers, media, and sports people are the vast majority of the people with recognizable names.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Why drugs are illegal (1.58 / 12) (#89)
by estimate on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 05:08:07 AM EST

The reason drugs are illegal is that they cause _more_ harm than alcohol and tobacco. For example, when someone does of an alcohol overdose, they are completely fine until they die. They are not amotivational, they are not brain-dead, they are not fucked up. You can drink with your friends and be socal (also known as social drinking) but marijuana, mushrooms etc. are inherently anti-social because it is impossible to consume them without getting high. Eg I can drink a beer or two while watching sport on TV, whereas if it was a joint I would get hideously stoned and exhibit anti-social tendencies. Also people point out that there are less deaths from alcohol than E, etc. however look at how many people drink -vs- take X. I know only one person who's taken a pill (and he's real fucked up) but all my friends drink (many socially) and they are all perfectly normal members of society. Why do all stoners eventually degrade into daily-smoking, anti-social, social outcast, rejected "weirdo" types? Because marijuana is dangerous, whereas alcohol has been part of society for a long time, and even though it has its downsides, it is clearly safer than either alcohol or tobacco.

not true (3.50 / 4) (#90)
by Koo on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 05:44:30 AM EST

>For example, when someone does of an alcohol
>overdose, they are completely fine until they die

You have never seen an alcoholic did you?

>whereas if it was a joint I would get hideously
>stoned and exhibit anti-social tendencies

What are these "anti-social tendencies". Dressing "weirdly"? Listening to "weird" music?

[ Parent ]
Point-by-point (4.50 / 8) (#102)
by DJBongHit on Fri Apr 26, 2002 at 07:16:58 PM EST

The reason drugs are illegal is that they cause _more_ harm than alcohol and tobacco.

Close, but backwards. The reason drugs cause more harm than alcohol and tobacco is because they are illegal.

For example, when someone does of an alcohol overdose, they are completely fine until they die. They are not amotivational, they are not brain-dead, they are not fucked up.

Ever met an alcoholic? I wouldn't describe them as "completely fine."

ou can drink with your friends and be socal (also known as social drinking) but marijuana, mushrooms etc. are inherently anti-social because it is impossible to consume them without getting high.

You also get "high" from alcohol, except that we have a special word for it - "drunk." And I take exception to your claim that marijuana and mushrooms are inherently anti-social activities. In fact, the exact opposite is true - marijuana (if you have the right kind) is great for social get-togethers, because it loosens people up without making them drunk and sloshy. As for mushrooms, they are an inherently social drug, because doing them alone can be quite dangerous, and can mess with your head.

Eg I can drink a beer or two while watching sport on TV, whereas if it was a joint I would get hideously stoned and exhibit anti-social tendencies.

True, you can drink beer while watching sports on tv, but some people might consider sitting around, drinking, and watching tv an "anti-social activity."

Also people point out that there are less deaths from alcohol than E, etc. however look at how many people drink -vs- take X.

Try looking at this from a different point of view - how many people died from alcohol during prohibition compared to today? You know, when people were passing off wood alcohol as grain alcohol, and people went blind and died? Seems kinda like today, when people pass off much more dangerous drugs as X or whatever, doesn't it? You never hear of people dying from MDMA (which is supposed to be the active ingredient in ecstacy), you hear of people dying from adulterants in pills which they weren't expecting.

I know only one person who's taken a pill (and he's real fucked up)

Sample size: 1. Good study you've got yourself there. I know plenty of people who do X, and while I don't touch the stuff myself, they are all perfectly fine, intelligent people. I also know plenty of alcoholics, and I'm fucking glad I'm not in their shoes.

Why do all stoners eventually degrade into daily-smoking, anti-social, social outcast, rejected "weirdo" types?

I've been smoking weed heavily for 5 years, and I'm not an "anti-social, social outcast, rejected wierdo type." I know people who have been smoking for decades, and they are all upstanding citizens with white-collar jobs and families. I think you're making the mistaken assumption that the only people who smoke weed are those who are visibly burnt out.

Because marijuana is dangerous, whereas alcohol has been part of society for a long time

Marijuana has been a part of human society for longer than alcohol, dude. Cannabis, in fact, was the first plant cultivated by humans.

alcohol has been part of society for a long time, and even though it has its downsides, it is clearly safer than either alcohol or tobacco.

I see.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
I work at a homeless shelter (none / 0) (#120)
by BLU ICE on Sat May 04, 2002 at 11:23:58 AM EST

There are tons of alcoholics there. They are completely messed up. No one is there because of marijuana. Marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol. I don't know why it is illeagal. Pot only causes memory problems if you smoke too much, and they go away after you quit. The study in the 70's about pot causing brain damage is flawed. It was a couple rats in a smoke filled room quite a bit of the time with no control group.

Some people call pot a "gateway drug". It is only a gateway drug because it is illeagal.

On the other hand, if you want to kill brain cells, go with alcohol. It can mess you up good. Marijuana doesn't cause serious health problems. Alcohol does.

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

Harm Reduction: the basis for rational drug policy | 122 comments (91 topical, 31 editorial, 0 hidden)
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