Drug Policy

First a short personal background to explain my view on drugs.

I grew up being told that drugs are bad and that one puff on a joint was enough to give you a psychosis or make you an addict. Had my first bottle of wine at 14, then at 16 I tried some pot (thanks to an older girlfriend). Found out that I didn’t get a psychosis, nor did I get addicted. But I did like it and frankly thought it seemed like a better drug than alcohol. Of course this made me question (as in: assume it was lies) the information I’d been given in school and in general by society.

A few years back my position on drugs would have been something like: Cannabis is probably safer than alcohol, but ‘heavy’ drugs like heroin, amphetamine and LSD are really dangerous and should be avoided. And you can die from extacy. The best policy would probably be to legalize cannabis but keep everything else illegal.

Then I read an article in the lancet called Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse, where I found out I was wrong about a lot of stuff. For example, cocaine which I thought wasn’t all that harmful (after all, celebs do it) was actually the most dangerous drug after heroin (I knew heroin was bad). And amphetamine, LSD and extacy is actually less dangerous than alcohol. Big upset, have to change my mind again.

So at this point I am thinking OK, maybe we should look into decriminalizing some recreational drugs other than cannabis, and maybe we should even try to get people to smoke pot or do extacy rather than drink. Especially since alcohol is the largest cause of death for men 15-64 and is involved in pretty much every violent crime. But prohibition needs to be in place against drugs like heroin and cocain at the very least.

And now after reading Schlossers book Reefer Madness I was doing some research and find out that in 2001 Portugal, in response to a growing drug problem took decisive action, and decriminalized the whole shebang. Cite Cite Cite Cite

Shorty summary of Portugals policy and result:

Portugal decriminalized ALL drug usein 2001 (yes, that includes heroin) and started handing out clean needles and supplying care and rehabilitation instead of jailtime. The laws regarding sale and production of narcotics were left unchanged. The narcotics problem was viewed as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue.

The result was a reduction in over dose deaths (about 30%), massive reduction in HIV infections (~75%) and (most surprising) a general decrease in drug use. So less death, less disease AND less drug use. So… is there actually a case against decriminalizing?

The case for legalizing is clear and obvious, but we have to fight the myths we have been taught for many years. Most people can not do that. Politicians can not get elected on that platform, so we will continue along the wrong path for a long time.

Having known tweekers, I have a hard time believing that Crystal Meth is not very harmful. Ecstacy is hardly dangerous at all, no more than alcohol certainly. With LSD you run the chance of going insane, but it’s statistically unlikely.

I don’t think that Crystal Meth is ‘less’ dangerous than heroin. I know people who survived heroin addiction better and healthier than those who survived meth addiction.

As for Cocaine being so horribly dangerous, the problem here is a sociological one. As long as it’s illegal Mexico will be a narco-state run by drug traffickers.

I think part of the problem is that older folks still believe all the anti-drug propaganda that was fed to them for decades, and unfortunately, they’re the ones who vote. Last Christmas we were over at my grandparents and it turns out one of their friends was caught for growing/selling weed. My grandma kept saying how he must have been addicted and that its not possible to stop smoking marijuana cold turkey.

Almost every drug “expert” I have ever heard (from both MD’s specializing in Addiction Medicine to random guys I have met in a bar that seem to be experts in the buying, selling and consuming of illicit drugs) have said that crystal meth is more damaging, more addicitve and will more quickly to lead to ruin than anything else around, up to and including I.V. heroin use…

That’s a terrible study. By defining “harm” to include such parameters as “Intensity of Pleasure,” “Intoxication,” and “Social Harm,” they’ve completely eliminated any possibility of judging the relative risks of decriminalization. Psychological and physical dependence are also questionable parameters that they use.

Heroin, for example, is very addictive, and by these criteria is the most dangerous drug out there. Yet many studies and medical professionals have found that it produces little physiological harm – it’s dangerous primarily because it’s illegal.

I have recommended, and will continue to recommend, “Licit and Illicit Drugs” by Edward Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports Magazine. It’s old, and outdated in parts (published in 1972), but it’s still one of the most clearheaded and fearless publications I’ve ever seen on the issue.

Nametag Heroin is also dangerous because addicts tend to not take care of themselves, and also, the risk of overdose is very high considering that tolerance kicks in very quickly. It just takes more and more and more and more to get the same high. Also, something that happened to a friend of mine and I think is kind of common is addicts quitting for a while, their tolerance that went up quickly also goes down quickly, and they think they can handle more than they can and it kills them. (Though I think my friend might have killed himself) I was talking to him online while he did it, and he was talking like he knew what was up, which can be interpreted two ways. Either, “I know what I can handle and I’m taking too much on purpose.”, or “I know how much I can handle.”, and he really didn’t because it was a few weeks since he’d last had morphine. He took two really high dose Fentanyl patches, so I kind of tend to lean toward the former at this point.

It’s amphetamine and not crystal meth that is analysed in the study. Not sure how different they are, but I view amphetamine more as a performance enhancer than a recreational drug.

I think it is pretty brilliant to have “Intensity of pleasure” and “Intoxication” as parameters in the study. When politicians talk about “psychological dependendce” for drugs that don’t cause physical dependence, what they’re really saying is “This drug is fun, so people want to do it again”. Kind of like how masturbating or watching good comedies are psychologically addictive. For some reason, the avoidance of pain is morally OK but the pursuit of pleasure isn’t.

I’ve never heard of a drug called, “amphetamine” being in common usage. I’ve heard of it as a class of drugs, which contains both Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth) which are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of danger. I’ve heard of amphetamines being used as stimulants medically, but it’s not a very relevant drug to study as it’s not common on the street.

Which is the opposite of how it should be. The avoidance of pain is one of the most morally malignant aspects of our society. Basically, what they are talking about is a kind of even keel zombie state as the ideal. Pain is our warning mechanism that the body is taking damage. We shouldn’t avoid pain, we should seek to mitigate its cause. Whereas seeking pleasure should be done in a good an healthy way. If a drug isn’t terrible for you then there isn’t a problem seeking pleasure.

Not particularly pleasurable though. Which is one of the reasons it hasn’t become particularly wide-spread and popular.

In struggling what to do about recreational drugs, we frequently ask the wrong question: “How dangerous are these drugs?” This is the wrong question, like asking “How dangerous is a knife?”

The questions we should be asking are:

  1. Does criminalizing recreational drugs lead to a substantial reduction in their use?

  2. What is the total cost of that criminalization? Here we have to add up all of the costs from the War on Drugs: anti-smuggling enforcement, gang activity, crimes committed to get money, treatment cost for victims of drug-related crimes, law enforcement, imprisonment, legal prosecution costs, criminal rehabilitation costs, societal cost for groups and neighborhoods devastated by imprisonment of members, lost opportunity for folks imprisoned on drug charges, societal costs for families whose support members have been imprisoned on drug charges…the list goes on and on and on.

  3. What would be the effect of taking all that money and spending it somewhere else?

Now #3 is not going to happen. The vested interest of all of those involved in the war on drugs is way too high. The knee-jerk fear that legalizing drugs will cause some sort of huge increase in addicts is way too high.

But I submit those are the questions we should be asking.

Chief Pedant

  1. How much does criminalization contribute to the rise in power of distribution cartels?

Hah, well, let’s just say that my experience differs from yours. Amphetamines are pretty common around here as a recreational drug - and they have been for at least 15 years and probably a lot longer; it’s the “working man’s drug” - cheap, effective and it combines well with alcohol and pot. MDMA is also relatively common but meth is not, as far as I can tell.

To the OP: there seems to be no good reason to keep most drugs illegal. Also, some of the drugs that are currently completely legal and accepted - alcohol especially - are more dangerous than many currently illegal ones.

Still, the level of dangerously alcoholics is pretty low. What this means - IMHO - is that people take the drugs that they like and can get, and most people don’t really take it too far even if they can get the risky stuff. Sure you might get hammered some times, but you’re not falling down drunk every afternoon. The risk is relatively minimal. We do not need to put people in jail just because they’re addicted or provide the means to change your mind.

As for myself, I’ve used quite a lot of different drugs, legal and otherwise, but the only one I really wish I hadn’t done is tobacco. Smoking is a pretty filthy and dangerous habit but it’s damn hard to quit. Weed is completely easy to quit in comparison.

My experience with drugs is quite positive overall, and I really would recommend people to try some, especially the “psychedelics” - mushrooms will not necessarily make you smart or creative, but they do provide a very interesting alternative way of thinking. Interesting and - in my experience - useful for getting to grips with various mental blocks. Sometimes shaking your brain and seeing what falls out is a good thing, and there is no need to pretend that we all need to stay sober all the time.

Oh, and also: :slight_smile:

What people need most is reliable information. If you know XTC can cause you to dehydrate to a dangerous level, it’s easy to deal with that: just drink more water and you’ll be fine. Once you know that it’ll enhance your emotions, you can deal with that even if you’re scared. If on the other hand, you’re told that it’ll drive you insane, you’ll freak the fuck out once it hits. Not a good thing, and potentially dangerous too.

Interesting. It’s never crossed my path.

I read that for 1 in 11, drugs is a life sentence. Their lives are absolutely changed by doing them. I have a friend that tried coke a few times. Then that was all he wanted to do. He got to where he lost his friends, home ,truck, boat and car. He sold all his stocks and was hanging around with people who would scare you to just casually run into. He was in neighborhoods that would scare the cops to go into.
I know other yuppies who take coke if they stayed up too late just to kick start their day. They have controlled it for decades. But you do not know which one you will be. It could change everything.

I don’t think that drug use can be encapsulated by such a pithy statistic. Is that a statistic for coke or what?

LSD certainly changed my life, and took me down a queer road, and whether that is a good or a bad thing is open to interpretation, but I don’t know what this 1/11 statistic you refer to even means. Even amongst cokeheads your friend sounds like an extreme case.

I look at it as a liberty issue. Are many drugs harmful? Sure. But does society have a right to tell people not to harm themselves? In my opinion, no. I’d decriminalize all drugs for adults. If you want to consume caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, sucrose, heroin, and crystal meth, go ahead.

I’d add another question to Chief Pedant’s list: Is the solution worse than the problem?

Marijuana can screw up your life. But imprisonment can screw up your life too and in most cases a lot worse than marijuana would have.

First of all, I don’t buy your 1 in 11 statistic. But that’s beside the point. What is relevant is that even though coke was illegal, it didn’t help your friend - he still ruined his life. I would hazard that the illegality actively prevented your friend from finding a good way of dealing with his problem.

I’ve done coke a few times, it’s not that big of a deal to me, but I can see that it may really hurt some people. But throwing everyone who uses or sells coke in jail seems to me to be stupid and counter-productive.