Thursday, January 21, 2010

Drug war gets even weirder...

How come we never read newspaper allegations about paraplegics with guns and bulletproof vests being arrested in a hospital for selling beer and whiskey? Just a thought.


  1. LEAP, this is unrelated to this particular blog post, but I was recently unable to come up with a counter-argument to "heroin would be more dangerous in the regulated market than where it is in criminal hands." In other words, my friend argued that heroin shouldn't be legal because the cost to society would be greater than it is now. If legal and regulated, anyone could get their hands on heroin and the drug can kill someone in one dose.

    I need a counter to this. Can you help me out?

  2. If it can kill in one dose that can happen regardless of legal status.

    The false meme is that unfettered access will make more people use. After all, we're all just heroin addicts in waiting, no? Well anyway, google "rat park"+heroin. You're looking for a 1974 study where they gave a bunch of rats unfettered access to all the heroin their little hearts could desire. They also provided a 'free range' environment that provided them with all their needs and kept them engaged in life. In the end, only a small % of the rats chose to be heroin addicts.

  3. Happily, Bear. There are several points:

    (1) He argues that because heroin can kill, it is safer in criminal hands than under the control of a regulated business. Machine guns can kill too, so by his logic, machine guns should also be reserved for "criminal hands". How safe does that sound?

    (2) Unless you are already a long term heavy drinker with a high tolerance, you can -- right now, today -- get your hands on one dose of alcohol that will kill you. It doesn't cost much, either. How much for 26 ounces of cheap over-proof rum, 40 bucks maybe? If I drink that in an hour or two, I'm dead. So anyone CAN kill themselves with alcohol right now -- yet most of them don't, because they don't want to be dead. The same goes for heroin, or for any one of 20 poisonous substances that we all have in our kitchens and garages today, right now.

    (3) His argument depends on believing that there are people (a LOT of people) who have not tried heroin, but who will try it when and if it becomes legal. Ask him to show you one. Just ONE. Somewhere. ANYwhere. But wish him luck; he will need it.

  4. Steve, as to 1, his argument would ask me whether we want to legalize all weapons (including chemical, biological and nuclear bombs). To let those weapons fall into the hands of the general public.

    But thanks, both of you, for the other two arguments. I'll put them into play.

  5. My example was bad, because machine guns are used for actual crimes with a victim, while the so-called "crime" in the case of heroin is a consensual business transaction. Nobody asks to be shot with a machine gun and pays for the privilege, but some people do ask for heroin and pay for it. This difference makes the machine gun example irrelevant.

    A better point is this: What is his justification for thinking that, if a substance is inherently dangerous, then it will be made safer by letting CRIMINALS control it? The argument that fewer people will use it if criminals control it is simply wrong; we have already proved that. Once that is gone, how can he support his position?

    Note also that we tried letting criminal control a dangerous substance before, in the 1920s. We all know how well that worked.

    Two more points. First, when Switzerland began providing government-supplied heroin to addicts in Zurich, heroin usage and addiction went DOWN, not up. This surprises a lot of people. Why did it happen? Probably because the addicts no longer had to devote every minute of their lives to scraping up money to pay black market prices, and so they started building a life OUTSIDE of heroin. It is much easier to give up an addiction when you have other things to be interested in.

    Second, the danger of death from heroin is mostly an effect of the criminal supply chain. Addicts who overdose don't do it because they are trying to get even higher. They do it because they think they are injecting (for example) 10% heroin, when in fact it is 50%. This happens because the criminals, when they cut the heroin with something else, don't give a damn about mixing it carefully. When the heroin is supplied legally and measured correctly, as in Switzerland, overdoses don't happen.

  6. Bear: There are going to be people that we're unable to convince no matter how well we can prove the failure of the drug war. Don't let it get to you.
    If I were in your position, after exhausting all resources, I'd finally say to the friend, Let's at least give it a try and after two years time reevaluate what is and is not happening, because doing nothing is no longer an option.
    Or something to that effect.
    Here's a web site that may interest some here:

    The Sentencing Project - Research and Advocacy for Reform

  7. His reply was too long so I friended you on Facebook and messaged his reply to you, Steve. Thanks again!

  8. Bear,

    The first problem with your question is that it involves a pain medicine diacetylmorphine, to be correct. "Heroin" is a drug warriors creation. It, really, does not even qualify for the, class one, status it receives! Now call the drug morphine and you will realize that there is no difference in the "legal" opiates available to treat pain patients, today. Now look at all of the opiates and think of the fact that they are all legal, except heroin. (I know of no studies that compare the different death rates among types of drugs. That would be helpful in determining whether or not the "control" works with the other drugs.)

    Irresponsible behavior of both the addict and the supplier result in the overdose. Regulated control will make the dose known and easier to control. Fewer overdoses will occur when someone is reckless enough to put the crap in their veins. Regulation and legalization would also result in Naloxone being distributed, too. In a safer world, there will be fewer fatal drug overdoses. Right now, you can't even call in an overdose, because the legal implications are such that no one wants to take the risk of being arrested on drug charges!

    And in a regulated environment, the addicts would be offered treatment and an alternative to the lifestyle they are living. That is why the Swiss had success. They found that most heroin addiction started with other heroin addicts encouraging its use. The regulated system breaks down those links in their little drug society and allows for more treatment and fewer new addicts.

    Also, one may argue that keeping alcohol the way it is, regulated and controlled, encourages more people to drink it. But, that is just not true. There is not 100% alcohol consumption in our society. You can bet there will not be 100% cannabis use, let alone think that everybody and his brother will jump to use Heroin. LEAP did a mini-poll and found that about 1% of the population in our country is crazy enough to use the hard drugs and endanger themselves.

    Lastly, being in criminal hands means the children are at risk. Dealers don't card. The "cheese deaths" in Texas are a prime example. Regulate it and the children will lose their drug suppliers. It will save lives. It is easier for kids to get drugs than it is for them to get cigarettes or alcohol. If regulated, the youth of the country will be cut off, at the supplier.

    The people that fear that drug use will go up because "anybody can get their hands on it" is exhibiting a fearmongers stance, when he has no SOUND REASON with which to argue. Regulating it would actually get it out of the hands of the kids. Your friend's rational seems flawed, from the get go.

    And, considering the present system of throwing drug addicts in jail, there would be fewer people imprisoned in our country that has turned into the incarceration nation! How much destruction has that policy wrought on our nation? Putting people in prison has only enriched the prison system and its employees while offering no alternative to sick people (addicts). What kind of costs have been incurred because we choose to imprison sick people? It is a waste of money that could be put to better use.

    And, finally, let me reiterate, people will not choose to risk their lives as much as the person, with the flippant comment, would have us think. They "fear" something will happen, when Portugal, the Dutch, and the Swiss have demonstrated that just the opposite is true. He is, in the end, using emotion to win his argument. There is no science that would back him up on his line of thinking.

  9. Excellent post, Michael. Thanks!

    I'll just add one point which most people don't know: It wasn't the drug warriors who called diacetylmorphine "heroin": It was the drug company which invented the compound. Diacetylmorphine was believed to be a way to treat morphine addiction, which was a very well known problem around the turn of the century -- the play Long Day's Journey Into Night, for example, is centred on a morphine addict. Curing morphine addiction was seen as a heroic thing to do. And so the inventor, which I think was Bayer, called the drug "hero-in".

  10. Steve, did you get his reply?

  11. I sent my comments on his reply to you on Facebook. Did you get them?

  12. Too bad copy and paste can't be done here, I'd love to read what's going on with the FB stuff Bear. Can you drag and post it here?

    Michael wrote concrete information. But I gotta say, you're probably wasting your time.


  13. I may be posting the discussion on the LEAP forums. Stay tuned.


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