Showing posts with label drugs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drugs. Show all posts

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The War on Drugs is a FAILURE

NOTE: This is a bit of a follow up of sorts, to THIS blog post from June. They are related, so it might be in your best interest to read that as well, if you wish.

So, I thought I'd talk about a war that really pisses me off, and also really saddens me, both because of how pointless and ineffective it is. The war to which I am referring is the so called “War on Drugs” that America has waged against its own populace. Of course, other countries have joined in on this thing, but America is the driving idiotic force. Now, I hate all wars, ideologically, but I do (regretfully) concur that, to some degree, and in some instances, war is, I suppose, justified (man I hate saying that!).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Arguments Against The Legalization of Drugs (Updated With Videos)

There are a few main arguments employed by individuals who are against the legalization (or for the continued ban) of recreational drugs (most popularly, marijuana) that I would like to address. The arguments I am going to tackle are as follows:


  • Drugs are bad, m'kay.
  • There is potential for negative societal effects, in terms of the economy and health care.
  • If we legalize them, kids will use them!
  • Drugs=crime

 I will tackle these one at a time.

Drugs are bad, m'kay.

This claim is a vague, and generalized umbrella claim that basically blankets an entire group of substances under one moniker without actually qualifying and quantifying the claim. Qualifying in the sense that you must take such a blanket statement and break it down. For one thing, you must specify the drug, as surely not all drugs are equally, right? Then, you have the task of explaining just what you mean by 'bad' in the first place. In the interest of being fair, and avoiding being facetious, I will say that we basically understand that the claim is that recreational drug use has health consequences for the user. And I accept that. You'd be silly not to. But there are several problems with this, when it's used as an argument for continued bans on these substances.

  • Not all drugs are equal in terms of potential negative health consequences. The claims MUST be separated and applied to the specific drugs. You cannot advance this argument as a blanket statement. It's not fair and it's certainly not accurate to do so, and we want our laws put into effect based on accurate information rather than propaganda, don't we?

  • The study of these drugs is limited, mostly due to the fact that they are illegal. I am not saying we have no empirical analysis of the health effects of specific drugs available to us; we do. But we certainly have an incomplete, and quite often biased, picture of the potential effects. This can also be applied to the positive effects. One thing that many anti-drug (in terms of legality) advocates fail to mention, or realize, is that some of these drugs have health benefits. And the extent of these is also not fully known, due to the impediments encountered when trying to study these substances.

  • Have we ever considered the fact that we could always try to re-engineer (is that the proper term?) these drugs to change their profile and decrease their harmful effects? Just because drug X can bring consequence Y doesn't mean that, given the chance to do so, the intelligent and industrious chemists and other experts could not work to improve the drug so that drug X no longer has the potential (or certainty) to saddle one with consequence Y.

  •  A lot of the claims of ill effects are skewed. Much of them are based upon anecdotal evidence, subjective assessments, poor usage of statistics, etc. Take for example, the following statistic:
    On the subject of Marijuana the DEA has said that marijuana is far more powerful than it used to be. In 2000, there were six times as many emergency room mentions of marijuana use as there were in 1990.
    So they are purporting that, based on this, marijuana is more powerful than it used to be, and consequently, is causing more emergency room visits. Problem is, that's NOT what that statistic says, at all. That's an erroneous and disingenuous conclusion. If not, at the very least, it's fair to say that they are drawing a causal link where there is not one, at least not one made clear by the data provided. See, the statistic was that “in 2000, there were six times as many emergency room mentions of marijuana use as there were in 1990.” Mentions. It does NOT say that there were 6 times as many marijuana related emergency room visits. All they are saying that 6 times the amount of people disclosed that they had used/use marijuana.


  • There are many possible explanations for this. It's quite possible that people are more willing to disclose their usage than they used to be. Changing political and social climates, and all that. Or maybe it's just a statistical anomaly. Notice that they did NOT say something to the effect of “Hospital visits due to marijuana use have been steadily increasing, year after year, since 1990. So for all we know, the number was at 1990 levels in 1999 or 2001. Or this year. And believe me, this is probably accurate, because if it was a major trend as opposed to an anomaly, they'd have mentioned that. However, even if I am wrong, and someone can provide data that shows this increase is noticed year after year, they are still only saying that disclosures are up. In plain English, how many people are admitted to hospital solely for marijuana usage, and not for any number of comorbidities or extraneous factors? Where's that statistic?

  • Let's ignore all of the above. I mean, clearly there ARE real negative effects associated with recreational drugs. You'd be an idiot to claim otherwise. Even the relatively benign marijuana has negative health effects associated with its use. So fine, the various drugs have differing health consequences associated with their use, either in the short or long term. Okay, but is the issue that these people want to legislate out things that are unhealthy? If so, um......we have amazing hypocrisy at work here. If ANYONE is going to look me in the face and tell me that recreational drugs should be illegal because they're bad for you, but doesn't levy that exact same charge against other harmful things, like, oh I don't know.......alcohol and fast food, for two examples, then that person is clearly not holding a logically tenable position. If the route to prohibition is drugs=negative health effects=ban because we don't want negative health effects, then this person must also be pushing for these other things to be made illegal. If they aren't, then clearly there's something else at play here.

  • “Drugs are bad.” So what? Why must an adult be told what he can and cannot put in his or her own body? Is that up to the government? Should it not be up to the individual to decide for themselves? It's amazing to me that for a country that prides itself on “freedom,” America sure as hell likes to ban things that consenting adults want to engage/partake in (gay marriage anyone?). I don't, at all, see how you can square the idea of freedom with the word banning. Of course, I recognize that freedom must have limits. Clearly you want to ban murder. But that's where you get into impinging on the rights of others. If Gary wants to smoke a joint, eat some KFC and watch a movie in his basement, he's not interfering with, or harming, anybody else. Who the fuck gets to take it upon themselves to tell Gary he cannot do this in his own home?

Of course, this is where the other arguments come into play. Advocates of prohibition will make the argument that Gary IS (or at least could end up) harming others.

Potential negative societal effects.

My understanding of this one is that the basic idea basically says that the health effects and dependency seen with some drug users adds extra strain to a nation's healthcare system (and also on the economy, but we'll focus on health). I wouldn't necessarily argue against this. I don't know to what extent this is true, but I am sure it is. But, as with the last argument, I see a few problems here:

  • People already do drugs. The only way this argument would work is if legalization itself would lead to more drug use. That one I am not so sure of, but what could conceivably happen is that more people would come forward seeking help, as the illegality is no longer an issue. This strikes me as a positive thing though. More help for more people who need it. However, I don't want to get sidetracked. This argument only makes sense if the person making it is presupposing that legalization would lead to increasing rates of use. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I am just pointing out the fact that his claim actually makes a secondary, implicit claim, that's necessary for it to even work.

  • Again, consistency, the lack of which makes me wonder if the arguments put forth are really the extent of the reasons why people push for these substances to be illegal. If the issue is strain on the tax payer (essentially what it boils down to), or, to put it another way, the consumption of resources, then again, things like fast food and alcohol should be illegal as well. The number of people who have health conditions associated with poor diets, lack of exercise, and alcohol consumption is astronomical. The morbidity associated with these things is a humongous burden. In fact, more people now die of obesity than starvation worldwide. If you ask me, shitty food is the worst drug problem facing us today.

If we legalize them, kids will use them!

Gotta love those slippery slope arguments! “Cause you know, it's not like we can't set age restrictions. And also, it's not like they don't, you know, use them now. And already drink. If they want to do it, they will. If there is demand, there will be supply. If you build it, the- er, uh.....nevermind.

Drugs=crime

Drugs cause crime. This argument interests me, because I think it's quite the opposite. Prohibition equals crime. Look at the situation in the United States with alcohol prohibition. We all know how that fared, don't we? And what was the trend when it came to crime? Did crime decrease with prohibition and increase with the passing of the legalization laws? Or was it the inverse? Hint: Option 2. You keep drugs illegal when there is demand for them, and you will have the situation you had then, and have now: gangs controlling and selling the substances, and a whole litany of crimes associated with this black market.

And so you have crime that's directly resultant from the laws (make it legal, there won't be much of a need for a black market) and a so called “War on Drugs” that has been waged for decades now with absolutely no end in sight, and billions of dollars spent along with thousands of lives lost and lives shattered. People being prosecuted and sitting in jail for possessing a drug for personal use, people arrested for growing their own plants for personal consumption, and people arrested for being high, when all the while we have people out every single night of every single week, consuming alcohol, getting into fights, ruining relationships, driving, causing accidents, and putting themselves and others in the hospital.....or even into a casket.

So then, why do some claim that drugs cause crime? Well, the idea is that people commit crimes to support their addictions, or they get high and commit violent crime (or even more benign crimes like vandalism). And, as I said above, when it came to the societal effects argument, I wouldn't necessarily argue this. However, yet again, people already do drugs. This argument only makes sense if the person making it is presupposing that legalization would lead to increasing rates of use.

Conclusions

It seems to me that the arguments for keeping drugs legal either ignore the fact that people are doing them anyways, can be applied to many things that are legal (alcohol, fast food, driving, skydiving, gambling, etc) are (at least partly) based on faulty or flawed information, misuse of statistics, both by accident, and, more insidiously, for the purpose of propaganda, which implies that there is clearly an ulterior motive here. I just don't know what that motive may be.

People give drugs such a bad rap, but so much of the information out there is skewed, exaggerated, or outright lies. Yes, there are definite negatives to recreational drug use. But there are downsides to recreational alcohol use, consumption of deep fried chocolate bars covered in icing sugar, bungee jumping, and driving. Seriously, how many people actually sit back and consider just how dangerous driving actually is? Yet they have no qualms about strapping their four year old into the backseat of a car. They have no qualms about putting their teenager in control of one of these machines. They have no qualms about letting their teenage play football, a sport which consists of constant and hard physical contact, which can and does result in serious injuries to those involved. But if that teenager was to smoke a joint or pop a pill.....OH BOY, FREAK OUT TIME!!

And please, someone, explain to me how this makes sense: It's perfectly okay for someone to pop a percocet for pain relief, but not okay for them to ingest some marijuana for pain relief. The percs will get them high. The percs will relieve the pain. The weed will get them high. The weed will relieve pain. The percs are highly addictive. The weed is not. The percs can harm them over the long term. The weed can harm them over the long term. So, let's see, two substances that basically do the same thing. One is prescribed by a doctor and sold by a drug company. The other could be prescribed by a doctor and grown by the patient themselves, at home, for much cheaper than they would get access to the percocet.

Hmmm.......

All I am asking for here is a little consistency, a little more truth, and a lot less hysteria.