Working together we can treat Washington’s 40 billion dollar a year addiction to the War on Drugs.
Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
H. L. Menken
For every complex problem there is an easy answer, and it is wrong.
H. L. Menken
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.
No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the sources of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.
P. J. O’Rourke
P. J. O’Rourke got it exactly right in my humble opinion. The illogic of the governmental stance on “drug control” is mind-boggling. To consider marijuana a schedule I drug, that is, the most dangerous ranking (more on drug schedules latter), and not rank alcohol and nicotine as schedule I drugs is the reason O’Rourke is correct when he says we should test people for ignorance. The following graph from the CDC enlightens us all.
Smoking and alcohol are legal. Marijuana is not. Among the drug-induced deaths, the number caused by marijuana is zero. “Indeed, epidemiological data indicate that in the general population marijuana use is not associated with increased mortality.” [Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999), p. 109.]
Even more dramatic are the number of deaths caused by drugs that are not only legal, but prescribed by physicians. “By 2006, overdoses of opioid analgesics alone (a class of pain relievers that includes morphine and methadone) were already causing more deaths than overdoses of cocaine and heroin combined.” [Prescription Drug Deaths Increase Dramatically, Katherine Harmon, Scientific American.] When considering deaths from drugs it is noteworthy that “about 106,000 (per year – RF) are from prescription drugs according to Death by Medicine.” [Statistics prove prescription drugs are 16,400% more deadly than terrorists, Jessica Fraser.] If saving lives is a goal of the War on Drugs then we need to imprison doctors, not drug dealers. [Despite a massive effort by hospitals to change these statistics, the numbers of deaths due to medical errors remains staggering. (From Deaths by medical mistakes hits record, by Erin McCann) Preventable medical errors persist as the No. 3 killer in the U.S. – third only to heart disease and cancer – claiming the lives of some 400,000 people each year. At a Senate hearing Thursday, patient safety officials put their best ideas forward on how to solve the crisis, with IT often at the center of discussions. Hearing members, who spoke before the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, not only underscored the devastating loss of human life – more than 1,000 people each day – but also called attention to the fact that these medical errors cost the nation a colossal $1 trillion each year.]
When one considers addictiveness of drugs again we see the total lack of logic in the war on drugs. One would assume that the most addictive drugs would be interdicted. The following is a list of the most addictive drugs according to the Betty Ford Center (a well respected drug rehabilitation center):
- Tobacco (addiction likelihood = 96.5%)
- Crack – smoked cocaine (addiction likelihood = 95.5%)
- Ice – smoked crystal methamphetamine (addiction likelihood = 92.5%)
- Crystal methamphetamine – injected (addiction likelihood = 89.5%)
- Oxycodone (addiction likelihood = 89%)
- Heroine (addiction likelihood = 87.5%)
- Valium (addiction likelihood = 86%)
- Quaalude (addiction likelihood = 83%)
- Seconal (addiction likelihood = 82%)
- Alcohol (addiction likelihood = 82%)
- Amphetamine (addiction likelihood = 81%)
- Cocaine – sniffed (addiction likelihood = 78%)
- Caffeine (addiction likelihood = 67%)
- PCP (Angel dust) (addiction likelihood = 55%)
- Cannabis (addiction likelihood = 42%)
- Ecstasy (addiction likelihood = 40%)
- LSD (addiction likelihood = 32%)
- Psilocybin Mushrooms (addiction likelihood = 17%)
- Mescaline (addiction likelihood = 16%)
- Methadone (addiction likelihood = unknown)
As one studies this list, one cannot help but note that Tobacco, oxycodone, Valium, Quaalude, Seconal, alcohol, amphetamines, caffeine, and methadone (i.e., 9 of the 20 most addictive substances) are all perfectly legal drugs. Caffeine is more addictive than cannabis. Yet, Americans consume more than 4 kilograms per person per year with impunity. However, we are not even in the same league as Finland and Sweden.
Further consider that tobacco is listed (at least by the Betty Ford Center) as the most addictive drug of all. It is entirely legal, but more importantly, it is a drug, that through education, has been steadily declining in use year to year in the US. Between 1970 and 2003 sixteen million Americans quit smoking and virtually none of them did so by going to drug rehabilitation centers. For all intents and purposes they simply walked away from the most addictive chemical on earth. There is a lesson in there somewhere (I fully realize that nicotine patches and other drugs have influenced the reductions in smoking recorded in the graph).
Some doses of reality:
- Ten States have legalized “medical” marijuana.
- Canada provides “medical” marijuana to patients free of charge.
- Mississippi has a medical marijuana growing facility.
- The is no report of a person dying of Marijuana overdose.
Now, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized “medical marijuana” and 4 states, to date, have legalized recreational marijuana since I first wrote this series.
Let us return to the FDA “drug schedules.” This is yet another study in illogic. Schedule I means: 1) the drug or other substance has high potential for abuse, 2) the drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, 3) there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. Thus, by this perverted logic cannabis is a schedule I drug while cocaine, oxycodone, and opium are Schedule II drugs. Even more ridiculous, tobacco is not on any schedule yet the drug has high potential for abuse and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug, to say the least. Further and despite the fact that numerous medical research papers support a role for medical marijuana, the FDA refuses to “believe” this research.
Nearly one in five new HIV cases arises from the use of shared drug needles. Informed estimates of the number of injecting drug users range from 1 million to a more agreed upon figure of 1.4 million. By 2006, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 percent of AIDS cases in the US were found among intravenous drug users or their sexual partners and children. Among new cases of AIDS 28 percent are traceable to intravenous drug use. Hepatitis C, the most dangerous hepatitis variant, is traceable to intravenous drug use in half to 80 percent of cases in the US. These users typically contract the virus within the first year of needle use. Looked at from the perspective of all adult intravenous drug users, hepatitis C virus is found in the blood of nearly 90%. Imagine if the government controlled the distribution of heroine and other injectable illegal drugs. Each dose sold in a government controlled store could be packaged in a sterile syringe and with an alcohol swab contained in the packaging. Because of this major needless public health risk, many communities offer clean needles and syringes to intravenous drug users. I would like to point to this obvious conflict of ideas. On the one hand these drugs are proscribed, and, on the other, facilitated. Talk about schizophrenia.
When one considers the logic of the drug war it is vital to view the stance of the government through the same prism that one views alcohol, nicotine and caffeine – all are entirely legal. As noted, these are all highly addictive drugs. The majority of Americans are addicted to caffeine, but the DEA is not raiding Starbucks or putting the cuffs on patrons walking out with a latte. In terms of the lethality of nicotine addiction versus marijuana addiction there is no comparison.
Drug control is not like disease control, for the simple reason that there is no popular demand for smallpox or polio. Legalization would strip addiction down to what it really is: a health issue.