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Pareto's law on drugs
April 21, 2012 12:38 AM   Subscribe

Rethinking the War on Drugs (WSJ video / not OpEd). A more nuanced view than typically found in the anti-drugs vs. legalize drugs ad nausea. Practical solutions being done today.

Some points Mark Kleiman makes:

1. In real world, 80% of drugs (including alcohol) are taken by 20% of drug users. Known as Pareto's law
2. Focus on the 20% with strict laws, the other 80% get off light with escalating consequence for refractions. In real world experience, 80% of the 80% go clean after first infraction (Pareto again).
3. Alcohol is the number one problem drug, 60 million abusers vs 3 million abuser of all other hard drugs combined. "What we are getting for the prohibition on hard drugs is keeping the cocaine problem smaller than the alcohol problem."
4. There are no politicians in America advocating the legalization of cocaine, heroin or meth. The anti-vs-pro drug debate is largely media fiction "for people who don't have to actually do anything".
posted by stbalbach (87 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ok I summarized for the quick and lazy, and I'm sure I did so badly. Quote Kleiman not me (ie. watch the video if you want to comment on the content).
posted by stbalbach at 12:47 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are no politicians in America advocating the legalization of cocaine, heroin or meth. The anti-vs-pro drug debate is largely media fiction "for people who don't have to actually do anything".

Ron Paul and Legalizing Heroin
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:59 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"What we are getting for the prohibition on hard drugs is keeping the cocaine problem smaller than the alcohol problem."

Time: Portugal...in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

--

Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal's drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:03 AM on April 21, 2012 [17 favorites]


I'm beginning to feel that using facts to convince people who "believe" in the drug war is pointless, just like using facts to convince people who believe in creationism. It's like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how good you are at chess, the pigeon is just going to knock over the pieces, shit on the board, and strut around like it's victorious.

The difference with creationists is that nobody really "believes" in the drug war: it's merely their paycheck that is depending on it - but you cannot convince somebody of something if their livelihood depends on not understanding you.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:29 AM on April 21, 2012 [45 favorites]


The move toward cannabis law reform is stalling and reversing in many places, mainly due to the revived talking point that it causes increased risk of mental disorders
posted by moorooka at 1:37 AM on April 21, 2012


furiousxgeorge, Kleiman actually is quoted in that Time article. He finds the comparison with Portugal and the US to be questionable due to the size of the country and other factors that could explain the reduction on Portugal's drug use. Also I don't think Ron Paul is officially advocating for the legalization of heroin. He knows his core libertarian base wants it, at least philosophically, the question was awkward for him on national TV, notice how he tried to deflect to about government controlling your life, resulting in the hell-yeahs from the SC audience in support of heroin lol.
posted by stbalbach at 1:38 AM on April 21, 2012


Kleiman handwaves the comparison away based on size and culture, which doesn't really mean anything.

Legalize everything is his long standing position. The awkwardness there is how Ron Paul always looks, he's a Libertarian and that keep the government out of your way thing is his bread and butter, it's why he believes this not a deflection. Note the applause he received for it.

Q: In your 1988 campaign you said, “All drugs should be decriminalized. Drugs should be distributed by any adult to other adults. There should be no controls on production, supply or purchase for adults.” Is that still your position?

A: Yeah. It’s sort of like alcohol. Alcohol’s a deadly drug, kills more people than anything else. And today the absurdity on this war on drugs has just been horrible. Now the federal government takes over and overrules states where state laws permit medicinal marijuana 1 for people dying of cancer. The federal government goes in and arrests these people, put them in prison with mandatory sentences. This war on drugs is totally out of control. If you want to regulate cigarettes and alcohol and drugs, it should be at the state level. That’s where I stand on it. The federal government has no prerogatives on this.

Q: But you would decriminalize it?

A: I would, at the federal level. I don’t have control over the states. And that’s why the Constitution’s there.


He finds the comparison with Portugal and the US to be questionable due to the size of the country and other factors that could explain the reduction on Portugal's drug use.

(WSJ video / not OpEd)

It's an opinion piece from an author outside the paper, isn't that what an OpEd is?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:47 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


3. Alcohol is the number one problem drug, 60 million abusers vs 3 million abuser of all other hard drugs combined. "What we are getting for the prohibition on hard drugs is keeping the cocaine problem smaller than the alcohol problem."
So we're supposed to believe 57 million people would run out and become cokeheads immediately if it were legalized? Newsflash: Cocaine wasn't always illegal, and it was never as commonly used as alchohol, as far as I know.

There's a reason why Alcohol was the first drug ever targeted by prohibitionists: Because it's the most problematic and most commonly abused. It's also by, by far, easier to make then any other drug, so it would be much more difficult to control then any other drug.

But cocaine abuse wasn't common in the 1800s when it was legal, why would we expect it to be commonly abused if it were made legal today?
Also I don't think Ron Paul is officially advocating for the legalization of heroin. He knows his core libertarian base wants it, at least philosophically, the question was awkward for him on national TV
Ron Paul isn't really a guy who's too worried about the political practicality of his ideas. He wants all drugs controlled by state governments, which is actually what the current law is with regards to alchohol. That's why you can't buy alchohol on Sunday in certain states, or after a certain time at night that varies from state to state.
posted by delmoi at 1:52 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


When working in wine and spirits about 10 years ago, someone sent across a presentation on alcohol consumption in the US. 90% of alcohol beverages were consumed by 10% of the population. Granted that was just one year of a sample, so 80/20 is probably more accurate over time. It was a very shocking discovery at the time, when you conceptualise that.

So I chatted with a few experts from the field about it, and they all gave a little chuckle. "Yeah, it's true, you only need to sell to 10% of your market. And maybe not even them."

So imagine a room with 100 people. The average person in the US drinks about 3 gallons of booze a year. So we have 100 people with 3 gallons of booze each. But that's not really right. We have 300 gallons of booze. 10 people drink 270 gallons of that (27 gallons each), and the other 90 share 30 (1/3 of a gallon per person). So the average 'heavy drinker' in the US consumes 80 times the quantity of alcohol as the other categories. As said, 80 – 20 is probably more correct and the numbers are old, but that really changed me view on the world, and drinking and drugs -- not to mention marketing.

That image. 10 people with 270 gallons of booze. 90 people sharing 30 gallons of booze. The world makes more sense when you think about it from that angle. At least San Francisco nightlife in 2004.
posted by nickrussell at 2:03 AM on April 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm beginning to feel that using facts to convince people who "believe" in the drug war is pointless, just like using facts to convince people who believe in creationism. It's like playing chess with a pigeon. No matter how good you are at chess, the pigeon is just going to knock over the pieces, shit on the board, and strut around like it's victorious.
When you look at the people who believe in Creationism or intelligent design, how many of them do you think do so only because they were swayed by the overwhelmingly strong scientific arguments in favor of it?

The reason the so-called 'scientific' arguments for the war on drugs never make sense is because they're not even the real reasons why people who support the drug war. Just like people who believe in creationism or intelligent design never believe in those things because they've been swayed by the overwhelming scientific evidence

I think the main reason that people support the drug war is that they simply want to 'signal' "drugs are bad, m'kay." They don't really care about the burden of enforcement falls on the poor, because they don't care about the poor anyway. And the fact they can't obey drug laws just means they're "bad" anyway, so why should they care?

(In fact, it actually helps justify not caring about the plight of the poor because you can then use this as a data point to indicate how they are such bad people who can't follow social norms and thus deserve to be poor and miserable anyway.)

That's why they spend so much money on anti-drug ads. They know the ads don't stop people from using drug, but they are a fantastic way to signal to people who think that they are good, upstanding members of society that "drugs are bad, m'kay."

So the fact that scientific arguments against the war on drugs don't make sense isn't really that surprising. Just like the scientific arguments for creationism, they're really just an excuse.
posted by delmoi at 2:29 AM on April 21, 2012 [19 favorites]


It's an opinion piece from an author outside the paper, isn't that what an OpEd is?

Oops, meant to link here.

He really does a lot of hand waving. For instance, he mentions the violence in Mexico (50,000 dead human beings by the way) but then moves on to the ironclad fact, that Portugal doesn't disprove because of it's different culture, that legalization will increase use to explain why those 50,000 have to bite the bullet for American drug use.

We could abolish the illicit market in cocaine, as we abolished the illicit market in alcohol, but does anyone consider our current alcohol policies a success?

Compared to prohibition? Is there some widespread call to return to it I'm unaware of? I think tobacco policy is a better comparison. Smoking rates have gone down (still too high) as a result of education, regulation, and taxation. Apply that model to drugs that already have vastly fewer users than tobacco did and that already have a strong social stigma working against them and you should be able to reduce use without acting as an ATM for organized crime.

The appeal of legalization is clear. At a stroke, it would wipe out most problems of the black market by depriving gun-wielding thugs of their competitive advantage. But for it to work, it would have to include not just the possession of drugs but their production as well—and not just of marijuana but of substances that really are very dangerous: cocaine, crack, heroin and methamphetamine.

There is no reason you have to go ahead and do everything at once to make a difference. Use Pot as a test case and give the cartels a hit on their most profitable product and see if the sky falls in the US with the demon weed running rampant. From there, make the decision on the harder stuff.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:51 AM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


We could abolish the illicit market in cocaine, as we abolished the illicit market in alcohol, but does anyone consider our current alcohol policies a success?
Compared to prohibition? I think everyone who liked to drink a beer every so often would say it's a success.
posted by delmoi at 3:30 AM on April 21, 2012


The Portugal Experiment
posted by caddis at 4:03 AM on April 21, 2012


I'm beginning to feel that using facts to convince people who "believe" in the drug war is pointless

Exactly, this is a lesson the "intelligentsia" needs to learn.

The anti-prohibition effort needs a Clinton or a Reagan. I mean if Reagan could sell the missile defense shield, I bet he could've fashioned rhetoric to disband the DEA.
posted by sammyo at 4:25 AM on April 21, 2012


Portugal's legalization is pretty much unique. Countries like Canada (the B.C., anyway) and Holland have decriminalized cannabis, but they remain technically illegal. For the U.S., I think decriminalization of cannabis nationally, by the federal government, would be a nice way to begin, and later we can work toward actual legalization. I'm generally for an overall legalization of any and all drugs, though the thought of legal cocaine or legal PCP is pretty depressing.
posted by zardoz at 4:45 AM on April 21, 2012


[Alcohol is] also by, by far, easier to make then any other drug, so it would be much more difficult to control then any other drug.

Have you ever tried to grow pot? You stick seeds in dirt, water it, wait for the plants to grow, cut them down, dry them, and start smoking them. Or so I'm told, of course. Dead easy. And pretty much free.

If you legalized (not just decriminalized) pot, people would dig up their yards to grow it, HOAs be damned. People who haven't held a shovel since they played on the beach would become weekend farmers. It would be great. At first.

But people without land to grow on would steal the pot harvests from people with land, so people with land would buy fences, dogs, and guns to protect their pot. But come harvest time there would still be raids, maybe armed raids, busted fences, shot dogs, and shot owners, if you were growing enough to bother with. And then things would get interesting.

You'd have to grow enough to make it essentially free to all. I suggest a public works program to plant some of the national, state, and city parks with dope, harvest it, and distribute it to the needy.
posted by pracowity at 5:11 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


But people without land to grow on would steal the pot harvests from people with land

I can't quite tell if you're joking to make your later joke, but my experiences in rural Southern Maryland disagree. Back when tobacco was still a big crop there and it seemed like nearly everybody smoked, nobody was stealing large amounts of tobacco from the fields. (When all you had to do was dry it and smoke it.) Heck, you could walk through tobacco barns on some of the small farms and see the tobacco drying.

I guess all that means is there needs to be enough commercial/local pot production to be able to charge ~$5-10 for a day's supply and then there'd be so little theft it wouldn't matter. (And all this is ignoring hydroponic systems that just need a closet.)
posted by skynxnex at 5:18 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Obligatory Hamsterdam comment.
posted by entropone at 5:44 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just one thing to poke in about nickrussell's comment: that amount ("3 gallons of booze a year") is probably referring to pure ethanol content, not other content of the drinks. (wikipedia gives 9.44 liters or about 2½ gallons per year for the US)

So for instance if you want your whole 9.44 liters of booze a year in 5% beer, that's 400 US pints or 532 12-ounce cans.

Drink up!
posted by jepler at 5:46 AM on April 21, 2012


We already have a de facto tiered system with regard to law enforcement where some people are punished severely while college kids and professionals are more likely to get a slap on the wrist and a second chance. Some of this is actually built into the law, like the difference in penalties for equivalent amounts of crack vs. powdered cocaine.

Regardless, why would it make sense to focus punishment on those who have an addiction problem, how could the law realistically distinguish between abusers and recreational users and how could such a policy be considered fair and just?
posted by snofoam at 5:54 AM on April 21, 2012


> I mean if Reagan could sell the missile defense shield, I bet he could've fashioned rhetoric to disband the DEA.

I have a feeling that if he had tried he would have ended up like this wizard. That said, any movement toward ending the war on drugs will probably have to come from the right because only Nixon could go to China, etc.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:23 AM on April 21, 2012


though the thought of legal cocaine or legal PCP is pretty depressing.

Nonsense, that first decade will be known for producing the Greatest Office Parties Ever.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:31 AM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


But people without land to grow on would steal the pot harvests from people with land

To what end? If everyone and their brother were digging up their yards to plant weed, there would be way more than enough weed to go around. The stuff would practically be free for the asking.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:49 AM on April 21, 2012


Many of the "facts" noted in the video in support of the video do not actually stand up to real testing or review. For example the 80-20 claim. Also shouldn't there be a mention of tobacco? What about the widespread legal prescription of amphetamines, benzodiazepines and pain pills like oxytocin? We've spent billions of dollars as there isn't evidence that we've stopped one person from getting high or one junkie from scoring their drugs. It is time to stop the madness and try something new.
posted by humanfont at 6:49 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh look, we're having the Harm Reduction conversation in the '10s. It reminds me of when I was discovering and getting passionate about all the scholarship and debate about all this exact same shit they got up to in the 80's, that I found out about in the 90's, and what the fuck did we get up to in the 00's? OH YEAH WAR ON TERRUR HURR HURR. Doomed. Liberal politicians may pay some lip service to shit like the proven efficacy of treatment over incarceration at the appropriate time in the race and somehow not a god damned thing ever gets done about it.

Right at the beginning of the conversation in that video: "So a lot of critics of the current policy... advocate legalization". I know it's being framed to sort of set up the discussion of alternatives but the fact that they make that illusory position the starting point is still sorta telling.

Granted: a substantial percentage of the people who want legal weed just want legal weed, full stop, and you will always have your contingent who advocate blanket legalization of everything on one ideological basis or another (see: inevitable Ron Paul derail), but EVERYONE ELSE serious in the drug law reform game would basically piss themselves in gratitude over any glimmer of a hint of some emerging effective political power axis exhibiting the will to engage the harm reduction question. Any meaningful obstruction to moving forward with rational drug policy reform is one hundred percent coming from the fucked up political lobbying alliance of the prison industry, the drug-war-money-dependent police agencies, and cowardly, cynical or stupid politicians addicted to mashing the button of slavish devotion to the drug war status quo any time they need to pump up their "tough on crime" cred. Just another shining showcase of the utter, abject failure of progressive politics and activism in general. Is anybody out there actually advocating any new paradigm or approach to how to actually effect all these wonderful ideas? I mean I'm not acting like I know how I don't, if I did I guess I would start a movement or something. But policy wonking and conventional political organizing and conventional activism clearly just don't work. 20 years ago I used to get excited about the ideas. Well I'm middle aged and tired and cranky now and wonderful ideas are a fucking cheap trip and the hangover time and time again is SAME SHIT DIFFERENT DAY. What makes this one any different.
posted by nanojath at 6:55 AM on April 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


Legalizing Heroin

Wouldn't allowing Heroin uses get all the low cost Heroin they want cause the Heroin use problem to solve itself?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:04 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you're suggesting that the problem will be solved by heroin addicts ODing, then that's a joke in really bad taste.
posted by snofoam at 7:27 AM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Just to be clear, Kleiman is for decriminalizing drugs not legalizing them...he has been outspoken in his opposition to legalization...unless of course he's changed his mind.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 7:37 AM on April 21, 2012


Wouldn't allowing Heroin uses get all the low cost Heroin they want cause the Heroin use problem to solve itself?

A wise man once told me that, when you meet a heroin addict, assume they're smart and they're going to try to rip you off. Not all heroin addicts are smart, of course, but the stupid ones don't live long, so you are more likely to encounter a smart one than a stupid one. And, smart or stupid, they will try to rip you off, even if they say they're your friend.
posted by vibrotronica at 7:46 AM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


A wise man once told me that, when you meet a heroin addict, assume they're smart and they're going to try to rip you off.

Tell me about it. I spent two years writing an undergraduate thesis on William S. Burroughs' cut-up trilogy.

Seriously, though, these types of generalizations are never true.
posted by snofoam at 7:54 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


That particular generalization has served me well.
posted by vibrotronica at 7:59 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate to think of what I would do for a cigarette if they were illegal and cost $60 a pack on the black market.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:20 AM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't allowing Heroin uses get all the low cost Heroin they want cause the Heroin use problem to solve itself?

I know this is basically a throwaway but really that is kind of a vile sentiment. Heroin addicts are human beings with a problem. There are a lot of alcoholics in this world, most of whom have jobs, and very few of them, as of payday, head to the liquor store, gawp at "all the low cost" alcohol "they want," and proceed to "solve" their little corner of the Alcohol "use problem" by drinking themselves to death. People try to stay alive, to function and to be, and sometimes paradoxically they try to maintain their access and use of a substance because they are addicted to it. Many of them will be trying to quit periodically. Almost all of them will be attempting to maintain some sort of personal equilibrium. They aren't just some sort of mindless heroin-hole being wholly regulated by the vicissitudes of the external market.
posted by nanojath at 8:29 AM on April 21, 2012 [14 favorites]


A wise man once told me that, when you meet a heroin addict

You will probably not even know that they are, in fact, an addict. They don't wear "I'm a junkie!" t-shirts.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:42 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


A wise man once told me that, when you meet a heroin addict, assume they're smart and they're going to try to rip you off. Not all heroin addicts are smart, of course, but the stupid ones don't live long, so you are more likely to encounter a smart one than a stupid one. And, smart or stupid, they will try to rip you off, even if they say they're your friend.
Okay, I have no idea how this applies to rough ashlar's point. You can only take so much heroin. If it only cost $50 to buy a maximal daily dose of heroin, why would they even need to rip you off? They'd be spending all their time sitting around high on heroin, not bothering anyone. (or dead, I guess)
posted by delmoi at 8:43 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, I have no idea how this applies to rough ashlar's point. You can only take so much heroin. If it only cost $50 to buy a maximal daily dose of heroin, why would they even need to rip you off? They'd be spending all their time sitting around high on heroin, not bothering anyone. (or dead, I guess)

Exactly. It's amazing to think that in a country where we demand the right to own machinery designed for the express purpose of killing someone that we would outlaw some drugs that can sometimes be used to the same end.

I can go to Wal-Mart and pick up enough equipment to kill a few hundred people, and enough beer to get me drunk enough to kill someone on the highway, but if I want to put certain other substances in my own body, well, we just can't have that in a civilized society.
posted by deanklear at 8:57 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know what? I am sorry I said that and started the heroin addict derail. Here's the non-poetic way to express the lesson I learned many years ago: If you meet someone, and you find out they're using heroin, don't hang out with them, because it's going to end badly. The same goes for OxyContin, morphine, etc. Opiate addicts are not in control of their facilities, and even if they like you, they will choose to screw you over when they get desperate enough. in fact, "choose" is probably the wrong word to use. The same goes for sufficiently advanced coke heads, but they tend to be easier to spot in my experience.

Now, do I think jail is the right solution for opiate addicts? No. Treatment and harm reduction is the proper solution. It makes me uncomfortable to consider a world with legal heroin and cocaine (imagine a corporation marketing cocaine like Budwiser), but in light of the Portugese experience, I think it's the right thing to do.

Furthermore, I have, in the course of making a documentary, recently spent a lot of time around both opiate addicts and advanced alcoholics. I would be hard pressed to tell you which was worse. I have cut back on my personal drinking as a result.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:08 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


isn't that what an OpEd is?

You're confusing the "WSJ Opinion Section" which is edited by conservative no-cons or whatever and completely biased like FoxNews, with a piece that contains opinions, which can be found in any material. The former is necessary to disambiguate due to its reputation (here), the later is a given. This video is not from the WSJ Opinion Section, is all.

So we're supposed to believe 57 million people would run out and become cokeheads immediately if it were legalized? Newsflash: Cocaine wasn't always illegal, and it was never as commonly used as alchohol, as far as I know.

Actually not immediately, but there is a portion of the population highly prone to addiction problems and the high cost, illegality, stigma and dangers associated with cocaine and heroin keeps the number of addicts down. One only has to imagine if cocaine were legal that a soft drink maker would add small amounts to their drink to make it slightly addictive to help drive up sales. They would call it "Cocaine-Cola" or something.

vibrotronica, your real world experience is accurate and confirms that people who actually have to deal with this stuff in real life face very different problems than those who sit back and pontificate about it in the press and Internet.
posted by stbalbach at 9:21 AM on April 21, 2012


You know what? I am sorry I said that and started the heroin addict derail. Here's the non-poetic way to express the lesson I learned many years ago: If you meet someone, and you find out they're using heroin, don't hang out with them, because it's going to end badly.
That's nice. I've never even met anyone who have to my knowlege tried heroin once (although I would assume that out of everyone I've met in my entire life there must have been some)

But again, why would they screw you over if they had access to all the heroin they ever wanted? It seems like they wouldn't do much of anything. If you met a millionaire heroin addict tomorrow, what exactly do you think they would try to scam you out of? Like what is it you have that you think someone like Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen would even want?

If heroin users are trying to scam people out of stuff, it's because heroin is hard to get. If it wasn't hard to get, why would their still be a problem?
Actually not immediately, but there is a portion of the population highly prone to addiction problems and the high cost, illegality, stigma and dangers associated with cocaine and heroin keeps the number of addicts down.
Sure, but there's a social stigma associated with tobacco and that's gradually been chipping away at the number of smokers, despite the fact that it's actually more addictive then cocaine.

There isn't any reason to think legalization would completely destigmatize drugs.
posted by delmoi at 9:42 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


vibrotronica, I have a few very good friends who are or have been heroin addicts. I also have people in my family with drug problems, but you know what doesn't help them one fucking bit? Going to prison, or losing their jobs because the morality police don't want anyone with a drug problem to also have a life. Contrast that view with alcoholics who do the same damn thing — they steal, lie, and hurt people for their addiction, but at least they have some chance at getting back on the right track.

Additionally, people lie, steal, and hurt people for all kinds of reasons. Sex. Power. Money. They are all things that cause crazy human behavior, so are we going to start outlawing all of that?

Actually not immediately, but there is a portion of the population highly prone to addiction problems and the high cost, illegality, stigma and dangers associated with cocaine and heroin keeps the number of addicts down. One only has to imagine if cocaine were legal that a soft drink maker would add small amounts to their drink to make it slightly addictive to help drive up sales. They would call it "Cocaine-Cola" or something.

This is plainly bullshit. I had a great great uncle (or something like that) who was addicted to Coca-Cola back when it was spiked. And do you know what he did? He drank a bunch of Coca-Cola. Probably died of diabetes. And what's the difference between then and now? Now, he'd go to prison and lose his entire life if he used cocaine. And if he were addicted to Coca-Cola without cocaine, as many people are, he'd still die of diabetes. So what would be the point of putting him in jail?

Food and cigarette manufacturers set out to make addictive habits, and they do kill hundreds of thousands of people a year. So can we start outlawing Cheetos and sodas and Burger King and coffee and cigarettes and cigars? It's destroying lives. It kills people, and corporations are profiting off of products designed to harm consumers with addiction. But wait, you want the freedom to choose what you want to eat, or the right to have a cigarette, so it's off the table, right?

vibrotronica, your real world experience is accurate and confirms that people who actually have to deal with this stuff in real life face very different problems than those who sit back and pontificate about it in the press and Internet.

stbalbach, your personal experience is not representative of the entire world. The fact that you take another person who anecdotally agrees with you and call that "accurate" experience which "confirms" that "people have to deal with this stuff" is terribly ironic when you follow it with a denigration of people who "sit back and pontificate about it in the press and Internet."

Tell me how going to prison improves the life of a drug addict, and society at large. Now imagine telling your son or daughter that, for their own good, you're going to have them arrested and thrown in prison because you found out that they use drugs.

Is that the sort of society that you want to live in? If so, you can count on me, and a lot of other people, to fight you every step of the way.
posted by deanklear at 10:02 AM on April 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm not even sure who really is for the drug war anymore. If you look at conservative web sites, such as FreeRepublic, the whole thing offends their anti-big government sensibilities. Religious Right groups are more focused on sexual issues than they are with narcotics, not to mention no less than Pat Robertson was calling for legalization of marijuana. You really don't see any anti-drug crusaders outside of the government. Can it be that the only pro-drug war people are the politicians themselves?
posted by Apocryphon at 10:12 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


My mom was a heroin addict. One of my earliest memories is of walking in on her in the bathroom shooting up, when she told me she was sick and that was her medicine. No doubt about it, when she was fixing, she was not fit as a mother--hell she was barely responsive. But thank god, she wasn't a problem that got "solved" in the way someone up thread suggested. Eventually, she lost me due to her struggles with addiction, but she went on to turn things around and I have three amazing half sisters. I'm so glad she dealt with her problems in Germany not the US because here she would probably have ended up homeless or dead. Addicts are not disposable waste; they are human beings.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:26 AM on April 21, 2012 [17 favorites]


The criminalization of drugs has been a giant fiasco that accomplished nothing. This is the only serious position e can take when examining the data. The very serious people need to recognize this.
posted by humanfont at 10:32 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]




But again, why would they screw you over if they had access to all the heroin they ever wanted? It seems like they wouldn't do much of anything. If you met a millionaire heroin addict tomorrow, what exactly do you think they would try to scam you out of? Like what is it you have that you think someone like Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen would even want?

If heroin users are trying to scam people out of stuff, it's because heroin is hard to get. If it wasn't hard to get, why would their still be a problem?


Um, no. Heroin users try to scam people out of stuff because it costs money. If they didn't need the money, they wouldn't scam people. Are you saying that in addition to legalizing the drug, we should also make it free?

Free or not, giving people all the heroin they need would kill them in a relatively short amount of time. Is that what you want?

You will probably not even know that they are, in fact, an addict. They don't wear "I'm a junkie!" t-shirts.

It's pretty easy to tell if someone is desperately addicted to drugs or not.

I'm not particularly for or against the legalization of drugs. I also believe that the current system in the US is totally not working. What would work, I don't know. But what does not work is people, including some in this thread, minimizing how bad drugs can affect people and their loved ones, even if it is only 20%.
posted by Melismata at 11:18 AM on April 21, 2012


You don't necessarily turn into a zombie if you are addicted to opiates. Sports stars have dealt with it, Rush Limbaugh went on the air every day on it, people you don't even know are doing it are doing it.

Alcoholics have access to a cheap, ready supply so a lot more of them function in jobs. I don't think it would be much different with opiates.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:24 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I'm not sure you would kill people quicker with legal opiates. You take out a lot of the danger when folks know the purity of the product and can take an appropriate dose and don't have to share needles and such, and when they can go for help and treatment without risking arrest.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:27 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not surprised that I still have to trot out the same few links when it comes to discussing drug misconceptions, but that's the nature of the beast that is the War on Drugs.

I get my heroin on the NHS.
posted by daksya at 11:38 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I demand medicinal methamphetamine for children.
posted by telstar at 11:51 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Melismata: Free or not, giving people all the heroin they need would kill them in a relatively short amount of time. Is that what you want?

Really? I'm not an expert: does heroin have any serious long term health effects at all which aren't side-effects of the illicit manner in which it's normally used (needle reuse, innacurate dosage etc.)? I'm not saying it's a "good thing" (where I'm from heroin has been a massive problem in deprived areas) but it's surely worth sticking to the facts.
posted by nfg at 11:57 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I demand medicinal methamphetamine for children."

It is called Desoxyn, and is already available. ADHD medications include amphetamine and methamphetamine. While I would not give either one to my children, used responsibly these drugs are as safe or safer than alcohol or sugar. For all the bad press, a lot of people use speed as prescribed, and not to excess or to the point of heedlessness and paranoia. ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed disorder of childhood. All those kids and teenagers taking it as children are going to keep taking it as adults. Michael Phelps will out compete a lot of people because he is allowed to use it while he trains, though not while he competes. All drugs and intoxicants can be used as medicines or poisons. BTW, sugar, electronic media, the objects of your sexual desire and fast cars are all intoxicants...
posted by sensi63 at 12:10 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not particularly for or against the legalization of drugs. I also believe that the current system in the US is totally not working. What would work, I don't know.

Yeah if only someone would post a story about someone talking about options for improving the issues of drug abuse besides the war on drugs or legalization and then we could discuss that.

what does not work is people, including some in this thread, minimizing how bad drugs can affect people and their loved ones

Who. Who is doing that. Who is minimizing the damage of drug abuse. Who are you even arguing with.

Whether free access to free drugs would be better or worse than the system of interdict and incarcerate where people with addictions they are all but certain to be unable to overcome without medical intervention are forced into a criminal underclass and a lifestyle of constant desperation is a stupid straw man nonsense question.

An intelligent question is, when there is massive evidence that a treatment dollar goes farther than an incarceration dollar, why is there so little political will to expand treatment access? An intelligent question is, where do you draw the line with something that will reduce harm in society but theoretically makes it easier to some degree for a drug addict to abuse? Anybody know where I could have an intelligent conversation about shit like that? Cause it sure as fuck isn't here.
posted by nanojath at 12:20 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


vibrotronica, I have a few very good friends who are or have been heroin addicts. I also have people in my family with drug problems, but you know what doesn't help them one fucking bit? Going to prison, or losing their jobs because the morality police don't want anyone with a drug problem to also have a life. Contrast that view with alcoholics who do the same damn thing — they steal, lie, and hurt people for their addiction, but at least they have some chance at getting back on the right track.

I completely agree.

Delmoi, the truth is, heroin and morphine and such are not, in the big picture of recreational and non-recreational drugs, that bad for you physically. If you're well-capitalized enough to keep a roof over your head and sustain a $100-a-day habit, you can keep going indefinitely. Provided you have access to pure stuff and a reasonable level of medical care. And provided you can keep the gravy train rolling while fucked up on $100 worth of hard drugs a day. This is how you get your William Burroughs, Keith Richards, Jerry Garcia, etc. And yeah, you can probably hang out with those people and they probably won't rip you off. But how many of them do you know?

The tl;dr version of that is, do you expect hanging out with Charlie Sheen will end well?

I am not trolling, and I am not the morality police. Junkies are human beings with a medical condition who should get treatment rather than jail. They deserve your compassion. As a society, we should pursue a policy of risk reduction and harm mitigation rather than incarceration. But in your day to day dealings with junkies, don't trust them to do what they say and don't turn your back on them. If it's someone you love is a junkie, do what you can to get them help, but know that it is possible that they will not or can not accept that help, and that you may have to cut them out of your life at some point for your own survival's sake.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:24 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The video has an accompanying article I should have included in the FPP.
posted by stbalbach at 12:28 PM on April 21, 2012


This is plainly bullshit. I had a great great uncle... stbalbach, your personal experience is not representative..

Yes your personal experiences are accurate mine are not.

Tell me how going to prison improves the life of a drug addict

Dunno, never said it would.

Is that the sort of society that you want to live in?

No idea, never thought about it until you framed up Mr. Straw Man.

So can we start outlawing Cheetos and sodas and Burger King and coffee and cigarettes and cigars?

Oh yeah logic fallacies thicker than southern fried cornbread.

fight you every step of the way.

How romantic, and favorite-lishish!
posted by stbalbach at 12:50 PM on April 21, 2012


The medical marijuana movement has already led to a sea-change in the way people use marijuana: vaporizing is in, along with edibles and tinctures, and smoking is becoming less popular as a result. That's a pure win from a harm-reduction standpoint, and the wonderful part is that no one had to work to make it happen -- marijuana users sought out less harmful delivery methods themselves, the moment it was safe to do so. I'd expect to see the same if opiates and other hard drugs were legalized, just as we're seeing in Portugal. People don't shoot up with used needles because they love getting diseases and destroying their veins, they do it because safer methods are more expensive, less available, and less effective, and that doesn't pay off under Prohibition. Make the drug cheaper and easier to get, and future addicts will probably be willing to "waste" some in exchange for a better and safer experience.

As far as I'm concerned, increased drug use -- if it happens, and experience in Portugal, California, and the Netherlands suggests that it won't -- is less of a problem than harmful drug use. Harm reduction is the primary question.
posted by vorfeed at 12:52 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually not immediately, but there is a portion of the population highly prone to addiction problems and the high cost, illegality, stigma and dangers associated with cocaine and heroin keeps the number of addicts down. One only has to imagine if cocaine were legal that a soft drink maker would add small amounts to their drink to make it slightly addictive to help drive up sales. They would call it "Cocaine-Cola" or something.

There is no evidence that this happens in countries where the possession and use of drugs - including "hard" drugs - are decriminalized, like Portugal. Legalization and decriminalization are not the same, but to an individual, not serving long sentences for having or using drugs is a good result, and yet there's not sign that masses more Portugese are running out to become addicts.
posted by rtha at 1:07 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Um, no. Heroin users try to scam people out of stuff because it costs money. If they didn't need the money, they wouldn't scam people. Are you saying that in addition to legalizing the drug, we should also make it free?
How much do you think it costs to legally manufacture opiates? If heroin were legal it would probably be cheaper then something like honey or . Opium poppies aren't that difficult to grow, I can't imagine it would be more expensive then any other common plant products. One hour of work at minimum wage would probably provide a one month supply.
If you're well-capitalized enough to keep a roof over your head and sustain a $100-a-day habit, you can keep going indefinitely. Provided you have access to pure stuff and a reasonable level of medical care. And provided you can keep the gravy train rolling while fucked up on $100 worth of hard drugs a day.
Yeah, but a $100 a day heroin habit in the U.S. is a $4 a day heroin habit in Afghanistan. There is nothing intrinsically expensive about heroin. That's the point here. If a pack of cigarettes cost $100, people who smoke might be just as bad as heroin users now.

It would be even cheaper if industrial techniques were used, right now Afghan opium is harvested by hand. And that's price for a gram of heroin, according to some quick googling.

For pure opium, according to this article in Afghanistan, a farmer will get about $300, while in legally produced opium in India (for use in legal opiates like morphine and oxycontin) costs about $29. Oh yeah, and those prices are per kilogram.

So again, if Opium were legal the same way that, say, honey or apple sauce were legal the costs wouldn't be much higher. I don't really know how much opium people usually take but I imagine it's probably less then a gram a day. So $29 would get you a 3 year supply.

---
Free or not, giving people all the heroin they need would kill them in a relatively short amount of time. Is that what you want?
If that were true, why don't all rich heroin addicts die? Of course it's not actually true. Heroin will kill you if you take a lot at once, but it doesn't 'build up' and make you more likely to die over time, as far as I know. You do build up a resistance to it. Some people might die, but that's true of skydiving or driving fast cars or whatever. 10,000 people die a year due to alcohol overdose. We shouldn't try to remove all risk from people's lives, and in any event the war on drugs.
what does not work is people, including some in this thread, minimizing how bad drugs can affect people and their loved ones
Please. What you're doing is demanding that poor minorities be thrown in jail to "protect" your loved ones from themselves. How many millions of people should be thrown in jail or have student loans denied or be straight up shot in a gang war to "protect" a handful of rich people who will never likely face legal consequences? What's the actual number you think is appropriate?

Except, of course, they're not even being protected - they can still get drugs, and the war on drugs exacerbates the situation immensely, by making drugs extremely expensive (thus, they have to lie/cheat/steal/ruin their relationships in order to get the drugs) and in the case of heroin making it dangerous.

All the negative things people are saying about Heroin are also true about Alcohol. For people who are hard-core alcoholics, it destroys their bodies, it destroys their relationships, their ability to get jobs, and so on. And people who are drunk are prone to violence and often crash cars and kill other people, while Heroin users, from what I understand, mostly just sit around while high.

And also, for those claiming that legalizing drugs would lead to more drugs, you have a responsibility to explain why that hasn't happened in Portugal before you go off trying to predict the drug apocalypse where as many people use cocaine as alchohol.
posted by delmoi at 1:48 PM on April 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Long term heroin use causes Alzheimer's-like brain-rot, and permanently shuts down natural opioid production. But long-term alcohol abuse is probably equally bad for your brain. The other problem with heroin is that it is the easiest drug to overdose on, although this risk would be reduced if addicts could have their doses administered in a regulated medical environment. Of course the main thing with opioids is that they are so profoundly addictive.

Cannabis on the other hand is just about the safest substance around. However a few studies have found a link with psychosis and schizophrenia. This has been enough for a new reincarnation of reefer madness and given prohibitionists a new lease of credibility in the eyes of policy makers. Ten years ago I was sure cannabis would soon be decriminalized in most western countries, now I'm not.
posted by moorooka at 3:59 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bottom line is that we now have decades-worth of large-scale studies and real-world results and increasingly common knowledge of the facts.

The old bullshit does not fly. One has to willfully choose to increase harm when promoting drug-war attitudes and tactics.

A few decades of this (Nixon had studies concluding decrim was best for society!) and one becomes very tired of the idiots who cling to demonstrably worse-outcome strategies. So very frustrating and angry-making.

Our social policies have real-world consequences. It's time we acted like it.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:29 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


If that were true, why don't all rich heroin addicts die?

Rich people are surrounded by people who can help, if only so they will continue to have someone to leech off, so many rich addicts are nursed through their addictions. In moments of relative clarity, rich people check into fancy spa/clinics built specifically to take the money of rich addicts.
posted by pracowity at 11:25 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rich people are surrounded by people who can help, if only so they will continue to have someone to leech off, so many rich addicts are nursed through their addictions. In moments of relative clarity, rich people check into fancy spa/clinics built specifically to take the money of rich addicts.
So you belive if the same services and social support were available to poor and middle class people (perhaps through some kind of "universal" healthcare system), they would not die even if they had access to as much heroin as they needed. But realistically, I don't see why it would happen. It didn't happen in Portugal, obviously.

I went back to check if you said you thought they would die and you weren't one of the ones who said so, but I did find this.
If you legalized (not just decriminalized) pot, people would dig up their yards to grow it, HOAs be damned. People who haven't held a shovel since they played on the beach would become weekend farmers. It would be great. At first.

But people without land to grow on would steal the pot harvests from people with land, so people with land would buy fences, dogs, and guns to protect their pot. But come harvest time there would still be raids, maybe armed raids, busted fences, shot dogs, and shot owners, if you were growing enough to bother with. And then things would get interesting.
Yeah, except this is completely insane. Why don't people steal tomatoes or watermelons out of people's gardens? If marijuana were completely legal, you could buy it at the store for a few dollars a pound, just like tomatoes or potatoes or any other legal, common agricultural products. Only products from really rare plants (like orchids or saffron something)

You people don't seem to understand that if drugs were legal, people wouldn't need to scam for them, they wouldn't need to steal to pay for them or steal them or whatever - they could just buy them at the store. The same way you can buy alchohol today. Everyone and their mother doesn't own their own still. Some people do brew their own beer or wine, and no one needs a ton of security because it would get stolen otherwise.
posted by delmoi at 11:36 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Yeah, except this is completely insane. Why don't people steal tomatoes or watermelons out of people's gardens? If marijuana were completely legal, you could buy it at the store for a few dollars a pound, just like tomatoes or potatoes or any other legal, common agricultural products. Only products from really rare plants (like orchids or saffron something)

Agreed. Not to mention that you don't need "land" to grow enough for personal use. Container gardening FTW, people, it's how I grow my vegetables.
posted by desuetude at 12:13 AM on April 22, 2012


If marijuana were legal people would be more likely to try to shoplift trimmed, dried, packaged buds from the store, just as they do with wine and tobacco. Absent Prohibition, nobody wants the trouble of stealing a big, stinky plant out of someone's backyard, especially not when it's legal to ask a horticulturally-inclined friend to grow one for them.
posted by vorfeed at 10:04 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Kids and teenagers stealing it would be a legitimate concern, would probably have to make some rules about securing whatever you are growing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:38 AM on April 22, 2012


The utter absurdity of the continued "war on drugs" has been summarized for me recently by two things. (1) There is now a problem with "synthetic marijuana" which is being sold legally in head shops but has a minor side effect--death, whereas "real" marijuana has yet to score a single fatality; and (2) There is now a local dentist in the area with TV ads that promote its approach, that being to give EVERY PATIENT a pill so they won't worry about their appointment. Drugs are bad... drugs are good! No wonder nobody trusts the information we're given.
posted by kinnakeet at 11:25 AM on April 22, 2012


What disappoints me is that here on MeFi we've so many uninformed people spewing opinions based on falsehoods as facts, ie. the things being said about the toxicity of heroin.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:33 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kids and teenagers stealing it would be a legitimate concern, would probably have to make some rules about securing whatever you are growing.

Really?
Do the tobacco plantations have a problem with teens stealing their crops?
posted by Iax at 12:38 PM on April 22, 2012


It's not quite the same situation. First off the concern here is more backyard gardeners. A large farm is already going to watch out for theft.

Also, folks are used to cannabis in a more raw, unprocessed form. Dry it, stick it in your pipe. I wouldn't expect a mature plant to last in my back yard any longer than an unattended case of beer.

Cigarettes are a more industrial, adulterated product. Tobacco harvested and home cured by an inexperienced teenager does not sound like a very pleasant product.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:19 PM on April 22, 2012


> Kids and teenagers stealing it would be a legitimate concern, would probably have to make some rules about securing whatever you are growing.

Theft is already illegal, as is trespassing and property damage. And the likeliest thieves are still going to be adults.
posted by desuetude at 1:46 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right now in California, if you have a cannabis card, you can grow up to some number of plants for personal use, and many people do (I have an extremely un-green thumb - even mint dies on me - so I'm not among them). I have yet to read about an epidemic of teens breaking into people's backyards to steal their plants. I suppose there could be one, and no one's calling to cops to report it, but I haven't even heard unreliable rumors about it. It's easy enough to get from a variety of other sources, right now, without risking a B&E charge, so I imagine that's what the Kids Today are doing.
posted by rtha at 1:52 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It has happened.

Officers arrived in the area and were flagged down by the victim, who told police several medical marijuana plants were stolen from his backyard. The victim is a medical marijuana patient with authorization to grow and use marijuana for medical reasons.
--
Police arrested Crossman, 19, Treshawn Rogers, 18, of Sacramento, Shawn White, 19, of Vacaville and Darrius Anderson, 20, of Vacaville.


Regardless of how common it is, I'm telling you this is just one you are going to have to give the soccer moms if you want them to sign on for legal pot, which is unlikely enough already.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:03 PM on April 22, 2012


I'm telling you this is just one you are going to have to give the soccer moms if you want them to sign on for legal pot, which is unlikely enough already.

Actually, not as unlikely as you think. In California, women as less likely than men to support legalization, last I read, but in the soccer mom age group, nearly half are in favor of it

Soccer moms don't want their kids in the criminal justice system, and more and more are coming to understand that putting them there will not actually solve a drug problem.
posted by rtha at 2:33 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just saw t this clip and it reminded me of the thread. It's interesting how Marijuana legalization has basically become such a main-stream position that people feel free to go on TV and advocate for it. Now, obviously it's current and the guy is Cenk Uygur, but even on CNN 'respectable' people advocate for legalizing marijuana all the time now. Now obviously that doesn't include hard drugs like we're discussing in the thread.
It's not quite the same situation. First off the concern here is more backyard gardeners. A large farm is already going to watch out for theft.

Well look -- when I was a kid my mom tried to grow grapes on our back porch. Neighborhood kids came up and ate them. It was a little disappointing, but really, it's not like went without grapes for a while. We could just buy them at the store for a few dollars a pound.

What people don't seem to understand is that if drugs were legal they would be cheap. Totally unregulated marijuana would be so cheap that it would cost less to replace it from a store then to put in any kind of security system if it got stolen. It would be so cheap that people wouldn't bother to try stealing it.

If the state imposed high taxes, so that buying it at the store was expensive, people could just grow it in their closets or something.

I can't believe this is even an issue people are taking seriously. You have to understand, if drugs were completely deregulated they would be practically free. The idea that somehow it's going to be a challenge to keep this stuff secure makes no more sense then the idea that keeping the watermelons of tomatos or whatever in your garden secure. Yes, sometimes that stuff does get stolen, and while it might be personally disappointing to the gardener, it's not at all something they consider a financial loss, growing was only something they were doing for fun anyway. They're probably more worried about rabbits then humans.
posted by delmoi at 7:55 AM on April 23, 2012


erp, most of that should not be blockquoted.
posted by delmoi at 7:55 AM on April 23, 2012


What disappoints me is that here on MeFi we've so many uninformed people spewing opinions based on falsehoods as facts, ie. the things being said about the toxicity of heroin.

Alcohol is really bad for your body and brain, but it takes a long time to kill you.

Drinkers, even very heavy drinkers, often outlive teetotallers.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 8:21 AM on April 23, 2012


>> I get my heroin on the NHS:
Each shot supplied by her chemist is just enough to enable Erin to function properly and prevent the onset of withdrawal. She only feels the buzz if she relaxes.
One of the problems with talking about (and dealing with) the problems of physical drug addiction is assuming all 'addicts' are the same, use the same, and would benefit from the same strategy. This simply isn't true. Some, like Erin, want to get on with life and want just enough of their chosen substance to avoid unbearable withdrawal and no more (well, maybe not until late in the evening). Not everyone is on an endless cycle of being bombed, suffering through withdrawal, and getting bombed again. Of course it takes a lot for the latter to see the point in becoming the former. Very, very few are ever offered the option.

Many people draw a line between the person who is physically dependent (they need a minimal dose to feel normal and go on with their day) and the one who is addicted (continually increasing dosages, ruining career and relationships, ignoring mounting health problems, etc). The latter are far more visible, the former often invisible. Lumping them together for a quick solution makes an unnecessary mess.
posted by K.P. at 2:50 PM on April 23, 2012


delmoi, my concern is for kids stealing it, not particularly because I'm a "WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!?" type but because those folks are a serious political force. Beer is cheap too, kids still steal it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:56 PM on April 23, 2012


> my concern is for kids stealing it, not particularly because I'm a "WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!?" type but because those folks are a serious political force. Beer is cheap too, kids still steal it.

...but adults steal it way more often. I understand acknowledging the WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN fearmongering, but let's not lend it any extra weight by reversing the roles of the exception and the rule.
posted by desuetude at 10:34 PM on April 23, 2012


K.P. : the heroin prescription program in the UK at the time of the article was offered to the most refractory addicts i.e. those most unable to kick off their addiction - Erin went through 10 methadone programs. And Erin was part of the latter group (she became a prostitute; she supplemented methadone with crack).

It's the regular, guaranteed dose that makes it a mundane part of one's life that will make your life stabler and your drug-seeking psychology to change and thus allow you to defocus from seeking the diminished positive affect that a highly drug-tolerant person will experience. As long as you are working outside the confines of the law and social norms to manage your next hit, that's all you have to focus on.
posted by daksya at 12:16 AM on April 24, 2012


There are no politicians in America advocating the legalization of cocaine, heroin or meth.

Depends on how you define "politician." There are certainly people running for office who support the legalization of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

If you legalized (not just decriminalized) pot, people would dig up their yards to grow it, HOAs be damned. People who haven't held a shovel since they played on the beach would become weekend farmers. It would be great. At first.

But people without land to grow on would steal the pot harvests from people with land, so people with land would buy fences, dogs, and guns to protect their pot. But come harvest time there would still be raids, maybe armed raids, busted fences, shot dogs, and shot owners, if you were growing enough to bother with. And then things would get interesting.


I can't tell if this is a troll or not. If cannabis were legalized, why are there armed raids?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:12 PM on April 24, 2012


Wouldn't allowing Heroin uses get all the low cost Heroin they want cause the Heroin use problem to solve itself?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:04 AM on April 21 [3 favorites −] [!]


If you're suggesting that the problem will be solved by heroin addicts ODing, then that's a joke in really bad taste.
posted by snofoam at 7:27 AM on April 21 [5 favorites +] [!]


I though the statement was referring to the fact that heroin users just need to maintain, and when they can't, they improvise or take unreliably sourced heroin, which is of an unexpected potency and/or contains additional toxic substances.

In the BBC story linked above: "clean heroin like diamorphine is not in itself dangerous, just incredibly addictive"

I took it (charitably perhaps) to mean that if it were easy for low-income heroin addicts to maintain, that reduces a lot of the problems (overdoses, theft, etc.) But, again I'm probably being overcharitable.

A wise man once told me that, when you meet a heroin addict, assume they're smart and they're going to try to rip you off.

I actually found that "joke" more offensive.

Opiate addicts are not in control of their facilities

What?! Not even House?!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:27 PM on April 24, 2012


…easy for low-income heroin addicts to maintain, that reduces a lot of the problems

As evidenced by Vancouver BC's InSite program.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:28 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Groundbreaking EU study supports use of heroin-assisted treatment
posted by rtha at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing that needs to be understood by the general population is that on the whole, most people don't want to be a junkie.

So if a junkie is given a reasonable chance of not being an addict, they'll take it.

Plus, it turns out to be cheaper to offer safety, substitution, counseling, and education, than to criminalize and imprison.

Better outcomes, cheaper. The "debate" is plainly stupid. We know fully well what does and does not achieve our collective social and moral goals.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:47 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The prescription of substitution drugs, such as methadone and buprenorphine, has become a mainstream, first-line treatment for opioid dependence, with around 700 000 of Europe’s 1.3 million problem opioid users receiving substitution treatment today."

and therein lies the problem. Anyone who seriously wants to kick their herion habit should stay far, far away from methadone and suboxone etc. Getting clean from that crap is much harder than kicking heroin itself. For someone who can admit that they are powerless over heroin - that their life has become unmanageable, there is one solution - cold turkey, perhaps a little taper into it, but then complete abstinence. Methadone and suboxone are best for addicts who are not really ready to get clean but who must do something for legal reasons etc. Anyone on maintenance opioids is not really clean. It's better than full blown on the street herion addiction, but it isn't clean and the continuous taste of the dragon leads all to often to the chase.
posted by caddis at 7:50 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you want to make that argument, you better come with stats.

My only experience with physical addiction is with nicotine. I quit the cig habit once for a year with the assistance of Wellbutrin, once for several months substituting snus, and for a year and a half and counting now cold turkey and I really feel like cold turkey worked best.

However, I'm pretty sure you could shake that order up and I would probably have ended up the same, quitting finally when I was really ready for it as a person. I can't tell, honestly.

If you think you know the answer though, cite it. Here is the kind of thing I read for smoking:

Clinical studies have shown that you're about twice as likely to succeed in stopping smoking with the help of a nicotine substitute (nicotine replacement therapy – NRT) or the prescription-only medicines Zyban (bupropion) and Champix (varenicline).


Beyond that though, I don't rob any houses if I fail at quitting smoking and a farmer in Afghanistan or Mexico doesn't get encouraged to keep growing illegal crops. Getting people onto reliable safe doses is as much for the rest of us at it is for the addicts.

That powerless talk is AA/NA talk, and those are great programs that work for plenty of people, but they aren't the be all end all of dealing with the problems of addiction.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:02 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nicotine Replacement Therapy doesn't work in the real world: The relapse rate was no different for those who hadn’t used NRT and those who had used NRT for more than six weeks, with or without counseling support. And there was no difference between heavy and light smokers’ success at quitting via NRT.

fg: However, I'm pretty sure you could shake that order up and I would probably have ended up the same, quitting finally when I was really ready for it as a person

I'm no expert (just read a lot and have life experience), but I think you're right. The success of a given attempt to quit a particular drug will probably depend more on personal motivation and other factors (such as would quitting mean becoming socially isolated vs rejoining the world) than the method. A lot of people seem to just pay lip-service to this fairly self-evident idea (IMO) before getting right back to arguing that a given method (CT, chemical-crutch, harm-reduction via clean/theraputic dose, etc) 'works' or 'does not work.'
posted by K.P. at 4:43 PM on May 7, 2012


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