And that, right there, is why I don't expect decriminalization to happen anytime soon. 1.5 million people, potentially dropped straight into the job market?
Crack babies and cokeheads may not be a threat, but a million and a half more people suddenly competing for jobs that are already too few on the ground ... that's a threat.
The economy is the elephant in the room. Notice that the "crack epidemic" (and PCP before that), and the law enforcement attention dedicated to it, started to ramp up at about the same time that manufacturing in the US was collapsing. It's almost as if we didn't have enough jobs to go around anymore, so we decided to invent a few out of thin air: some people get to be prisoners, other people get to work as guards, administrators, parole officers, police officers, judges, lawyers, clerks, bail bondsmen... the list goes on.
I saw heroin make a poor community (South Boston's projects) much worse off than it had been. And the economy was amidst a bubble at the time that made jobs more plentiful up and down the class structure. So, maybe his research is talking about average experience? Or maybe he is just universalizing from his own experience.
Even small differences between closely-related chemicals can render them utterly different in pharmacological terms, can't they? This just seems kind of strangely hand-wavey, unless of course the principle I articulated doesn't hold in the case of amphetamines. I'm certainly not a chemist.
For instance, when we talk about the “epidemics” of Oxycontin, methamphetamine or heroin, we rarely acknowledge that the majority of users never become addicted: Over the course of a lifetime, only about 10% to 15% ever get hooked. That risk is not insignificant: Few people would fly on a plane that crashed every tenth flight. But focusing on use as the main factor in addiction obscures what is actually at stake.
There are, decade after decade, headlines about the fall of one drug and the rise of another. Yet the overall rate of people with addictions remains fairly constant. Although population differences and other variables make the numbers hard to compare exactly, a large national survey in 1990 found a 3.6% rate of illegal drug problems (DSM-defined “abuse” or “dependence”) in people ages 15 to 54 during the previous 12 months. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which includes people from age 12 to those in their 80s or older, found a 2.5% rate of abuse or dependence in 2011. While that rate may seem much lower, the difference is probably due to the later survey’s inclusion of people over 55, who are numerous and had a 2011 addiction or drug misuse rate of a mere 0.8% or less. It is worth noting that 1990 was the peak of fears about a non-ending crack epidemic; by contrast, today, while there are concerns about growing prescription opioid addiction, the actual rates have been steady since 2006.
It seems like you have much more direct experience with addicts then I do but I did spend a good number of years in a party town (ski resort) where all sorts of drugs were the norm. -- Jalliah
I have never, ever heard an addict of heroin say they started using because they were in pain. -- gjc
That sounds completely safe. Nothing could possibly go wrong. -- Justinian
gjc: People are not taking heroin to cure pain. They are taking it because it gets them high.
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