Scotland's drug minister declares the war on drugs over.
March 8, 2002 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Scotland's drug minister declares the war on drugs over. "The only time you will hear me use terms such as 'War On Drugs' and 'Just Say No' is to denigrate them." [Link via DanceSafe]
posted by bingo (16 comments total)
What? Whats that? The war on drugs is over? No, Scotland lost the war on drugs!

Reminds me of an Onion Article, "Drugs win the Drug War" or something like that.
posted by Keen at 3:52 PM on March 8, 2002

Good news from across the pond... finally, someone in power is just saying no to stupid drug policies.
posted by RylandDotNet at 4:31 PM on March 8, 2002

Thank goodness. Perhaps this silliness is on the wane, and we'll all finally enter the 21st century. You'd think we'd have learned better from the failure of the temperance movement.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:10 PM on March 8, 2002

Well, "Just Say No" and other programs along those lines are proven not to work.

As I mentioned earlier today, I work at a substance abuse prevention agency; most of the work we do is with teenagers, and the goal of most of the programs we provide are to delay the onset of a child's first drink of alochol or drug experimentation. It's been proven, scientifically, that the later the onset of substance use, the less likely there will be a substance abuse problem later on.

Here's a page which talks about Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) model programming--what it is, what programs there are, &c.

[For the record, I am by no means a teetotaller; I enjoy my booze as much as the next person, and I think the "war on drugs" is silly, but abuse of any substance, legal or not, is something not-to-be-desired.]
posted by eilatan at 7:25 PM on March 8, 2002

It's been proven, scientifically, that the later the onset of substance use, the less likely there will be a substance abuse problem later on.

I'm going to go ahead and say I doubt that. The U.S. has a higher alcoholism rate than countries like Holland where experimenting with alcohol is just part of growing up; you don't do it to rebel. Perhaps what was shown was a correlation but not a causation, or perhaps a very conservative definition of "abuse" was used.
posted by bingo at 7:41 PM on March 8, 2002

From the site I linked above:

"Early involvement with drugs or alcohol places children at risk of later substance abuse and maintains a cycle of inadequate education, lower ambition, and poor parenting skills that affects entire families and puts a burden on their communities. The more severe the early involvement, the greater the risk for later antisocial behaviors." [link] (So it's not exactly what I said, but it's damned close.)

At any rate, in terms of research and evaluation (which is the area I work in), programs like DARE and Just Say No, where the kids are told by authority figures not to drink or do drugs, have been shown not to work. What does work are these science-based programs that CSAP evaluates for effectiveness. They're not perfect--no program is perfect--but the results of these programs are repeatable over a variety of populations.

It is my personal opinion that if the laws in the US were more reasonable regarding drug and alcohol use (for minors and adults), then there wouldn't be nearly the problems that there are.
posted by eilatan at 8:09 PM on March 8, 2002

I certainly agree with your ideas about a better education and more reasonable laws. But I still doubt this connection you mentioned earlier.

They say "early involvement" and "the more severe the involvement" as if they are using some already agreed-upon definition of "involvement" and "severe," when in fact I think that lack of clarity on those definitions is a major part of the issue.

That web site talks a lot about building communities, friendships, family relationships, etc. for troubled youth, while at the same time keeping those youths away from alcohol and other drugs as much as possible. Of course, if someone grows up impoverished, and without a positive family and peer support network, and spends a lot of time around people who have basically given up on life already and are using drugs as an escape, then of course the chance for becoming an abuser is quite high. And of course, if you take all those factors away, the chance is going to decrease.

That doesn't mean that one of those factors (time of first exposure) is directly and causationally connected to abuse later on, regardless of context. If, for example, you grow up in with a family that loves you and friends who support you, and most of the alcohol use you encounter is by successful adults who have a drink once in a while to relax, and you have every reason to believe you're going to succeed in life, and someone offers you a beer when you're 16, drinking the beer does not suddenly skyrocket your chances of becoming an alchy. On the contrary, if the whole experience is presented to you as no big deal, you may not be that motivated to get trashed every weekend in order to rebel against whatever it is you rebel against in your particular adolescent angst. If your parents are making a big point of how you should absolutely never drink alcohol, that's the first thing you're going to do when you have a big teen argument with them, whether they love you or not.

So I guess the problem I'm really having is in with the idea that providing a positive environment for children to grow up in, and keeping them as far away from alcohol as possible, are the same thing. Part of the education we need, in my view, is to not portray adolescent experimentation as "bad."
posted by bingo at 9:04 PM on March 8, 2002

Oh, I totally see your point, and agree with most of what you're saying (I'm really new to this particular field, so I'm still learning what a lot of the terms that get thrown around a lot mean. So you could be absolutely right about the definitions of some of the words being fuzzy. CSAP is a division of SAMHSA, after all.)

I think we're circling around the same idea, here. Part of the issue with experimentation, I think, though, is where do you draw the line? Alcohol okay, but not marijuana? Marijuana okay, but not ecstasy? Ecstasy okay, but not methamphetamines? And so on down the line...

It's a really difficult issue to sort through, and frankly, I don't think the field has been helped by programs like DARE or Just Say No (and both these programs are still being used in schools and communities for prevention). There aren't any easy answers, and unfortunately, I think a lot of people want easy answers, and the "war on drugs" is an easy answer (IMO)--and on it goes, with no end in sight.
posted by eilatan at 9:36 PM on March 8, 2002

As you say, we're basically in agreement. I am somewhat amused by your list of examples, though, as those are all drugs I use regularly (except ecstasy, just once so far). To me, the problem doesn't really start until you're talking about something that will lead to heroin or crack, and maybe cocaine.
posted by bingo at 9:54 PM on March 8, 2002 "maybe cocaine" I meant that I'm not sure whether or not to include it in the list of serious problem drugs. I wasn't suggesting it's worse than heroin or crack by any means.
posted by bingo at 9:57 PM on March 8, 2002

eilatan's examples are cheap drugs:: affordable for young-ins.
posted by elle at 12:33 AM on March 9, 2002

Precisely, elle. Also, I was trying to show a progression of steadily "worse" drugs (at least how they're popularly perceived). Not many people who become substance abusers start out with heroin (at least I don't think so--I could be wrong; I've lived a pretty sheltered life when it comes to illegal drugs).

Another thing, that I thought of after I went to bed last night: any site that relies on government funding (like the CSAP site cited above), is probably going to toe the line of current government policy when it comes to alcohol and drugs for young people--which is they [the government] don't want to see them doing them at all, at all.
posted by eilatan at 8:58 AM on March 9, 2002

Education is very important here, I think. If you grow up with TV ads and police officers saying "Ecstasy will kill you," but your friends are doing it and not dying, you're a lot more likely to believe your friends when they say it's harmless.

Providing children and young adults with well-balanced, accurate information on the dangers of drugs is essential. Propaganda does nothing but destroy any credibility authorities might have had on drug awareness programs, thus putting people at risk.
posted by Jairus at 9:04 AM on March 9, 2002

I think crack is actually cheaper than amphetamines. I get them on prescription, and they're still pretty damn expensive. And E isn't cheap either.
posted by bingo at 5:52 PM on March 9, 2002

I really have no idea how much drugs cost--I literally have never bought anything that wasn't legal. All I know about that sort of thing, I've learned from Dope Wars. Which I can't play at the office, dammit.

At any rate, the ones I listed were ones that I thought would be at the low end of the price scale, relatively safe (at least at first use for an experimenting kid, I've heard that meth can get pretty nasty), and easily obtainable.
posted by eilatan at 9:15 PM on March 9, 2002

Right. I guess what I'm trying to say then, in terms of how this discussion started, is that I don't think it's as simple as there being a slope with expensive hard-to-find and very dangerous drugs at one end, and the safest, cheapest, and easiest-to-find drugs at the other end. In my personal experience, I've had plenty of opportunities to use heroin, for free, and I didn't, while I've spent hundreds of dollars on pot. Just for example. My point is that I think the very idea of there being a "slippery slope" is false, or at best, a dangerously misleading oversimplification. I don't believe in "gateway drugs," and I'm retroactively annoyed at all the stupid filmstrips I watched in school that mentioned them.

eliatan, I know we're just chipping away at a smaller point here in a discussion in which we mostly agree. no hard feelings meant by my continued chipping.
posted by bingo at 11:54 PM on March 9, 2002

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