Providing straightforward information pertaining to drugs, drug use & drug policy. The Grey Pages promotes drug-related literacy and advocates a system of viable and tolerant drug policies. This is my personal collection of commentaries, essays, tid-bits, and other such writings on everything ranging from drug use, drug policy and drug-myths, to drug-science, addiction, human behavior, and the workings of the human brain. I started this blog with a particular focus on opioids, and over the past year have found my interest gravitate toward the intriguing, ever-changing world of designer intoxicants (i.e. "research chemicals" or "designer drugs").

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Realities of Current Drug Policy

"The constraints on the power of the federal government, as laid down in the Constitution, have been eroded by a monopolistic medical profession administering a system of prescription laws that have, in effect, removed most of the drugs people want from the free market." (Thomas Szaz)

(Search keywords: US, drug policy, DEA, drug laws, prohibition, drugs, harm reduction, legalization, criminalization, war on drugs, controlled substance act)

Drug criminalization and the "war on drugs" have for 98 years served as tools of cultural and intellectual oppression, a systematic assault on individual liberty and the "free market".

Prohibition has been a failure in terms of stopping or reducing drug use. Both supply and demand reduction approaches have failed.

The global crusade against socially taboo drugs - in large part led by the strong-armed tactics of the US government - has caused a catastrophic shortage of opium and opioid analgesics in 80% of the world; adversely affecting millions suffering from terminal cancer, late-stage AIDS, and other conditions, and creating friction between the US and other Nations. Yet our government continues the bullying, continues imposing its will upon the rest of the world, not to mention its citizens.

Wherever there exists free-willed people, there will always be drug use. As long as there is drug use, there will always be some degree of a "drug problem". 

Drug laws have not  been effective in reducing or diminishing drug problems; we can either continue the oppressive policies which have excacerbated (and in many cases created) these problems or we can learn to cope with the reality that drugs & drug use will not cease to exist, while working to minimize it's dangers through education and an emphasis on accountable drug use.

Individuals who want to use drugs will always obtain drugs. Nothing - (short of violent force & imprisonment) and no one - will stop them from using drugs.

The origins of our current drug policies are based in superstition, moral idealism, and pseudoscience. Furthermore they don't reflect the actual dangers of illicit drugs. These supposed dangers are at best, no more severe than the dangers of legal drugs such as alcohol and caffeine, and at worst, exaggerations, fabrications, or myths.

A large portion, if not majority, of what are currently considered drug induced harms are in fact caused, or worsened, by drug criminalization. This critical fact continues to be overlooked, or intentionally ignored, by the modern drug warrior.

Our only practical or real-world evidence - that being the historical experience with alcohol prohibition in the 1920's, and the unremarkable results of narcotic decriminalization in Portugal - further suggests that the repeal of current drug laws would not lead to any earth-shattering increase in drug use or additiction. History suggests legalization would not change a whole lot, and would more likely than not lead to an improvement in public health and a reduction in both petty and violent crime.

Harmful forms of drug use such as venous injection are largely a byproduct of drug prohibition; dependent users take their drugs by such routes due to their higher relative bioavailabilities and their sparing effect on dosage, allowing better cost-efficiency. With more widespread and more liberalized access to less toxic and better quality drugs, these hazardous patterns of use will become less problematic and less prevalent.

Drug criminalization has fed not only a violent criminal underworld, but has spawned a massive enforcement & treatment bureaucracy with an major vested interest in securing and perpetuating its own existence (and with that the continuation of current policy); leading to ethical deterioration and outright corruption at the level of government, enforcement & corrections, healthcare, media , and even scientific research.

It is an illusion that these policies are justified by a supposed concern for "the children"; especially considering that because of these policies, illicit drugs are now more accessible to minors than are legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Regardless, the failure of some adults to parent their children and the poor choices of some adolescents is by no means a just cause for depriving consenting adults of the freedom to take drugs responsibly.

Despite prohibitionist talking points; the approval of narcotics merely for medical use is by no means tantamount in its result to a legalization scenario. The harms associated with drugs prescribed in a medical context are not representative of the likely effects of actual drug legalization - In fact, the exclusivity of medical-only narcotic use seems to have complicated the issue of RX misuse and worsened mortality; in part by misleading patients and drug users regarding the nature, safety, and clinical appropriateness of potent narcotics, and by making doctors drug monopolists, who are thus left coping with an overwhelming demand for narcotics by patients & non medical drug users alike, in which case the burden of "responsible drug use", by recreational drug users, has instead become the burden of "responsible drug prescribing", by physicians.

This medical narco-monopoly creates a dangerous smokescreen of ambiguous marketing, prescribing, and consumption. It has led to a breakdown of honesty & clarity between doctor and patient. It has led to a wide scale of ignorance, ambiguity and misconception among drug users and potential drug users regarding the very nature of - and risks inherent with - a particular drug (this often has lethal consequences). The social perceptions, consumer education, personal responsibility, market regulations & safegaurds which should all naturally accompany the distribution of legal intoxicants, are absent in the context of clinical prescribing & distribution. The successful sale of legal intoxicants requires a completely different context than that of their clinical use; the current trend in RX-related addiction & mortality has sent this message the hard way.

The economic costs incurred in a climate of legalized access are very unlikely to approach the costs incurred in today's prohibitive climate of uninformed use, ambiguous purity, and lack of access to education & harm minimization. The most effective way to minimize these costs in a climate of legalization is to adopt social & economic policies which move away from mass entitlements & socialized healthcare; in turn gravitating toward policies which incentivize individual responsibility and emphasize private, rather than public, health insurance.

"we have failed to cultivate the self-reliance and self-discipline
we must possess as competent adults surrounded by the
fruits of our pharmacological-technological age"
Originating with the purpose of protecting us from being fooled and harmed by misbranded drugs, American drug prohibition in the last century has evolved into a coercive totalitatian system now serving to not only protect us from harming ourselves by self-medicating; but to enforce a puritan notion of morality by preventing us from controlling our own consciousness. Through gradual social conditioning, American adults over the last century have, without hesitation, come to accept, even welcome, these instrusive totalitarian measures, to where we now live our lives under a monopoly of therapeutic tutelage -wherein we've been robbed of our capacity as individuals to exogenously pursue our own terms of well being, and placed under the control of drug monopolists and the medical practitioners.

Having been conditioned for generations into this Orwellian-esque environment, as Thomas Szaz explains, "we have failed to cultivate the self-reliance and self-discipline we must possess as competent adults surrounded by the fruits of our pharmacological-technological age"

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