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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Politicians may not like it but our son needs medical help, not prison, say the parents of a heroin addict

    We were pleased to read Simon Jenkins's article on Professor David Nutt's report which, he says, "draws a distinction between the harm done by mind altering substances to the individual and the harm done to the wider society" (Britain's drugs hypocrisy is a giant self-inflicted wound, 3 November).

    Our personal experience as parents whose youngest son became involved with heroin, and who is suffering the consequences 10 years on, has led us to the view that if you can reduce the harm to the individual then a reduction of the harm to society will take care of itself – after all, society is a collection of individuals. This approach would be opposite to that taken by current and previous governments and their agencies, whose primary focus has been on reducing the harm to society caused by alcohol and drugs.

    Our son is talented and able, but he made unfortunate choices in his late teens. He tries to work and contribute to society but he has an illness – addiction – brought on by heroin. We believe that, instead of being treated as a criminal, he should be treated as someone who needs medical help. If this was done and his illness cured, he would be able to make a full contribution to society. However, this is not what our society does.

    The current criminalisation of class A drug users reminds us of the fictional society in Erewhon, by Samuel Butler, where individuals who are ill are convicted and sentenced by a criminal court. Last year our son received a conviction. Though this was technically correct, the reality is that he is a drug user on prescribed methadone, registered with a drug treatment agency, who was caught up in a police operation. The operation appeared to be designed to show the public that the police were "doing something about drugs" and was not designed to help individuals or society.

    As Jenkins remarked, Alan Johnson – the former home secretary who sacked Professor Nutt last year – was "a typical Labour headline grabber". Our son recently told us: "Unfortunately the best way to treat addicts is not the best way to get votes." It is also, as Jenkins points out, a reflection of the government "being obsessed ... with taboo drugs designated as illicit and filling prisons with the resulting miscreants".

    As taxpayers we are dismayed at the amount spent on the police operation and legal proceedings to convict our son; and as parents we are deeply saddened that his illness can be treated with such contempt by the police force and legal system.

    Many excellent people are now supporting our son. However, we remain very concerned that his addiction is being maintained by his methadone programme and feel strongly that this is designed to reduce the harm to society rather than help him.

    We strongly agree with Jenkins that "there is no need for any more reports, seminars, committees or thinktanks". Politicians need a different perspective on the problems of drugs and alcohol, and should listen to Professor Nutt, his colleagues, and those who have intimate experiences of the reality of drugs and the harm they can do.

    • The authors wish to remain anonymous



    anonymous
    The Guardian,
    Tuesday 23 November 2010

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/23/treat-addicts-drug-policy-votes

Comments

  1. Killa Weigha
    Nice one.
    and to placate the pharmaceutical lobby who have a financial interest in extending every addict's use of methadone for as long as possible.
    that's really it isn't it? politicians are focused on getting re-elected so that they may keep riding the ol gravy-train. They could give a fuck what's good for society or about responsible legislation as long as they can remain in office and continue to be a magnet for self- enriching "favors".
  2. dyingtomorrow
    Lets assume for arguments sake that drugs, from marijuana to mushrooms to heroin, do not help the human condition at all, and are harmful. That self medicating, even as a productive member of a community, is something that inherently hurts society. That humans do not have individual privacy rights as a basic moral concept, to control their consumption, bodily functions, mortality, consciousness and frame of mind.

    If it were true that drugs inherently harm society, prohibition would still be detrimental and illogical. Under our assumptions, prohibition WOULD help society if it was possible, in reality, to completely eradicate the flow of illegal drugs. There would be no drugs to buy, thus nobody would be on illegal drugs, people would be healthier and more productive, and society would be better off.

    But.

    It is, and seemingly always will be, completely impossible to remove all pleasurable and mind altering substances from any given country. As long as there is commerce, and as long as borders are open to trade, drugs will always be able to find their way in, en masse. It is almost certainly human nature to do drugs. Basic animal nature even, as many different animals get themselves high in the wild. The desire will always be there, thus there will always be demand, thus there will always be a supply - since illegalization causes black markets, which provide huge profit margins to anyone willing to take a little risk. There is also the fact that many drugs can be synthesized from basic and available chemicals, and new ones and simpler methods are being discovered all the time. Thus, in a realistic country, with even an iota of human rights, there is no way to stop drugs trafficking or use.

    It is theorhetically possible to completely eradicate drugs in a society. It would mean borders would have to be completely closed, patrol boats posted every couple miles along the entire coast. Everyone would have to be thoroughly searched who entered the country. The government would have to implement a massive monitoring system, and possibly drug test all citizens periodically. Only with the most totalitarian degree of control, could a government completely stop illegal drug supply and use. Doing the math, it is probably not even macro-economically feasible, considering the enormous amount of the countries GDP which would have to go towards such an omniscient level of control, not even considering how badly the economy would be damaged by cutting off the borders. It would almost certainly, eventually, bankrupt the country. Also, history has shown that trying to attack and occupy drug supplier countries is 100% futile, and not an option. 30 years of secret warface in Columbia has shown that even the most powerful country in the world, the U.S., cannot control the people of a country in the slightest. There have been tens of thousands of soldiers, with the most advance military technology to date, in Afghanistan, for years. Yet poppy cultivation has flourished despite their presence and eradication efforts. It's all just an example of the lesson Vietnam taught, that no matter how strong you are, you can never hold territory against a hostile indigenous people, unless you are willing to go to the extremes of total genocide. Thus, there will always be supplier countries, and absolute isolation, absolution of privacy rights, and an unimaginable scale of border control and law enforcement, would be the only hypothetical way to stop the entry of drugs into a country.

    In the present civilized era, where the greatest part of the world believes that all humans are born with certain inalienable human rights and liberties, such a society that could control the flow of drugs could never exist - again, even if it were economically feasible to sustain that level of total control. Fortunately humankind has not degenerated so badly that a 1984 future seems possible, and we can only pray it remains that way.

    Thus it can only be concluded that prohibition is, at its very best, completely pointless. Taking other factors into consideration, it is actually an extremely harmful policy. To whatever extent drugs inherently cause social problems, prohibition exasterbates those problems by orders of magnitude. Untold wealth is almost completely wasted in the attempt to enforce drug laws, law which have not been shown to deter drug use to any appreciable degree. It must be considered that this is money, trillions of dollars worldwide, that has been taken from the hands of productive people, and flushed down the toilet in futile and economically unproductive attempts to enforce an unenforceable law; where it could have otherwise been invested in industries and enterprises which advance the collective wealth, technology, science, and quality of life of all of humanity. Prohibition also severely damages the productivity of society as a whole. Many of the non-addictive, "less harmful than alcohol" drugs, do not detract whatsoever from the ability of a person to work everyday, create wealth, be productive, and contribute to society. Even the drugs we consider as the worst and most destructive, such as opiates, do not inherently detract from the ability of a person to work and live. Prohibition does not stop the flow of drugs, and instead society destroys, seemingly out of blind spite, those who use them. It destroys their lives, takes possession of their property, imprisons them and turns them into worse criminals, and makes them bitter, hateful, and harmful to society - where they otherwise would have just peacefully popped their pills or smoked their marijuana, and gone to work every day. Were it not for prohibition, tens of millions more people around the world could contribute to the wealth and advancement of the human race. The amount of economic damage this does can scarcely be comprehended. There is also the issue of the destabilization of government and law, as increasing numbers of citizens are marked as drug criminals, excluded from gainful employment, and become apathetic or hateful towards the national government.

    Destroying peoples lives as an attempt to scare the rest of society into following drug laws has not proven to be an effective deterrent whatsoever. Rates of drug use have scarcely changed for as long as the drug war has been fought, despite increasingly severe penalties. Taking otherwise productive citizens, who chose to get high, and casting them through the cracks into the dejected underbelly of society, has enormously harmful reprecussions. Not only are these millions of people not contributing to the economy to their maximum potential, which benefits society as a whole, not only are they costing society an unimaginable amount of wealth for lawyers, police, legal system, judges, prisons, prison guards, food, etc., but they themselves become economic drains once they are stamped as drug criminals. Many, unable to support themselves, end up on public aid. An enormous percent leave prison jaded and malicious, where they were previously docile and productive. These people cost society even more money by the crime they cause, both in law enforcement costs, and in the added security costs which increase the operational costs, production costs, transportation costs, and so on, for all the goods and services in the economy. Which aggregately adds up to an enormous amount of money, which could, again, otherwise go towards growing the world economy and increasing the wealth, technology, conveinence, and advancement of the human race.

    There is also the fact that once a single person is destroyed by society for using drugs, and rendered unproductive and often impoverished, the degradation and drain on society is usually multiplied generational. Generations of poverty and ignorance could be traced (to some degree) to the imprisonment, impoverishment, and embitterment of a single ancestor of a family tree. Especially in cases where the citizen and future destroyed is that of a youth or teenager, who otherwise had the potential to get a good education, grow up, contribute to society, and raise a family which then multiplies the number of educated, patriotic, and productive citizens in country, and benefits the collective. The alternative is destroying the young life for drug use or dealing, denying them an education, desocializing them in an institution, psychologically unbalancing them, and instilling a hatred of law and government, resulting in the production of an ignorant, hateful, degenerate human being who will do nothing but cause a massive financial drain on society, and possibly harm the lives of others.

    So we have the facts that (1) there is no way to stop the flow of drugs without becoming a one-world totalitarian slave state, (2) legal penalties do not deter drug use, (3) social, productive members of society are being converted at a nearly unsustainable rate into destructive, anti-social financial drains on the country, (4) the legal and financial destruction of one human being has long lasting, multiplicative, and severely detrimental effects on society in the long run, and of course (5) that the enormous amount of wealth which has been unproductively spent on the enforcement of prohibition, which has been definitively demonstrated to have no possible chance of ever being effective, could have revolutionized the advancement, technology, wealth, economy, and quality of life for the human race. Even assuming that human beings have no inherent moral right to control their mood, consumption, state of mind, consciousness, or health, and that drug use inherently causes harm to society, it is absolutely clear that the harm and costs which would come from the legalization of drugs could be but a tiny fraction of those caused by prohibition. It has been demonstrated in certain countries that legalization does not increase aggregate drug use. Those who used drugs would be permitted to contribute to society, rather than turned into generationally multiplying, socially destructive money sinks. Those who felt they were harmed or impaired by their drug use would be able to quickly, cheaply, easily, and to no personal detriment, receive effective help with their addiction, and return to the fold of society with the ability to continue being productive. Trillions of dollars would be freed up in the world economy and put to productive uses, uses that would enrich and progress the entire human race to an era-defining degree.

    There are absolutely no benefits to prohibition no matter how you analyze it, and there is undoubtedly no other social concept which is degenerating the state and retarding the advancement of humanity, to anything approaching the magnitude of "prohibition."
  3. stevein7
    Prohibition works, it keeps up prices.
    Drugs are another, important, aspect of capitalist profiteering.

    The war on drugs is very successful.
  4. C.D.rose
    I would like to comment on the content of a rep left below DT's post:
    I think it is exactly this mindset that makes me quite often assume the role of trying to point out the fact that the question of drug prohibition is, just like any other issue in this world, not all black-and-white. It is beyond me how, for other reasons than extreme egocentrism, anyone could make the statement that drug prohibition is the biggest human rights violation in the world. Even if one considers drug prohibition in its very largest sense, i.e. including all the consequences it has on societies and countries that are at the origin of the international drug flows, the power it gives to Afghan warlords, Columbian drug cartels, etc., I do not see how drug prohibition tops issues such as malnutrition (food is a human right, and a much more basic one than access to mind-altering substances), war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, you name it. To be honest, statements like the one quoted above just confirm my impression that, even amongst the relatively more educated group of drug users that post here on DF, there is a fair amount of either ignorance or profound disinterest on issues that should concern all of us, and that are far more pressing than the question of drug prohibition. Seriously, to those who live in a country that allows them to log on to any website that exists, who have the economic comfort to actually spend considerable amounts of time here on DF, and for whom drugs are a means for recreation, but who consider that their being deprived of free access to drugs outranks all other human rights violations, I can only say: grow up and get freakin' real. I mean you can't be serious. Do you know how many people out there would stare at your in disbelief when they heard that people considered comfortable access to pleasurable substances more important than them having one decent meal a day, clean drinking water, or access to even the most basic education for their children? This is just unbelievable to me..
  5. Killa Weigha
    ^^Well said and Repper should understand that it is neither "by far" nor "the biggest"
    That was out of line. It must be agreed, however, that incomprehensible amounts of resources have been squandered with absolutely fuck all to show for it, no? Resources that should have been directed toward meaningful and achievable solutions to tangible and solveable problems (like the ones mentioned ^^) continue to be absolutely pissed away on what? War on Drugs? Really? Why not declare a war on fat? a war on sugar? a war on Satan? Will Rodgers said when you find youself in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging. It's time to put down the shovel already.
  6. Guttz
    While I do agree with the points above and I will admit that the poster went out of line by saying it's the biggest human right violation in our time. This is actually a policy that most of the public supports and our governments do as well. We actively try and help those who are dying from hunger or are getting killed by some very hateful groups around the world. Those are things that we do not agree with, the main public doesn't do that at all. Our governments don't and that shows how we are willing to fight for what is right. This however, is not the case when it comes to drug users.

    So there is a huge violation going on in our society and people seem to find nothing wrong with it.
  7. dyingtomorrow
    I would not have thought to make that statement myself, but I think it is an arguable point.

    I can't think of any other policy in modern times that exists on such a global scale, and which systematically destroys anything near the amount of lives as the world wide war on drugs. In many countries drug users, dealers, and/or traffickers are immediately executed. Or thrown into jail for life.

    Even in first world countries, the scale of devastation is hard to truly comprehend. How many people are utterly destroyed by the government for drug use or sales. In jail for life. Unable to get a decent job ever again. Having their home, car, savings, and all their possessions confiscated. How many young people are institutionalized and denied a future. How much the rest of society suffers at the hands of the uneducated, angry, degenerate people which are created by the prison system - created out of a previously productive and social person who just happens to privately use drugs.

    Then there is also the fact that, in America at least, something like 1 out of 3 black males have been imprisoned, a major percentage of them for drugs. And probably most of that percentage for marijuana. The war on drugs, whether advertantly or inadvertantly, is a major factor in the perpetuation of ghettos. Where the family ties, the education and values passed from father to son, have been severed generations ago, and are continually severed, by the mass imprisonment of African Americans. Statistics show that black people are far more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for drug possession, and that their terms of imprisonment are higher than whites for the same crime. The effect the war on drugs has had on the black community for the past 30 years has been devastating.

    Then of course you have the supplier countries. America spraying Columbian farmers with mass amounts of poison. Destroying their crops and starving them to death. Sending in assassins. Not to mention what goes on in SE Asia and Afghanistan.

    I really can't think of anything that is actively perpetrated by the vast majority of world governments, and which harms humankind as a whole, more than the war on drugs.
  8. C.D.rose
    I have been thinking a lot about this during the past few days, and here's where I have arrived so far:

    First of all, one would have to define what is drug prohibition, or, more precisely, which link between drug prohibition and human rights violations has to exist in order to say that the latter was caused by the former.

    This is especially true for the instances of human rights violations in producer countries. When an Afghan warlord, financed through proceedings from the drug trade, commits human rights violations, this is not caused by Western governments that enact drug prohibition. Supposing that this would be so would basically be reversing the individual's responsibility for his own actions. But, it is true of course that said warlord would not have come to power, or would wield considerably less power, if he did not profit from the revenues of drug trade. Drug prohibition enables the kind of human rights violations committed in these instances - which is nonetheless bad enough of course..

    I would like to draw attention to something else, though. Are you (and if I am addressing someone directly here, it's the anonymous repper whose statement I commented on earlier) as concerned about the human rights violations brought about by drug prohibition, as you are concerned of the human rights violations brought about by the general lifestyle you, as a citizen of a developed country, live? Obviously, it would be hard for anyone of us to entirely escape the consequences our lifestyle has, without dropping out of society, but do you try to curb the influence you have? Do you buy fairtrade coffee and fruit, instead of the agricultural products grown in conditions ranging between exploitation and slavery? Do you try to curb your carbon emissions (climate change has an enormous impact on food security)? If not, then I do see some sort of double standard here: human rights violations as a consequence of drug prohibition on the one hand, and human rights violations as a consequence of the Western lifestyle we are all used to. This does not at all make the former human rights violations less serious, of course. It doesn't make argumenting against drug prohibition on the basis of human rights concerns false, but it does make it, to some degree, dishonest.

    Then, if one wants to really answer the question which human rights violations are the worst on the planet, one would have to decide by which criterion to decide. I know that I will get eaten alive for what I'll say (if anyone is going to read this, that is), but a large part of the human rights violations for recreational users that DT refered to above are, whether one likes it or not, the results of actions deliberately taken by individuals. As a first offense, one doesn't even go to jail for mere consumption or minor possession, but for distribution or production of large quantities. Every sane person who engages in these activities knows about the risks they entail. It is entirely debatable whether these risks, namely punishment and imprisonment, are justified, whether the negative external consequences warrant the severity of laws, etc., but that is not the point here. My point is that, even though I see the injustice that individuals jailed for drug offenses are subjected to, it is in no way comparable to the human rights violations that hit humans around the world, who have done nothing whatsoever in order to become victims of these conditions. Families that do not have access to adequate food supply; who have to drink muddy water, because either they drink it and may die from infections, or they don't drink it and will die of thirst; who don't have access to basic health care, let alone education are victims of greater injustice than individuals who get jailed for actions related to recreational drug use that they have committed.

    That's basically what I think. I had to write this down to get this off of my head. :)
  9. Killa Weigha
    The fact is that the $$$etc. and manpower squandered on the "war" on "drugs" (nearly 40 years worth of these resources completely wasted) could have alleviated, if not eradicated EVERYTHING you mentioned AND MORE. Governments cannot keep citizens from altering their consiousness and trying to improve their mental state by drug ingestion- it's human nature. Just like prostitution it is a victimless "crime". You are absolutely correct in saying "don't do the crime if you can't do the time". But that doesn't make the fact that drugs are illegal any less ridiculous. As a society it's just plain futile to try and prevent self medication. People have been getting high, fucking whores and looking at porn for fucking ever and nothing can stop that. There's no price tag on happines and if one is unhappy one will surely take that risk. "Criminalizing drug users does not help society" is the thread and it's a fools errand to argue that it does.

    If anything, CD (I love you, bro), your indignation should be directed toward governments who choose to piss away good money after bad to support a "war on drugs" juggernaut with an insatiable appetite instead of putting that money to work in more beneficial areas.
  10. nomud
    Governments have murdered/killed more people in the world through out history than anything other than natural death.This statement may seem a useless one liner.It is the truth.It's all about control.Give some wank a little power and the next thing you know they take advantage of the situation.It's the nature of the beast.90% of what the governmernts do should be considered criminal.
  11. stevein7
    Probably just repeating what I said earlier but....

    this society has one fundamental motive - profit.

    to make profit, you have to invest. And exploit.

    In this case, the investment is in the shape of the money spent on drug prohibition, the drug war etc. Unless this was visible and to a certain extent credible, backed up by the many victims (who are part of the "exploit" factor), it would not serve its purpose, keeping up the cost of commodities which otherwise would be dirt cheap.

    As always in capitalist society, the reality is a small section of society benefitting to the detriment of the overwhelming majority. The State ensures the status quo is preserved.

    I dare say the drugs issue will not be resolved as long as capitalism exists. It is simply too important an earner for the ruling class to relinquish, as well as allowing the authorities to do what they like, all in the name of the War on Drugs.
  12. Scrubbs
    I think C.D.. Rose is over-reacting just a bit. At least we have the right to EAT food. Where the war on drugs is a complete violation of our human freedom to do whatever we please with our bodies and mindstate. So I think that the guy was right. The War on Drugs is the biggest violation to human rights in our modern times. And I do understand that killing people and murder is mush worse but I am so certain that if the war on drugs was ended and that people could get high on whatever they wanted, everyone would realize that life is precious and that everything is going to be allright and wars would stop and people would stop being assholes to each other and everything would be golden. The Lost Eden as some would call it would be brought back.

    "It's not a war on drugs, its a war on personal freedom is what it is, keep that in mind at all times" - Bill Hicks
  13. Latex Carl
    Well, to quote george carlin, rights are not rights if they can be taken away, they're privileges. There's many instances in the 20th and even 21st centuries where people did not have the right to eat food or obtain medical care. Even in many American prisons you don't have the right to eat when you want or receive medical care when needed or even the right to address the person who is raping you. I've been in a jail where the medical policy was as long as you're breathing you don't get medical care and rape victims were not protected. Granted, drug prohibition is a large domestic human rights issue in developed countries but on a global scale, it's hard to compare to the many global human rights issues.

    Drug prohibition is a huge source of low interest capital for large corporations in developed countries. It's very similar to the illegal immigration issue. Without people needing to launder astronomical sums of money in developed nations the global economy would suffer greatly, just as without people willing to work for illegally low wages to pick fruit, food prices would soar exponentially. I'm not a supporter of prohibition, just stating the unfortunate reality that the powers that be have allowed to happen.
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