By Alfa · Jul 5, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    Uncle Sam wants you ... to be screened for mental illness. If standards
    set by the federal government determine you have a sick brain, it will be
    corrected with powerful drugs.

    It may sound, uh, crazy, but a report from the British Medical Journal
    entitled "Bush plans to screen whole U.S. population for mental illness" (
    see suggests it
    could be coming soon.

    Based on recommendations from the appropriately Orwellian "President's New
    Freedom Commission on Mental Health," (what was wrong with the old
    freedom?) the proposed policy will use public institutions like schools to
    routinely check citizens for signs of mental illness. Once diagnosed, the
    sick will be drugged back to health with new, expensive pharmceuticals.

    Well, the New Freedom Commission makes it sound a bit more touchy-feely,
    but that's the basic idea. The British Medical Journal story said a similar
    policy has been used in Texas since 1995, guaranteeing a broad market for
    pharmaceutical companies specializing in such products.

    So that vision of a drug-free America becomes ever more distant. But don't
    expect to hear any complaints from drug czar John Walters or other drug
    warriors. Big Brother and Dr. Feelgood, Inc. joined forces long ago.

    There's a new book out by Douglas Valentine called "The Strength of the
    Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs" which traces the rise
    and fall of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. A predecessor of the DEA, the
    FBN was responsible for drug control in America from 1930-1968. According
    to Valentine's book (and others like "The Drug Hang-Up" by Rufus King)
    long-time FBN Commissioner Harry Anslinger had an intimate relationship
    with American pharmaceutical companies. Anslinger made sure they were happy
    with federal policy, and when Anslinger got into political trouble, the
    pharmceutical firms helped bail him out by exerting influence on legislators.

    A more recent collaboration between the drug warriors and big pharma came
    in the form of the profoundly ironic Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
    The PDFA, which introduced American TV audiences to 30-second propaganda
    pieces promoting the drug war, was initially led by the former CEO of a
    major pharmaceutical company. James Burke headed Johnson & Johnson (the
    maker of Tylenol) before leaving to take charge of the PDFA.

    Burke is still on the board of the PDFA. According to the organization's
    web site, among top financial contributors to the PDFA (those who give more
    than $25,000), roughly 30 percent are companies involved in the manufacture
    of pharmaceuticals.

    Making legal pharmaceuticals doesn't mean the drug warriors will
    automatically ignore you. Just ask Purdue Pharma, which created
    OxyContin. However, despite legal challenges and horrible publicity, that
    heavy-duty narcotic remains on the market. That's fine by me, since many
    pain patients swear by it, and they are not responsible for others who
    misuse it.

    Why can't the drug warriors understand that same principle applies to every
    drug, legal or not? And why do the pharmaceutical companies happily
    contribute to the demonization of other drugs when, apparently, there but
    for the grace of the feds go they?

    Any drug can be helpful to some people, and any drug can be harmful to some
    people. What matters is the manner in which any drug is used. But I think
    that reality is a little too hazy for the pharmaceutical industry's liking.
    They want the public to believe their products are good and safe. However,
    everyone knows even effective medicine can be dangerous under certain

    Wouldn't it be helpful, from a marketing perspective, if a class of drugs
    existed that were totally evil and absolutely without redemptive
    properties? Those "bad" drugs would have to be prohibited. So, as long as a
    company's drug is legal to sell, it must be "good." If it were bad, surely
    it would be prohibited, like the other bad drugs, right?

    Even though Tylenol can be lethal when used in large doses or in
    combination with alcohol (for more details see
    since this is a drug danger
    the PDFA will never publicize in a TV commercial), it's a "good" drug
    suitable for sale to young and old alike. But, while marijuana kills no
    one, it's a "bad" drug that no one should use, even if their doctor
    recommends it.

    If your only sources of information about marijuana were the PDFA and the
    federal government, you might think anyone who used it was insane.

    Which takes us back to that "New Freedom Commission" created by the Bush
    administration, which can't wait to assess your mental health, whether you
    want it assessed or not, and then treat you with "good" drugs, whether you
    want treatment or not.

    Those of us who are opposed to prohibition know the drug war isn't about
    public welfare. It's about control, both social and economic. The drug war
    is always an excuse for something else, whether it be an intervention into
    a foreign country (think Colombia), or the curtailing of constitutional
    rights (think the Fourth Amendment).

    Many in the drug policy reform movement think strictly in terms of drugs
    that aren't allowed, as opposed to those that are allowed. That perspective
    is understandable, since prohibition is the cause of many so-called drug

    But prohibition isn't the only way to achieve control when it comes to
    drugs. After all these years of attempting to coerce people away from
    certain drugs, it's only a short step to forcing certain drugs we may not
    want right down our throats.

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