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What to do about drugs and druggies
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5399

PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about the decriminalization of drug use. By the nineteen-eighties, drug abuse had become a serious problem in Portugal. The Lisbon government responded in the usual way—increasing sentences for convictions and spending more money on investigations and prosecutions. Matters only grew worse. In 1999, nearly one per cent of the population—a hundred thousand people—were heroin addicts, and Portugal reported the highest rate of drug-related AIDS deaths in the European Union. In 2001, Portuguese leaders, flailing about and desperate for change, took an unlikely gamble: they passed a law that made Portugal the first country to fully decriminalize personal drug use. (Other nations, such as Italy and the Netherlands, rarely prosecute minor drug offenses, but none have laws that so explicitly declare drugs to be “decriminalized.”) “We were out of options,” said João Goulão, the president of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction, a department of the Ministry of Health that oversees Portuguese drug laws and policy. For people caught with no more than a ten-day supply of marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, or crystal methamphetamine—anything, really—there would be no arrests, no prosecutions, no prison sentences. Dealers are still sent to prison, or fined, or both, but, for the past decade, Portugal has treated drug abuse solely as a public-health issue. That doesn’t mean drugs are legal in Portugal. When caught, people are summoned before an administrative body called the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. Each panel consists of three members—usually a lawyer or a judge, a doctor, and a psychologist or a social worker. The commissioners have three options: recommend treatment, levy a small fine, or do nothing. In most respects, the law seems to have worked: serious drug use is down significantly, particularly among young people; the burden on the criminal-justice system has eased; the number of people seeking treatment has grown; and the rates of drug-related deaths and cases of infectious diseases have fallen. Surprisingly, political opposition has been tepid and there has never been a concerted repeal effort. Yet there is much to debate about the Portuguese approach to drug addiction. Does it help people to quit, or does it transform them into more docile drug addicts, wards of an indulgent state, with little genuine incentive to alter their behavior? By removing the fear of prosecution, does the government actually encourage addicts to seek treatment? Unfortunately, nothing about substance abuse is simple. For instance, although many people maintain that addiction would decline if drugs were legal in the United States, the misuse of legally sold prescription medications has become a bigger health problem than the sale of narcotics or cocaine. There are questions not only about the best way to address addiction but also about how far any society should go, morally, philosophically, and economically, to placate drug addicts.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/10/17/111017fa_fact_specter#ixzz1c93xZriH

I can't copy the rest of the article, but there is a report by the Cato Institute, as libertarian as you can get, cited in Scientific American here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=portugal-drug-decriminalization

that seems to agree with the thrust of the New Yorker article.

I can't see a politician from either party acknowledging at this point that the War on Drugs has failed, and is doomed, or that we should try somethiing else, or suggest what that something else might be.
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GURGLETROUSERS



Joined: 30 Dec 2009
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my opinion there is a major difficulty in formulating drug policy; children. The young, especially when in their rebellious teenage years do not act rationally, and will 'push the boundaries'. Put up a notice saying 'Keep Off The Grass' and they will trample all over it with that look of defiance which says, what are you going to do about it?

Many thus argue that, by making the use of drugs illegal, we are encouraging them to want to try them. Others argue (myself included) that by giving way on the usage of the 'lesser' drugs (Cannabis), teens will inevitably 'push the boundaries' by moving to the harder drugs. (There is a wealth of evidence showing that hard drug users start on soft drugs, and move up the chain. As with most things in life, take the initial step, and the following ones become easier.)

My approach, in teaching and youth club work, was that I would not legitimise the issue by discussing it, (in the 60's and 70's), and to make it clear that, as an adult in a position of leadership, I had a clear vision of how life should be, and would lead by example.

My approach of expecting adults to have a clear vision and lead by example may be ridiculed by libertarians, and it won't solve the growing problems in our morally corrupt society, but neither will an abandonment of expecting people to be responsible for their own actions by learning the virtue of self discipline. In my mind,THAT is the most valuable lesson we can teach children.
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5399

PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

GT--thanks for the post. I agree that the best approach is one that discourages children from using drugs if we can't prevent it. I have a hunch that is more about culture than it is about enforcement. When people think they can eat whatever they want without consequences, or just take an extra statin, we've built a dysfunctional culture.
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capetonian



Joined: 11 Aug 2006
Posts: 903
Location: Oahu

PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

swchandler wrote:
Hopefully though, folks are beginning to understand that the "War of Drugs" is costly BS that is driven by government oppression and a mixed up idea about controlling people.


Maybe small government = less oppression?

Difficult situation, I don't have any answers. I also don't have any insight, never having had any 1st or 2nd hand experience of drug abuse (for which I am grateful to my parents for instilling a sense of appropriate behavior in me). Since I am liberterian leaning I am open to intelligent thoughts on a different tack to winning this war.

On the other hand my wife, a doctor, sees the results of drug abuse at her clinics and is against decriminalizing drugs. She considers the societal impact of drug abuse and cost of treating drug abuse to be greater than the cost of the current law enforcement approach.

Off topic but my wife has noted to me in the past that the majority of the chronic health issues she treats are because of addiction, either to alcohol, drugs or food (other chronic issues might be due to age / genetic bad luck / accident related health issues). She considers all three addictions equally serious from a health perspective.
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swchandler



Joined: 08 Nov 1993
Posts: 5909

PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let me clarify something here. Marijuana is not a physically addictive substance, so throwing it into the Class 1 pool with other physically addictive and serious drugs is totally inappropriate. That's where the government is way out of line in their stance and policies concerning marijuana.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's healthful to smoke marijuana, but we have to remember that breathing the air in most city environments isn't exactly healthful either.
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coboardhead



Joined: 26 Oct 2009
Posts: 1960

PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

swchandler wrote

Quote:
Let me clarify something here. Marijuana is not a physically addictive substance, so throwing it into the Class 1 pool with other physically addictive and serious drugs is totally inappropriate. That's where the government is way out of line in their stance and policies concerning marijuana.


Correct...Pot, food, exercise, forum posting, windsurfing...All become habits (some healthy), but are not chemically addictive like cocaine, meth, alcohol...

One problem with pot, is that it can become laced with elements that are addictive. It is also sold by the same "vendor" that furnishes the harder stuff. I believe that a grow your own policy may actually keep people away from the criminal element that distributes the more dangerous substances.

Another problem is operating motor vehicles under the influence. Testing absolute levels of pot in the body is not easy. Establishing legal limits will be difficult. Zero tolerance on a substance with such a long detection time does not work either.

Still, I believe a federal decriminalization of a minimal possession of marijuana is worth a try. Let the states decide. Right now, a state can decide pot is legal and the feds can still prosecute.
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting tidbit in this mornings news. Last reported year, 2008, 15,000 died from taking legal pain killers. By comparison, 4,000 deaths from narcotics in 1999. For perspective, about 50,000 die each year in car accidents (although safety regulation has held that number steady, or reduced it, as miles driven has more than doubled) and about the same number died in Vietnam.
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coboardhead



Joined: 26 Oct 2009
Posts: 1960

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mac wrote

Quote:
Interesting tidbit in this mornings news. Last reported year, 2008, 15,000 died from taking legal pain killers. By comparison, 4,000 deaths from narcotics in 1999. For perspective, about 50,000 die each year in car accidents (although safety regulation has held that number steady, or reduced it, as miles driven has more than doubled) and about the same number died in Vietnam.


Did those numbers include any data on how many of those deaths from narcotics were suicides or "assisted" suicides?
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5399

PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No such numbers coboardhead, but I think it is small. The story attributed the deaths to abuse. Suicide is one the byproducts of owning guns, however. And to put it all into context--over 440,000 deaths each year from tobacco. Got my mother, my father, and several of my good friends. Some of the same apologists who worked for big tobacco now work for big oil on climate change.
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coboardhead



Joined: 26 Oct 2009
Posts: 1960

PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mac wrote

Quote:
Suicide is one the byproducts of owning guns, however


While our rate of suicide using firearms is high, our overall rate of suicide is similar to the United Kingdom. That suggests that guns are used because they are available as a means. In other countries folks use different methods. Maybe drugs? Guns don't cause suicide!
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