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1.    It will make drug hard drug usage much more widespread.  Alcohol consumption increased dramatically after Prohibition.

Alternatively, if we look at India, a society which has ample ability to grow it's own opium, along with very well established smuggling links with a major world source (Afghanistan) and a heroin trade with hundreds of years of history behind it.

You can buy opium and heroin on the streets of Delhi for less (in PPP terms, not just absolute) than a packet of cigarettes in London or Dublin.

And yet... addiction rates are not massively higher than alcoholism is here.

The pattern is even reflected in the heroin addiction rates in the UK pre-criminalisation. There is a blanket assumption of massively increased usage (and I have to admit, some pretty white girls will get addicted and make a big splash on the front of the Daily Mail) but there's actually remarkably little evidence to suggest that the foreseen mass addiction will take place.

[It's worth noting in passing that there's an issue of developing safe formats here too. Alcoholism isn't a good thing, but if we compare beer to whiskey, the criminalisers logic would have you believe that it is inevitable that anyone who drink will graduate to two bottles of whiskey a day within 6 months or so, then move on to methanol and die...]

15.    The criminalisation of drugs, and "the war on drugs" may, indeed, have been introduced for all the wrong reasons which had little to do with the welfare of society.  However, that does not mean drugs should be de-criminalised, it means drug use and law enforcement should be de-politicised.

A number of your other points hinge on this one.

9.    Addiction programs are very expensive and notoriously unsuccessful and most do little more than stabilise the level of addiction and mitigate the harm done.

Addiction programs for heroin which use heroin (instead of methadone) have approx 80% greater success rates. But it's too political to address.


10.    You can mitigate the harmful effects of criminalising drugs, by having needle exchange programs, methadone programs, prisoner and family support programs and focusing on larger dealers rather than users when it comes to law enforcement.  Health care for addicts is in any case non-judgmental and seeking treatment reduces, not increases the threat of prosecution in enlightened jurisdictions.

Large numbers of hard drug users are not provided with treatment and are taken out of the community and put in prison, where they are surrounded by other drug users and locked in a room with nothing to do AND there is a well established drugs market in operation. But it's too political to address.

Whenever the police are under "target and performance metric pressure" they respond to the letter of the law and mop up users instead of going for dealers, because, hey, the law is the law. But it's too political to address.

As for "health care for addicts is non-judgemental" I fear we're mixing jurisdictions far too much here. I don't live in a place where that is the case. If you do, then perhaps you have a strong case for keeping criminalisation. But not only do I not live in a place where that is so, but pretending it can be falls under:

ccusations of puritanism, tales of the wonderful experiences YOU have had with drugs, or utopian dreams of healthcare/welfare services that can do everything for everybody and societies where no one is marginalised or alienated are probably not helpful in addressing the central question posed by this dairy

The reality is that I'd prefer that decriminalisation was not the only option, but in my lifetime I've seen that efforts to combat supply have failed and the apparatus around treatment and law enforcement largely exists to give ministers a way to get some good headlines in the Daily Mail. As such we will never begin to face up to the reasons for increased drug abuse and we suffer horrendous (and needless) criminality because that criminality only destroys the lives of the poor, who can't move away from the "no-go areas" where the dealers live and fight their turf wars...

[We don't even measure the consequences for crime that hard drugs involves. Like prohibition, the profits build gangs that warp our society in very corrupting ways, but it's easier to measure the GDP loss of alcohol, so we stick with that...]

I didn't vote in the poll because I do in fact believe in incremental decriminalisation, there are a lot of reasons to believe there will be large temporary effects and so "doing it now" isn't the wisest move.

I oppose very strongly however, the notion that existing bodies are suitable to judge "evidence" for an "evidence-based" approach. There are many scientists and medical researchers who produce good evidence, but the record of the people commissioning the research is one of bias, omission and directed attempts to support the status quo. So, to simply say "evidence-based" is not the value free assumption it seems.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Jan 6th, 2008 at 04:26:53 PM EST
Metatone:
Large numbers of hard drug users are not provided with treatment and are taken out of the community and put in prison, where they are surrounded by other drug users and locked in a room with nothing to do AND there is a well established drugs market in operation. But it's too political to address.

As an ex-policeman I know said "Posession may not be nine tenths of the law, but it is nine tenths of the convictions".

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jan 6th, 2008 at 04:30:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Metatone:
Alternatively, if we look at India, a society which has ample ability to grow it's own opium, along with very well established smuggling links with a major world source (Afghanistan) and a heroin trade with hundreds of years of history behind it.

There is certainly something culturally specific in how drugs are handled.  The impression I get is that binge drinking is less of a problem in France than in Ireland because children grow up in an atmosphere where moderate drinking is a contextualised part of life and not part of an alienated subculture.  However I wonder if the effects of Heroin use in India are not really apparent because many do not have access to employment or health care in the first place.

Metatone:

But it's too political to address

There is certainly a perceived mainstream horror of "opening the flood gates" if heroin use is legitimised in any way shape or form whatsoever.

Drug rackets in prisons are a regular source of shock, horror stories and incarceration as a form of "rehabilitation" is another debate entirely which should be the subject of another diary perhaps.  I hope to do a diary on restorative justice soon.

I do have a voluntary involvement in a community based drug treatment service (mainly for heroin users) which I think is pretty close to best practice and which includes police officers on its board of management and is very much dedicated to a holistic, non judgmental approach to the treatment of clients and has had quite a degree of success in stabilising and sometimes enabling people to become completely drug free.  

In general the heroin user population is aging and not growing all that much but cocaine is very much the growth trend.  You cannot really discuss drugs outside of the context in which they are supplied and used and the availability is such that they might as well be freely sold on the open market.  

I'm open to discussion on this but on balance my feeling is that criminalization still has the effect of showing very strong societal disapproval and discourages more use than it encourages through the "rebellion" or "excitement at breaking the law effect".  It all depends on how much "societal disapproval" counts for in your particular context which in turn depends on how close-nit the community is.

However I haven't seen any research on this and part of my reason for opening this debate here is to see if there any evidence on this elsewhere.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jan 6th, 2008 at 06:03:01 PM EST
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