Sunday, January 13, 2008

Werner disagrees on drugs

Yesterday's post on drugs seems, generally speaking, to have struck a chord with many people; but not, however, with Werner Patels.
I have written about the legalization or decriminalization of drugs before, and I have also made my point very clear that if drugs are legalized or decriminalized, all drug users should be forced to accept responsibility for their own actions -- in other words, no taxpayer-funded needle-exchange programs and similar nonsense.

I have absolutely no problem with this attitude at all; but then I am not a believer in the Welfare State in general. Although, of course, we probably wouldn't need so many needle exchange programmes if we mere mortals were actually able to obtain hypodermic syringes anyway.

Further, I do wonder if Mr Patels would take the same attitude to, say, someone who had played truant throughout their school life and thus was one of the 20% or so leaving, after 11 years of compulsory education, still functionally illiterate. Surely, that person should be equally responsible as a drug addict for the situation in which they find themselves and thus should be denied state benefits.
I do recognize that the fight against drugs has actually helped to increase the profits for the drug lords and dealers in the world. I also recognize, however, the harm that can come from drug use -- and even marijuana has been found to be more harmful than a cigarette in many ways.

Yes, of course it is; the vast bulk of the harm associated with smoking nicotine is in the way in which it is ingested, i.e. by smoking it. Leaving aside that cannabis is a reasonably strong drug, why anyone should possibly think (and I have heard it many times from pot-heads) that marajuana or cannabis—which is usually mixed with tobacco anyway—should be healthier, I am not sure.

But the final question is, so what? What does it matter? If the user is educated and taking a free decision (you cannot make a free choice unless you realise the consequences of your actions) and their medical treatment is being supplied by themselves, then that is their choice, is it not?
But denying that addiction as such even exists is probably one of the craziest arguments I have ever heard:
Because here's the truth: almost nobody who takes drugs gets addicted to them, and very few drugs are actually addictive. Of those that are addictive, given a decent supply, they do not actually affect the day to day workings of the individual.

Oh, hello, Artie McStrawman! How are you today?

Read the quote above: I did not deny that addiction exists. That would be stupid: it patently does. I merely pointed out that the vast number of people who take drugs do not get addicted and the vast majority of commonly-used drugs are not addictive.
If only, if only. If people are not addicted to drugs, why do they keep shooting up until they OD?

I think that you will find that my statement above does allow for the fact that some drugs—and heroin is obviously one of those—are addictive. And generally speaking, heroin ODs are caused because of fluctuations in the purity of the drug; an addict is used to taking a particular amount and then shoots up, unaware, a particularly pure mix. Which is why the third strand of my drug argument was Regulate.
Why do they keep smoking a substance that, as has been confirmed by scientists everywhere, permanently impairs their cognitive skills and lowers their IQ?

Which one are we talking about here? Pot? Well, firstly, the word of scientists has very low coinage at present. Second, as I'm sure Chris Dillow would point out, people are very bad at emotionally assessing a long-term possibility. But, third, ultimately, because they choose to.
Why do smokers find it next to impossible to quit? Why do so many alcoholics fall off the wagon?

First, these drugs do not really fall under the scope of those that I was talking about, since they are already legal. Second, because the social pressure in both cases is almost certainly more of a problem than the physical addiction.

Despite people whining about how nicotine is as addictive, physically, as heroin, this is patent bollocks; to compare the screaming ab-dabs of the heroin user going "cold turkey" to the irritation and cravings that a smoker undergoes would only prove one thing: that you are a fuckwit who lacks any kind of proportion.

And alcohol is not a particularly physically addictive drug (at least not for a good long time); people start out as alcoholics because they want to escape, not because the drug itself is addictive. It does become physically addictive later on because—as with heroin or any other regularly-taken drug—the body adapts to increasing amounts of it (which is why serious alcoholics can die if they stop drinking suddenly).
The second part of the argument is also wrong: Drug use does affect the day-to-day workings of the individual -- just look at how unreliable and dysfunctional alcoholics, for example, become.

Drug use does NOT affect the day-to-day workings of the individual. Drug dependency does, yes; if you like, day-to-day drug use does affect the day-to-day workings of the individual but my point was that the vast majority of drug users DO NOT USE DRUGS EVERY DAY.

And the scale of the problem? Let's look at our old friend, Ecstasy.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service estimates 500,000 to two million ecstasy tablets are consumed each week in Britain. Last week, figures published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology showed there had been 72 ecstasy-related deaths in the UK in 2002, compared with 12 in 1996.

So, between half a million tablets and two million tablets a week; let's take an average and call it 1.25 million a week, or 65 million pills a year in Britain alone. Let's allow for three pills, per person, per week and we have some 417,000 users per week (the 2003 report cited above thinks that it is more like 730,000 in which case I would say that they are radically underestimating the number of pills taken weekly).

How many times have you seen the headline, "man loses job over Ecstasy use"? Would "never" be about right? Yes, I think that you'll find that "never" pretty much fits the bill.
And why is the Caribbean not exactly known for its economic productivity?

I'm sorry, but is this a serious question? Even a serious rhetorical question?

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, "the Caribbean not exactly known for its economic productivity" because everyone there is a fucking lazy, pot-addicted Rasta. Fucking hellski.

This is patently ridiculous: quite apart from Mr Patels' lazy stereotyping, one might then infer that Werner Patels thinks that the piss-poor economic performance of Africa is just because they are actually lying around smoking drugs. What a load of fucking simplistic twaddle.

Apart from anything else, if the population of the Caribbean are such lazy, good-for-nothing drug-addicts, why were we so keen to import them in huge numbers during the fifties and sixties?

Furthermore, it does rather ignore the fact that drugs were only made illegal throughout the course of the twentieth century; so, whilst drugs were legal in Britain, we were busy going through the industrial revolution and generally developing.

One could argue that those who took opium, for instance, weren't those producing anything worthwhile, but even that is a big load of fucking shit: here is a short list of great writers who were regular users of laudanum (and that list doesn't even mention the great Wilkie Collins either).
Legalize or decriminalize drugs, fine, but please don't feed us bunk such as this -- for this is truly worse than drugs.

Yeah, Werner, that's right: you've got exactly the right agent there. My writing that the majority of people who take drugs are not hopeless addicts is actually worse than the drugs themselves. Nice one. And the people who get there heads cut off in Iraq, it's their fault for working there, right? Definitely nothing to do with the head-hackers themselves.

Fucking hell: there are ways to argue against what I have said, but surely someone has something better than this bullshit?*

* Incidentally, my brother (somewhat surprisingly) was, when I mentioned it to him last night, violently against the legalisation of drugs. In one sentence, he actually made a more coherent and relevant point than Mr Patels does in his whole post; the sentence(s) went something like this:
So, what?—we buy up lots of cocaine and heroin and make the drug barons in Columbia and Afghanistan immensely rich and we give them legitimacy? You would end up with anarchy in those countries.

Which was a good point, I thought. My reply was that, if we did not desire to trade, we would have to manufacture the drugs ourselves. But any other opinions on this in the comments, please.


Anonymous said...

Yoou are too kind to your brother - his point is bollocks.

If drugs were legalised, pharma companies would undertake the necessary processing. The only thing required from third world countries would be the raw materials, which would be an agricultural product like any other. The only reason there are drug wars between drug lords is that the illegality of drugs makes them so profitable.

Anonymous said...

Aren't the drug barons immensely rich already?

Oxymoron said...

My main objection is that there would be a cumulative effect - each new legalised drug would multiply the problems we already have from smoking and alcohol (eg. driving under the influence).

Having said that, if there was ever substantial support for legalisation I wouldn't oppose it just out of curiosity to see what happens.

Nick said...

"My main objection is that there would be a cumulative effect - each new legalised drug would multiply the problems we already have from smoking and alcohol (eg. driving under the influence)."

I am not so sure about that. Supply doesn't have that kind of effect on demand. Alternative sources of "highs" might raise demand slightly because you will have a slightly greater diversity of people willing to try one of the available ones. But in general, it is going to be same people finding their best options for an enjoyable drug experience.

For example, when I was a student, I had a habit of taking E on the few occasions I went out clubbing. E is more consistently enjoyable in a clubbing environment than drinking large amounts, and it also much much cheaper. As a consequence, my alcohol intake was way down, reduced to the odd couple of pints when in a pub, while club nights were exclusively pill and mineral water affairs. I gave up E after worrying about the longterm effects if I carried on taking it, as my family has a history of depression and I wouldn't recommend it unreserverdly to anyone, but I don't think it has done me personally any harm and has been part of some tremendous nights in the past. So now beer is back on the agenda!

So drugs are not necessarily cumulative, and often replacements instead. I don't think we would face all that many more problems than we do now from alcohol. Indeed, greater choice might make the situation rather a lot better.

Mike Power said...

Mr P drags himself from his sick bed to make one comment:

It's nobody's fucking business, not Gordon's, Werner's nor anybody else's, what I choose to stick up my nose, up my arse, down my throat or into my veins so just FUCK OFF!

I'm going back to bed now. No Visitors.

the a&e charge nurse said...

Devil - I think you slightly underestimate the addictive qualities of nicotine.

There are about 12million smokers in the UK, around 70% have claimed they would prefer to quit while the actual cessation rate is nearer 2%

90% of lung cancers [around 30,000 cases] - are a direct consequence of smoking.

Even the packaging tells you that smoking kills, and that's exactly what happens with over 100,000 deaths reported each year.

Incidentally, some authorities, such as Dalrymple (Junk Medicine) have already commented on the tendency of heroin addicts to self-dramatise when coming off smack.
Dalrymple claims the symptoms [of withdrawal] are not much worse than a bad dose of the flu.

As you have already pointed out the DTs, unlike heroin withdrawal, can be fatal if left untreated.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DK, I have often read/heard that it is harder to quite smoking that stop taking heroin, the relapse rates are far higher for ex-smokers than for ex-junkies. Also that far fewer people who try heroin get addicted to it than people who try smoking.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be the one to tell you DK but your brother is a twat.

Does he not think the South American drug lords are already wiping there arses on $1000 bills? Why does he think they are so rich already? Why does he think drugs are so expensive?

Because it costs so much to grow some Opium poppies or Coca plants!? Yep sure...

No, obviously not... The only reason drugs like cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and their derivatives, are remotely expensive, is their illegality.

Hence if they were all decriminalised, and our country bought a shitload of cocaine from some drug lord, they would be buying it legally, legitimately, and in such bulk that it would be quite cheap. They would then not have to sell it on at huge profit to mitigate the risk they were taking importing it into the country and it could be sold at cost + 17.5% vat...