I use this blog as a soap box to preach (ahem... to talk :-) about subjects that interest me.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Drug Scores

The UK Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs published in 2010 an interesting report.  Among other interesting data, I discovered in it the following histogram:

What interests me is the harm done to others.  The seven most damaging drugs are: alcohol, heroin, crack cocaine, tobacco, cannabis, cocaine, and amphetamine.

Alcohol  is more than twice as harmful to others than heroin, and tobacco is worse than cocaine, cannabis, and amphetamine.

And yet, while in most countries you can buy alcohol and tobacco in drugstores (interesting name for a type of shop, actually), in many places you can end up in jail for smoking a joint.  I might be mistaken but, as far as I know, except in Holland and California, you cannot even use cannabis for therapeutic purposes.  How ridiculous is that?

I am in favour of LEGALISING all drugs (not just decriminalising some of them).

I have heard lots of arguments and discussions concerning pros and cons, but the bottom line is that forbidding the use of drugs doesn't work, as shown by the failure of alcohol prohibition in the USA between the two wars.  By making drugs illegal, we only sustain the criminality associated with their illegal trade.

If we legalised all drugs, most of the effort and money currently wasted on the losing war on drugs could be redirected towards more productive purposes, including educating people on how to deal with those substances.

The heavy taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and gambling mean, among other things, that smuggling of cigarettes into Australia remains a profitable trade. Therefore, I have no doubt that a legalised trade of opiates and cannabis would not completely remove their illegal trafficking.  Still, it would significantly reduce an important source of income for terrorists and other criminal organisations.

Let's face it, we only make a distinction between, say, alcohol and cannabis because of cultural and traditional reasons.  Such a dramatically different attitude towards different types of drugs is not based on Science and logic.

I think that governments should prevent people from harming others.  That's why I welcome heavy fines given to people who drive in an altered state.

But I also think that governments should help those who harm themselves, and in my opinion, the best way to help addicts is to try to understand why they do it, and ensure that they have access to clean drugs and needles.  If heroin were legal, deaths due to overdose would become a thing of the past, and most addicts would no longer need to resort to prostitution or crime to finance their dependency.

Addiction in itself should be treated as an illness, not a crime, and it should not be stigmatised.  Some people can drink a lot without becoming alcoholics, while others can become addicted to alcohol very easily.  Both genetic predisposition and societal factors play a role with any drug.

Many think: it will never happen to me.  But they might be wrong.  Sometimes, for some reason, people lose control over one of their needs or desires and begin over-drinking or over-eating, or become addicted to adrenaline or sex.  When will we step down from our pulpit and help them, rather than condemn them as sinners?

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