Friday, February 7, 2014


I wasn't going to cover this topic so soon because I didn't want to seem like a pro-drug advocate and lose readership before I gained any, but after Phillip Seymour Hoffman's passing and the subsequent barrage of hateful speak about a "useless junkie," as some have put it, I feel compelled to speak up on the subject of drugs - or more specifically on addiction. I'm not here to say that drugs are good and that everyone should give them a chance. I don't believe that all drugs are good and I especially do not believe that they are for everyone. It is a choice to try a substance for the first time, even one that is dangerous and could eventually kill you. Addiction, however, is not a choice.

The war on drugs has failed. It has failed our country and our allies world wide helping us fight it. Violence and corruption control the streets of our poorest cities with people fighting and shooting each other in order to obtain prime real estate. Towns and cities in some of our southern countries live in fear for their lives as their roads are used to transport drugs, their children are used as drug mules, sales people, foot soldiers, or accidentally shot as innocent bystanders. Families moved to poverty because they can't grow the crops that have sustained their families for years (as in the case of coca growers in Peru).  In our country, minorities are disproportionately affected by our war on drugs - whether that be a disparaging difference in incarceration rates or murder rates that rival some of the most extremely hostile places on this planet.

I propose a new war. I propose a war on addiction. Legalize drugs. All of them. Doing that gives the government direct control on distribution, consumers direct control of dosages and quality, and everyone in the country a new market to invest in. Remember from my previous post that we are not arguing morality so take a breath and continue reading.

Case studies are important, especially when another country has done something you are considering doing. Dredging through the misinformation about drugs you come across a very interesting case study: the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal in 2001. Here was a country plagued with HIV from shared needles, overdose deaths, addiction, adolescent drug use, and no help for addicts. Since the law passed, overdose deaths decreased, HIV rates decreased, drug use among children ages 13-15 decreased, and the number of people seeking AND getting help for addiction increased. A once failing war on drugs was refocused to target the main problem that drugs present, addiction, and the results have been great.

"That's Portugal and this is America!" I don't have to guess, I have heard that statement before and I know someone will be thinking it. You are right. That is there and this is here, but really what that statement implies is "Portugal is better than us... We can't do that" and I disagree with that sentiment. America is the greatest country in the world. While there may be people in this country that should be neutered for fear that whatever gene controls intolerance gets passed down, those people are still entitled to their opinions. Opinions, however, are like assholes: everyone has one and they all stink (admittedly, including my own). What I do believe in, however, is this countries strength: it's people. I don't fall in the same line of thought that "Portugal is not America so we can't do it" because I don't think there is anything America CAN'T do.

I don't ask that everyone that reads this agree with me. It would be ludicrous to think that everyone on the internet is going to agree with what I say. What I do ask, is that you give it thought. Give thought to freedom of choice. Give thought to removing illegal drugs from our streets and putting legal drugs in our stores. Give thought to ending the war on drugs. Most importantly, however, give thought to beginning the war on addiction.

Now if you'll excuse me, I haven't checked Facebook in 10 minutes. I think I'm experiencing withdrawal.


  1. I'll preface this by saying I am a regular drinker (among other things at times) so this is in no way meant to condemn drugs or alcohol entirely. Here's my concern with this line of thinking. I think your points are very valid in how legalizing drugs could be beneficial to the current drug users/abusers. Regulating the purity and safety of what they're using could have tremendous upside. Having said that, I can't see how major issues wouldn't arise with young people and non-drug users. I think in our most honest moments the majority of drug and alcohol users (not even abusers, just casual users) would admit there are times they do things they may not have been in the right mental capacity to do. Driving under the influence is the biggest example, but most regular users can admit even walking the streets to get home from a bar or a friends house can be an adventure. The number of DUI's and DWI's in this country are staggering, and we've all read countless stories of innocent bystanders being killed by a drunk or high driver, or an apartment building being burned to the ground because someone passed out with a lit cigarette or joint. Can we honestly say those numbers wouldn't be in very serious danger of increasing if we not only upped the availability of drugs but made it legal to go out and buy them? You can say there will still be standards for who can get them and in what dosage, but any increase in availability makes it that much easier for someone who shouldn't have them to find them. An addictive personality or recovering crack addict can better avoid temptation because it's not available at a corner drug store. The channels to get the product can be difficult and dangerous which is in itself a deterrent for these people or even a curious teenager. A massive problem in our schools has always been students using/abusing illegal substances before or during class. It went from students smoking cigarettes, to alcohol, to weed, to now administrators fighting back against a large influx of heroin use (in NJ schools for sure). If we legalize doses of controlled heroin, will that reduce normal teenage angst and peer pressure or only increase their options and ability to get more dangerous drugs? I think rational adults can be counted on to make smart decisions and keep their use under control in the legal drug scenario. But I question what type of impact that would have on the not fully developed, as well as the innocent non-user who now has a larger risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately not everyone is rational and responsible with their use. The war on addiction is important and needs focus, but I'm not sure there's such a clear cut answer as "no drugs" or "all the drugs".

    1. Your arguments are valid but it doesn't solve any problems. We have a war on drugs - the byproduct of which is easy access to dangerous drugs, murder, corruption, and an uncontrolled market in terms of safety (purity) and dosage. Simply saying "keep things the same" does nothing to help the undeserved in our communities and those that live in other countries directly affected by the war on drugs.

      Supervised injection sites exist in different countries around the world. In 2007, Vancouver saw 336 overdoses in these sites without a single fatality. Sydney MSIC managed 3,246 overdoses over a 9 year span with 0 fatalities. My point is not to say that drugs are good and everyone should use them but to say "drugs are bad so lets manage them." If the current system does not work we need to find a different approach. Other countries are doing it with great success and we are lagging behind in this country.

    2. Oh I agree completely that my response wasn't a solution. I'm saying I don't think yours is a sustainable one. The purpose of my post was to widen the scope of the issue. Yes your solution helps in certain areas, but it causes major problems in other areas that aren't always taken into account in this discussion. Supervised injection sites are great for specific drugs, but unless you're suggesting every use of any drug be taken on site until it's out of the persons system (which I don't believe you are) then that solves only a small fraction of the issue. And there is a reality that the culture in our country is a very addictive one. Food, money, drinks, violence, and drugs tend to not be taken in mindful moderation consistently here. It doesn't make our country any less exceptional or me any less proud to live here. But I don't know that results from Portugal or Canada can be confidently translated to the U.S. It doesn't make them better than us in any way, but we're different people with a different state of mind. Also I'm not giving any better solutions, just poking holes in yours.... like a real American.

    3. @CW Your suggestion that housefires caused by maijuana smoking is a serious concern is an absurd and ridiculous strawman argument for which there is no statistical evidence. Further, you suggest that regulation of the drug industry will lead to greater availability to which I would suggest that you ask any kid in a grade 8 schoolyard which is easier to find: an unregulated joint or a highly regulated beer. Your prohibitionist mind set is based in an inability to accept that we are never going to live in a world where people don't want to get messed up, and that some of those people will do it in a way that threatens their life. Criminalising such behaviour is a pointless burden to society and the addict.

      Thanks to the author for a thought provoking article

  2. US#1 Portugal #111 Canada #131