Friday, June 23, 2017

The War on Drugs: Profit and Loss

Peter Grant wrote a post about drug abuse, addiction, and overdoses entitled Ohio ... will see 10,000 overdoses [resulting in death] by the end of 2017, which I think is worth reading. Some of the commentary is easily as good as the article.  Peter Grant is, among other things, a retired Pastor who used to work with a prison population, and has a lot of experience with the effects of drug abuse.  Borepatch, another blogger, read it and started to write an insightful comment which turned into a post on his own blog, which you may read at your leisure: The Stupid "War on Drugs".  This activity served to rattle Glen's cage, so he naturally volunteered his own take on the subject, Your Right To Destroy Yourself And Your Family Will Not Be Infringed.  Again, a decent piece and worth reading.

One of the few things all these erudite people can agree on is that the official United States War on Drugs isn't working, and we've been fighting a losing battle for years.

Well, no shit.

Anyone who doesn't know the war on drugs has failed completely and is continuing to fail either lives in another country and so is protected from the US commercial news media, or is half as bright as a badly holed inner tube and is buying into the official DEA/Elected Official propaganda.  And, as the Fat Lady once said, that's the name of that tune.

What I really have a problem with is the sensationalism offered up by commercial media, namely NBC News.  Peter Grant read the article and quoted from it, and I think he should have offered a caveat - your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, and don't worry, the sleeves will ride up with wear.  Courtesy of NBC, we have ‘Mass-Casualty Event’: Ohio County Now Tops U.S. in Overdose Deaths by Jacob Soboroff, Mitch Koss and Aarne Heikkila.
From the article:
Coroner Kent Harshbarger [Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio - MJ] estimates that 60 percent to 70 percent of the bodies he sees are those of overdose victims and that by the end of the year, he'll have processed 2,000.
Because his staff covers one-fifth of Ohio, he estimates that the state will see 10,000 overdoses by the end of 2017 — more than were recorded in the entire United States in 1990.
Here I'm about to commit a logical fallacy and criticize the source.  My objection is that neither Dayton nor Montgomery County are the State of Ohio.  I might as well say that as official Game Warden of Pettisville, Ohio, the number of wild rabbits I've seen this year is indicative of a veritable plague, and unless the population is checked, Ohio will be overrun.  Meanwhile, sighting a wild rabbit in Sylvania Township, Ohio, is getting to be a Kodak moment thanks to the local coyote population which has gone unchecked for the past ten years, thanks in part to the animal rights activists who think coyotes are cute, and the equally dense morons who publish the local bird cage liner and echo the sentiments of PETA every chance they get.  My other objection is that Harshbarger is a coroner, not a statistician.  That doesn't make him a bad person, or even a dunce - but by all accounts, he's not an expert on statistics, which is what is wanted here.

Maybe more to the point is that the years for which we actually have reliable numbers are not referenced by NBC.  Stats are available at this link: ASAM: Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts and Figures.  The thing is, the stats only go back to 2015, but the statistics do show an increase.  A better article is available at CNN: This is America On Drugs: A Visual Guide.  There is also a list of Controlled Substances in Alphabetical Order, courtesy of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

These are all good reads, although I have to admit that I can't pronounce most of the words on the controlled substances list without doing myself a mischief, but they all fail to address one thing: the nature of addition.

The atypical addict quits his addiction with enthusiasm and never becomes addicted to that substance again.  That's not to say that he doesn't imbibe in the substance of choice; it's that he doesn't become addicted.  I, for instance, used to smoke.  Tobacco, wise guy, tobacco.  I tried to quit several times without success, then one day I came down with a severe cold.  The cold was so severe that I couldn't smoke, and I was so miserable I didn't feel any withdrawal symptoms.  I was sick for three days before I started to get better, and since I didn't smoke during that time I figured why waste the misery?  This was in November of 1995, and right about that time the news hit the stands that the tobacco companies had been deliberately adding nicotine to their cigarettes because they knew, right up front, that nicotine was addictive and the cigarette was a delivery system.  I was incensed.  These companies and the scum that ran them were no better than a Heroin pusher, addicting their customers.  No one was going to make an addict out of me!  I was angry enough that, given the circumstances, I'd have taken a bullwhip to the CEO and every single sleazebag on the board of directors.  Bastards!  So I channeled that anger into quitting, and quit I did.  It was the hardest thing I've ever done.  I enjoyed smoking, and I didn't want to give up cigarettes - but I was no one's addict.

So what?  So this.

I didn't want to quit, and neither do drug addicts.  They don't want rehab.  What they want is their substance of choice, whatever that may be.  The truth is that if these addicts really wanted to quit, the vast majority of them would have quit by now.  There are enough recovery facilities and tax dollars to accommodate them.  But they, the addicts, don't want to quit.

Giving the substance away hasn't worked well.  The folks in Jolly Old tried it, as did their in-laws in Canada.  What they got were crowds of derelicts who lied about how much junk they required for their habit; they'd imbibe half and sell the other half.  And, frankly, derelicts don't suddenly turn their lives around just because they aren't forced to steal to support their habit.  I'm sure a few begin to straighten up and fly right, but those are the exceptions that just vanish from the RADAR.  If they're successful and quit and clean up, they want absolutely no part of their former society.

Severe punishment and more regulation hasn't worked either.  Social scientists have known for years that it isn't the severity of the punishment that curtails behavior, it's a combination of surety and developing good behavior.  There isn't much excitement here, so politicos tend to ignore it, but these are the things that work.  As I write this I'm reminded of the number of teens that are completing high school without being able to read.  They're functionally illiterate.  Now what?

Consider Prohibition in the United States, and what we, the great unwashed, were supposed to have learned from that.  Number one, it didn't work.  People bought booze of all sorts and drank anyway.  Number two, there were societal consequences, such as violent crime, an increase in criminal court activity, and the cost to house prisoners.  Number Three, Tax dollars were lost (heresy! heresy!).  On top of all this, some people got sick from drinking bad moonshine.

What Prohibition did do was create an elite cadre of violent multi-millionaires, increase the need for police protection, and illustrate beyond the shadow of any doubt that the free people of the United States do not like being told what to do.  That last is what the current politicos should be remembering, but they seem to be a bit dense.  Well, public education, history, all that... who has time to study when there's a popularity contest to participate in?

Want an example?  Check out Craig Stough, the Mayor of Sylvania, Ohio.  I went to high school with him, and I can tell you from experience that he's a fat, self-centered dumb ass now, and he was a fat, self-centered dumb ass back then.

I, being of unsound mind and body, and making no bones about either one, have no concrete solution to the drug war.  I do, however, have a place to begin, and that starts with repealing most of the drug laws.  Making drugs illegal isn't working, and making it more difficult to obtain pain medication legally is only hurting those people who need it.  Put another way, since these ideas haven't worked, isn't it past time to at least try something else?

Happy hour begins in two hours and eight minutes.  I'll see you at the bar.


CWMartin said...

But if you make everything legal, you have a bunch of legally addled idiots. Idiots who might never had tried anything had it still been illegal. I'd like to compare higher ed and college scores from Indiana and, say, Colorado in five years. Nothing's perfect, but there has to be a spot we can all live with. Beyond my pay grade, though, I'm afraid.

"The sleeves will ride up with wear." Are you being served?

Mad Jack said...

"Are you free, Mr. Humphries?"
"Oh, I'm free!"

Maybe, maybe not. What we're doing now isn't working, and hasn't worked since years before the DEA's inception. I'd like to think that intelligent people, people who are going to get a degree, contribute to society, and generally become (or are now) someone you'd like to have living in your neighborhood, are smarter than to try a perfectly legal substance just to see what happens.

Glen Filthie said...

Well if we're going to go "full libertarian" on this, we need to go all the way. If you are on drugs, you are ineligible for welfare. Any damage you do to yourself or others will be paid for at your expense. Any damage or failure with your family is at your risk and expense too.

Unfortunately what I see is a new class of dangerous welfare slob that will be yet another freeloader on already stressed social programs. The druggies and lunatic left are playing the libertarians on this issue is all I have to say about it.

Mad Jack said...

Your point being that if I, by way of my tax dollars, are supporting you, a welfare case and hardcore unemployable, you'll live by a particular set of restrictions or you can kiss that support goodbye. This is a fine sentiment, and I have no real problem with it. Except it won't work.

The people you're pointing to are defined by two or three conditions:
One, they're addicts. That means that no matter what the cost to them, they'll sacrifice everything for one more dosage of their substance of choice. That includes governmental support.
Two, they're hard core unemployable. This is both by choice (they don't want to get a job and go to work) and by circumstance. They're addicts - are you going to hire an addict? Because I'm not, and I don't care how much he wants to turn over a new leaf - ha ha ha.
Three, it's likely that they're mentally ill. So even if you do manage to get them sobered up (against their will, because, see, they like getting high), you've now got a mentally ill addict who has to be medicated in order to function at all, and again, being medicated is a form of sobriety which is what these people DO NOT want.


One reason that it's difficult to have a productive or meaningful discussion about these subjects is that the people doing the discussing are very, very unlikely to find themselves as a willing addict, or willing welfare recipient. Think about the people whose blogs you read on a daily basis - Peter Grant, for instance, would be a prime candidate to just throw his hands up and say, "What's the use?" and become a professional addict. Of course he didn't, and I can't imagine a scenario where he ever would. He just isn't put together that way. Your average welfare addict isn't like that. He doesn't think in terms of digging himself out of the hole he's in.

Bob G. said...

Mad Jack:
If history is to be any teacher with our "war" on drugs, one lesson has to made clear from the start:
If you're going to WAGE a war...then, by God, be in it to win it.
You'd think we learned that lesson well enough in Korea and 'Nam.
It's JUST like this (so-called) "war" on poverty (Johnson's Great Society line of BS).
We haven't made any progress winning THAT war either, have we? (after trillions were dumped into that abyss)

I'll check those links out.
Good post.

Stay safe out there.