Friday, August 03, 2007

More Fun Drug Stuff

I'm sure many of you wonder why I (and other libertarians for that matter) make such a big deal out of the drug issue. After all, neither myself nor most libertarians have much of a vested interest in whether or not drugs are legalized. In one sense, our concern is purely practical, as our government wastes billions of dollars every year on a failed War on Drugs. And in another sense, our concern is moral, as millions of Americans are locked up every year for the "crime" of getting high. However, I think the real reason for making drug legalization such a hot button issue is the symbolism involved. Both liberals and conservatives like to talk a good game when it comes to terms like freedom and liberty, but when it comes to drugs, only libertarians can walk the walk. Only libertarians don't have to fumble around, searching for explanations why an individual should not be able to chose what he or she puts into his or her own body.

Drug laws can be looked at, alternatively, as either moral laws or safety laws. But even if you really believe we need laws to reinforce morality and we need laws to ensure that we don't harm ourselves with bad choices, drug laws are still hypocritical. From a moral standpoint, people like to point out that drugs destroy families - but if drugs are to be prohibited, why not also prohibit lying, cheating, and marital infidelity. Surely that sort of morally reprehensible behavior hurts people and destroys families as well.

And when it comes to safety, well, why ban marijuana and not ban alcohol? In fact, why not ban other dangerous activities - extreme sports seem more dangerous to me than smoking pot. To be fair, I think one can make a logically sound argument that all dangerous activities should be illegal, but I'm not sure anyone would want to live in the resulting world where they are treated by their government like a 4-year old.

The truth about drugs is that the only reason for all the anti-drug hysteria is that illegal drugs are not socially acceptable. Drug takers, drug taking, and the drugs themselves all have negative associations- associations that are even worse then negative associations placed upon alcohol by the temperance movement in the years leading to prohibition. (And yes, drugs can be dangerous, but alcohol can be dangerous too- when an illegal drug incident becomes news, the anti-drug hysteria is amped up, but when an alcohol related incident becomes news, there is no outcry to get alcohol off the streets.)

Defense of the war on drugs and defense of drug prohibition is based purely on adherence to tradition and emotion, not on reason or logic. I find it troubling that so many Americans are willing to cede personal autonomy (in regards to drugs) over to the government, the very same government that we don't trust in the war in Iraq, that we don't trust not to spy on us, and that we apparently can't even trust to maintain bridges properly.

14 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Know what other things aren't scoially acceptable?
Sex with children, sex with minors, rape, beastiality, dog fighting, drunk driving, littering, not picking up your dog's feces, burping, farting, masturbating, homosexuality etc etc.

Know which of those are illegal? Sex with children, sex with minors, rape, beastiality, dog fighting, drunk driving, littering and not picking up dog crap.

Know why they are illegal?
Because they bring harm to the self, others, animals and the environment. Drugs harm the self and can effect behavior enough to harm others.

Know why drugs are different than alcohol?
Alcohol can actually be good for you in small doses. A glass of wine, for example, has strong anti-oxidants and can benefit health. Sure you can get drunk, but most of the time there won't be any problems. Drugs, on the other hand, are flat out unhealthy to take. There are no health benefits and a lot are just dangerous. LSD? One hit can ruin your mental state forever. E? In one night you can get dehydrated to the extent of death. Heroin? One of the most addictive drugs out there. Can easily ruin a life, even Jack Bauers. To think you'd want substances like LSD, Ecstacy and Heroin legal is absolutely absurd. The dangers of alcohol don't even compare to the dangers of these drugs. But you don't care about people's lives, do you? You just care about their right to destroy their lives? Hooray libertarians...

4:04 AM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

Do you realize all your arguments in regards to illegal drugs refer to abuse, misuse, and tainted products, while your arguments in regards to alcohol refer to safe use?

And I'm amazed you've decided that drug use is not like the other victimless acts you name, that, rather, it has more in common with crimes against people or property.

I'd be curious to see the real science (as opposed to anecdotal evidence) that tells you alcohol is safe while marijuana and cocaine are dangerous. (And for that matter, even if you can say for instance, that heroin is more dangerous than alcohol, who should draw the line as to what substances are too dangerous? Individuals, or the government?)

3:09 PM  
Blogger John said...

Excerpts from "Buzzed: The Straight Facts About The Most Used and Abused Drugs From Alcohol to Ecstasy" written by Cynthia Kuhn, Scott Swartzwelder and Wilkie Wilson, all Doctors at Duke University Medical Center.

Alcohol
On bad effects of alcohol
"Under most circumstances, the chances of life-threatening overdose are low. However, people get into trouble when they drink a lot of alcohol very quickly -- such as in a drinking game, on a dare, or when they can't taste the alcohol (as in punch or Jell-O shots)...Binge drinking is particularly dangerous because it is during binges that most fatal overdoses occur."
On health benefits of alcohol
"Used in an informed and moderate way, alcohol can convey some health benefits. For example, the similarity of its actions to those of anti-anxiety medications such as Valium make alcohol a potent anti-anxiety agent for some people. The feeling of relaxation that accompanies an occasional drink of alcohol can help to reduce stress, and stress reduction is healthy...Recent studies show that light (and perhaps moderate) drinkers have a reduced risk for coronary artery disease -- a principal cause of heart attacks....There have now been several large-scale studies, in both Eastern and Western countries, indicating that light to moderate drinking may diminish the risk of death in middle-aged men. A recent study in China showed that men who drank one to two drinks per day over a six-and-a-half-year period reduced their risk of death by 20 percent -- a finding that is consistent with studies in European countries. The protective effect was not limited to death from heart disease (the drinkers were also less likely to die from cancer or other causes) nor to any particular type of alcoholic beverage."

Hallucinogens
"Hallucinogen experiences vary incredibly. Even the same person can have dramatically different experiences with the same drug on different occasions."
On bad effects of PCP-like drugs...
"The belladonna drugs, such as atropine and scopolamine, can be lethal in the usual amounts that people ingest for intoxication. These drugs can stimulate the heart and increase body temperature dangerously. At the point where a user is experiencing hallucinations from these drugs, he is at or very near the life-threatening level. PCP can also be lethal at high doses, causing seizures, coma, or a psychosis-like state that can last for some days."
On bad effects of LSD...
"The most common of these is a frightening experience that leads to acute anxiety and its accompanying physical effects. Users can accidentally injure or kill themselves because they are not thinking clearly about their environment...Actual psychotic reactions are much more unusual, happening in about 1 to 3 percent of cases, but they can require hospitalization. Another problem can be flashbacks, which are visual disturbances or other recalled events of the drug experience that emerge long after the drug is out of the body.

Ecstasy
On bad effects of E...
"MDMA has caused a number of deaths when it was used in conjuction with high levels of physical activity in hot environments (at 'rave' dance parties). Death is usually typical of stimulant overdose, with greatly increased body temperature, hypertension and kidney failure. Long-term damage to serotonin neurons is suggested by human and animal studies."

Opiates
On bad effects of opiates
"Opiate overdose can be lethal. This is not a cumulative effect of years of misuse, but can happen the first time you take the drug. Breathing simply slows to the point that it ceases...Opiate overdoses are most common with injectable forms of drug, but can occur with any dosage form if enough is taken. Medical attention is critical."

Steroids
On bad effects of steroids
"Anabolic steroids do not cause death by acute overdose in the same way that opiates or other drugs that act on the brain do. However, they cause many changes in the body function that can cause serious injury or death. Serious heart damage, and even death from heart attacks or stroke, have occurred in people using anabolic steroids."

Stimulants
On bad effects of stimulants
"There are three kinds of dangers with the stimulants. First and most important, at high doses (these are doses a person could take accidentally), death can result with any of these stimulants. High-dose cocaine use can lead to seizures, sudden cardiac death, stroke, or failure of breathing. Lethal doses of amphetamine sometimes causes seizures, but more often can cause lethal cardiac effects, and/or hypothermia (fever)...As with opiates, any of these drugs can cause death with a single dose, and this is particularly easy with cocaine. The second kind of danger is psychiatric. With repeated use of high doses of stimulants over days to weeks, a psychotic state of hostility and paranoia can emerge that cannot be distinguished from paranoid schizophrenia. Finally, a profound addiction can develop to any stimulant."

Marijuana
On bad effects of marijuana
"Lethal overdose is virtually impossible...Although no one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana, it does impair judgment and the kinds of complex coordination needed to drive a car. Automobile accidents and stupid mistakes are the largest risks of marijuana intoxication."

I left out the medical stuff because we know the benefits. All the book adds is there are other ways besides pot to cure glaucoma, stress, etc. It's also really late and I don't feel like typing anymore.

Now, you might say, "well you didn't state any of the good benefits of these drugs except alcohol". Know why? There aren't any. Besides the "high", there are no health benefits and as you can see, there are a lot of serious dangers. You honestly cannot argue against this. This is science. This isn't a social argument, this isn't a moral argument and this isn't an anecdotal argument. This is scientific fact.

Do you still think drugs like heroin or LSD or even steroids should be legal? Sad thing is, you probably do.

Can't wait for your response.

3:51 AM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

It seems as though the most important issue for all the drugs you've mentioned (except perhaps marijuana) is dosage. At certain dosages, drugs (including alcohol) can be dangerous, even deadly.

When it comes to alcohol, your quote says, "Under most circumstances, the chances of life-threatening overdose are low." Yet with stimulants and opiates, the danger you refer to is the same danger of overdose.

People can OD on cocaine, alcohol, over the counter medications, and if you remember your chemistry, even water. In other words there are safe and unsafe methods of using all of these substances. This doesn't answer the question of why some substances are permissible while others are banned.

Yes, I would be willing to admit that people OD on illegal drugs more often than they OD on legal drugs. But I'd argue this is because illegal drugs are illegal. It seems to me that the fact that drugs are illegal makes it more likely for people to misuse them and more likely for people to take the wrong dosages. If drugs were legal, they would be manufactured more safely and consumers would have access to information about dosages and potency. I'd be willing to bet homemade moonshine and bathtub gin causes a greater percentage of overdoses than commercially produced alcohol as well.

Just a few other points- You mention the dangers of E in regards to it's use at raves and the like. This is not a characteristic of the drug itself but the culture of use that has grown around the drug.

You also mention steroids, but the long term effects of serious body changes or death doesn't sound all the different than the harm that could come from an all-McDonalds, no exercise diet.

And finally, let's be honest here and admit when it comes to marijuana you can't find any evidence that it is a more dangerous substance than alcohol. Marijuana is important because it represents the hypocricy of drug laws and shows how the truth is drug laws are more concerned with regulating behavior than with science.

We can note the health effects of alcohol, but this doesn't explain why we accept drunkeness and binge drinking as legal activities, while getting stoned or getting coked up is illegal. If our concerns were grounded in health and science we'd ban alcohol as we've banned other drugs- or we'd ban bars, 30 packs, and other means alcohol is sold as a mechanism for drinking in excess.


But let's be brutally honest here- the real truth is that getting drunk is simply more socially acceptable than getting stoned or getting all coked up.

9:47 AM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

Let me just add that a big problem of mine is the inconsistency. I'd be willing to accept the idea that drugs should be illegal and alcohol should be banned as well as a consistent position, albeit one I disagree with.

I disagree with drug laws on moral and economic grounds, and I find drug laws fall into the even more odious category of laws that cloak themselves in science in reason, while not showing fidelity to either.

9:53 AM  
Blogger John said...

"People can OD on cocaine, alcohol, over the counter medications, and if you remember your chemistry, even water."

You obviously failed to read certain aspects of what I quoted so let's re-look at it.

"As with opiates, any of these drugs can cause death with a single dose, and this is particularly easy with cocaine"

Can alcohol kill you in a single drink? No. It's basically impossible. Can water kill you with a single drink? Absolutely not. Now with overdose, cocaine is obviously much easier to OD on than alcohol or water. I'm also glad you mentioned over the counter medications, because the fact that people abuse them just goes to show the culture of drug use we have.

"Just a few other points- You mention the dangers of E in regards to it's use at raves and the like."

I mention it only because people take ecstasy to party. That's where the danger is.

"You also mention steroids, but the long term effects of serious body changes or death doesn't sound all the different than the harm that could come from an all-McDonalds, no exercise diet."

Two words - Chris Benoit. For the record, that is not an isolated case. The list of wrestlers who have died in their 50s or before 50 is just ridiculous. It's also going to be very interesting in the next few years for baseball deaths. Ken Caminiti was the first notable steroid death in baseball but I doubt he'll be the last. Once again, I'm glad you brought an all-McDonald's diet. It would be funny if it weren't true, and it's just another example of how abusive people are of unhealthy/dangerous things.

"Yes, I would be willing to admit that people OD on illegal drugs more often than they OD on legal drugs. But I'd argue this is because illegal drugs are illegal"

You're absolutely right and you're still way off. You go on to mention doses and the like and that's true, but if you think drug companies would be selling substances with the same potency as street drugs, you're insane. If vicatin were heroin, legal heroin would be advil. Why do I mention this? Because legalized drugs would not do the trick for drug users. The illegal/black market drugs would still be prevalent and they'd be even more dangerous.

"I'd be willing to bet homemade moonshine and bathtub gin causes a greater percentage of overdoses than commercially produced alcohol as well."

No. I've met people who brew their own beer. It's legal as long as it's under a certain amount. These people know what they are doing.

"If our concerns were grounded in health and science we'd ban alcohol as we've banned other drugs- or we'd ban bars, 30 packs, and other means alcohol is sold as a mechanism for drinking in excess."

No. I can't believe you still don't get it. It's much harder to overdose on alcohol than it is cocaine, opiates, heroin or most other drugs. The biggest problem with alcohol in America is drunk driving. I agree that bars and liquor stores need to be more responsible with how they sell and distribute alcohol but as you would argue, they have a business and they should be able to sell/distribute how they please.

Now, for the record and for you to shut up about it, I will concede marijuana as not being as dangerous, that's not what I care about. The reason I went through this book, drug by drug, was to show you how much more dangerous those other drugs were than alcohol. It had nothing to do with social or moral factors. It had to do with toxicology and effects on the body. But that's not only why alcohol is legal and drugs aren't. Think about, what's easier to do, stick a needle in your arm or take a shot of something that tastes terrible? What's easier, snorting a powder or drinking 15 beers in one night? You can snort an entire bag of cocaine and not know anything was wrong until it's too late. If you drink 10 beers in one night, not only will you be going to the bathroom every 5 minutes (if you're anything like me at least), but before anything goes wrong, you'll probably throw up at least once. There are just so many things that make alcohol safer than a substance like cocaine. Once again, what I'm arguing isn't a social or moral, it's science and logic.

4:50 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

You CONTINUE to make the same mistake about dosage -

I've never heard of people dropping dead from responsible dosages of drugs (other than opiates, where I believe I have heard of extremely unusual cases of people just dropping dead - of course, despite this, opiates such as morphine are routinely used in medical care as a pain killer.)

People taking a small dose of a drug that is too potent to be safe is no different than drinking 15 beers. And dying from a tainted product - which I believe is where a large number of drug deaths come from - is no different than dying from tainted beer.

Let me also say - legalized drugs would do the trick for every single drug dealer. Drunks don't buy illegal moonshine because alcohol is stores doesn't have enough alcohol- they just drink more of the alcohol they can buy cheaply and legally. Similarly, if drugs were legal and standardized, drug users who need more of a given drug would simply buy and use more of that legal drug to get high.

Before I go any further though, lets be honest - overdosing on a single drug is a rare occurence. Far more often than not, over doses occur when people dangerously mix drugs or when they take dangerously impure products. I have no numbers before me, but just as the number of people who die from alcohol poisoning is probably very low, I would be willing to bet that the number of people who drop dead from the use of a single pure illegal drug is similarly low.

As I've pointed out many times before, there is a big difference between use and abuse. I don't particularly think drug abuse should be legal, but the point is that when it comes to any substance you can't separate use from abuse in a legal context.

As I've admitted many times before, I'm not saying that drug use is a risk free activity- drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, sky diving, and promiscuous sexual behavior all pose risks. But with most of the aforementioned activities we let people make their own decisions about those risks- except of course for drugs.

The reasons you've given me are not scientific - if, for instance, the sort of evidence you cite was presented in a petition to the FDA, that petition would be thrown out. Anecdotal comparisons are not controlled studies. (And of course, we have few controlled studies to examine because the government tends not to allow such studies.)

8:42 PM  
Blogger John said...

I knew eventually you would say what I've quoted isn't scientific. It's only work from doctors. Who cares what they say, right? Big deal if you've never heard of it happening. Have you read about every drug related death ever? I doubt it. I trust scientists from a great school would have better information than you. And just because I chose to list the sections on bad effects doesn't mean there isn't more substantial evidence. Every chapter details exactly what drugs do to the human body and in basically every chapter, the dangers to the human body are much much worse than the dangers caused by alcohol.

Legalization will not cure all the problems with drugs. There are probably thousands of drug dealers in America and they aren't going to just up and disappear if drugs are legalized. They're just going to continue doing what they are doing, and probably for more money because they're going to be able to offer the real deal as opposed to weaker, less potent store bought drugs. If you think otherwise, you're just ignorant.

"And dying from a tainted product - which I believe is where a large number of drug deaths come from - is no different than dying from tainted beer."

What the hell is a tainted beer? People don't drink moonshine anymore. Don't even mention it again.

"The reasons you've given me are not scientific - if, for instance, the sort of evidence you cite was presented in a petition to the FDA, that petition would be thrown out."

I chose to paraphrase sections from a book, no duh they'd throw it out. I just assumed you'd realize I was quoting sections from scientific work. Guess not.

I'd say you need to do more research on drugs like LSD, heroin, PCP, crack, crystal meth, etc but I know you don't really care. If there was a drug that had a 90% mortality rate on one dose, you'd probably want that legal too. You act like drugs are illegal just because those stuffed up white politicians don't get it. You act like there isn't strong evidence saying drugs are dangerous and you act like all those politicians haven't thought about the type of money that could be made by legalized drugs. Whatever though. Go shoot some heroin and see what happens and blog about that.

10:06 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

I think we can agree to disagree on the dangers and whether or not those dangers warrant prohibition.

Just 2 final points- 1- You mention a hypothetical drug that had a 90% death rate from one dose, which in a round about way, sort of makes my point. No drugs have a rate like that, not even close. People would be as likely to use such a drug as they would be to play russian roulette. Most of the time, people don't use drugs to make themselves drop dead.

The fact is, people use the drugs they use because they generally can use them without just dropping dead.

And 2- You're really really really wrong about what would happen if drugs were legalized. There are no black markets for legal products, period. You can't name one. The whole point of a black market is that they develop when the free market is somehow restricted by the government.

Just as there are no street dealers of alcohol, street dealers of other drugs would dissapear as those drugs are legalized. Street dealers won't be able to continue what they're doing because big corporations will be able to drastically undercut street dealer prices while providing safer products. Just think about it logically for a second- even when you're talking about getting marijuana from some hippie in Vermont- just as it's cheaper to buy produce from the grocery school than it is the local farmers market, it would be cheaper to buy marijuana from, say, Wal-Mart, then to buy it from that Vermont hippie.

7:49 AM  
Blogger John said...

I'm not wrong about what would happen with legalization. These drugs have been illegal for too long and there are too many drug dealers out there. Like I said, drug companies would never sell drugs with enough potency for the average drug user and they probably wouldn't be allowed to. They would be synthesized products and the average drug user wouldn't want them because they wouldn't get the same high. Remember, most drug users do it all for the high. If it's not good enough, then black market here we come. There's a black market for guns/weapons, prescription drugs and apparently shower heads and there would be one for legal drugs.

1:14 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

Prescription drugs and guns are highly restricted products - you keep missing my point that people only buy products on the black market when they can't get those products legally. Part of the reason to legalize drugs is to make drugs available at the potency and purity that people want. Not doing so would defeat one of the benefits of legalization, the end of the black market. Again, part of the point of legalization is to provide drug users with safer (i.e. not tainted) versions of the products they want. So when I say legalize, I mean straight up legalize- I don't mean legalizing and passing all sorts of regulations which would restrict access and permit black markets to continue.

If we legalized drugs in this manner, drug dealers would lose out to big, legal companies. It doesn't matter how many drug dealers there are, because no one would pay more money to buy less safe products from criminals.

2:41 PM  
Blogger John said...

I'm not the one missing the point. You're the one living in this idealist world and I'm being a realist.

Now, drugs like heroin will never be legal in this country. Ever. But for sake of argument, even if they were, your idea of legalization wouldn't be plausible.

There is no possible way that drugs would be allowed onto the legal market at high or even normal potency. One reason would be to curb addiction and another would be because some drugs are too powerful and effect the body too much. You can't have people walking around hallucinating, it's not safe. I mean, you said it yourself...

"Again, part of the point of legalization is to provide drug users with safer (i.e. not tainted) versions of the products they want."

I made the analogy before and I'll make it again. Legalized heroin would be like Advil compared to real heroin.

Let's not forget, if drugs were legal, they'd be easier to get into the country, there would be more supply, and drug dealers would be able to sell purer products for less. And I'll say it one more time, there are too many drug dealers in this country. If drugs were legalized, they wouldn't just give up and get real jobs. They'd find a way.

5:47 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

"I'm not the one missing the point. You're the one living in this idealist world and I'm being a realist."

All I'm talking about is what would happen if drugs were legalized, straight up- no restrictions, no conditions.

"There is no possible way that drugs would be allowed onto the legal market at high or even normal potency. One reason would be to curb addiction and another would be because some drugs are too powerful and effect the body too much. You can't have people walking around hallucinating, it's not safe. I mean, you said it yourself...

"Again, part of the point of legalization is to provide drug users with safer (i.e. not tainted) versions of the products they want."

I made the analogy before and I'll make it again. Legalized heroin would be like Advil compared to real heroin."

I was specifically talking about tainted or adulterated drugs- getting rid of the street drugs people buy now that are laced with other dangerous chemicals that the buyers are unaware of. If drugs were legalized, no strings, no conditions, people would be able to buy drugs at the potency they want - there would be no laws preventing the sale of extremely potent drugs and you know full well that there are companies out there that would be willing to sell them. So again, legalized drugs would mean heroin addicts would be able to purchase the heroin they want (or need) from a legal source, made by a manufacturer with quality control to ensure that the product is not tainted with anything else. This isn't debatable, this is my hypothetical- drugs legalized with no conditions.

"Let's not forget, if drugs were legal, they'd be easier to get into the country, there would be more supply, and drug dealers would be able to sell purer products for less. And I'll say it one more time, there are too many drug dealers in this country. If drugs were legalized, they wouldn't just give up and get real jobs. They'd find a way."

You're really, really missing the point here. What do you think happened to bootleggers after the end of prohibition? What happened to Al Capone? The end of prohibition meant the end of the bootleggers and the end of the association of organized crime with alcohol. Certainly some criminals would attempt to continue to sell drugs, but they'd have to do so as legitimate businessmen, and they'd be competing with legitimate businesses. But the point is that ending drug prohibition ends the crime associated with the black market of the drug business - there are no black markets for legal, unrestricted products. I'm not saying drug dealers would just give up and find other jobs - some of them would attempt to become a part of the legal market. And many more, I suspect, would be forced out of the drug market by simple economics.

11:23 PM  
Blogger John said...

For the 100th time, I'm not missing the point. I get what you're saying and I'm responding by saying you're wrong and things would never happen the way you dream. Let's connect the dots...

I've already proven to rational human beings and other rational human beings already knew that drugs like heroin, PCP, LSD, etc. come with much more inherent dangers than alcohol, both to the physical body and to the psyche. Therefore, if a substance like heroin were to ever become legal (never going to happen), there's no way the government would allow straight-up heroin to be sold to the American public, regardless of dose, and I don't think the drug companies would do so in good conscience. Therefore, there would still be a black market because consumers wouldn't be able to buy what they wanted in stores.

You're right that selling drugs in stores there would be more pure substances that weren't tainted. I get that in your dream world there wouldn't be a black market. But that's all it is, a dream world. You're the one who is really missing the point. You are treating all drugs like they are created equal. You're treating all drugs like they were pot and they just plain aren't. Heroin is not a Big Mac, heroin is not alcohol and it's not even marijuana. It's much, MUCH worse. Once you learn this maybe you'll be singing a different tune.

1:20 AM  

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