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The Forum > Article Comments > The failed war on drugs > Comments

The failed war on drugs : Comments

By Sukrit Sabhlok, published 18/9/2008

If the goal in the war on drugs is to save lives, this is not being achieved by the present strategy.

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This article is spot on. Unfortunately the general public remains swamped by prohibitionist propaganda. Lately it has taken the form of dinky little reductive 'studies' which SET OUT to find new harms (and headlines) around cannabis. Time and again, however, broadbased population studies don't back them up. Long-term cannabis users simply don't have shrunken hippocampuses, teeth falling out, psychoses, violent episodes in hospital emergency units or frequent car accidents -- not in significantly greater numbers than the general population at least. And Sydney University data from 1973 show cannabis then was about as strong as it is now, despite US government propaganda to the contrary. Yet the media print this rubbish uncritically.

We need an organised lobby group to counter the prohibitionist groups which were funded by the Howard government. I expose some of the prohibitionist tripe on my blog but it has a limited readership. See:
http://kingscrosstimes.blogspot.com/2008/07/evidence-prohibitionists-and.html

The only way I can see such a body happening is through private sponsorship. It wouldn't need a lot, either. Any ideas?
Posted by Michael G., Thursday, 18 September 2008 12:00:53 PM
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On the authors argument we should legalise paedophile. We have harsh penalties (probably not harsh enough) and yet their has been a huge increase (no doubt due to our pervert industry) and other factors. On his argeument we should go soft on these criminals.

The author is also ignorant or deceitful in his summation of cannabis use. As someone who has spent a fair bit of time with people suffering from Schizophrenia I can assure you most of them were dope smokers.
Posted by runner, Thursday, 18 September 2008 12:16:25 PM
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Runner,

Actually pedophilia is a crime with real victims. Who are the victims of drug use, besides the user themselves? If you want to compare crimes then compare like with like. There are other victimless crimes, like prostitution for example. There is simply NO commonality between pedophilia and drug use. In fact it is highly demeaning to the victims of pedophilia (a remarkable percentage of whom are victims of the church) to compare their real suffering with the mutual consent that is involved in drug transactions. In fact it seems to me that the religious outrage over drug use is used to blunt the publics anger over the church's representatives predilection to abusing those under its care.

And don't even bother with the nonsense about stolen VCR's, or muggings. We have laws against that already.
Posted by Paul.L, Thursday, 18 September 2008 1:18:24 PM
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The only thing I agree with in this article is the fact that the goal of a drugs strategy should be to save lives. We can certainly do more.

Decriminalising or legalising illicit drugs is not going to achieve that goal. It will only increase the number of users like any other legal drug such as alcohol and smoking. If you think the hospital system is overburdened now this will be the breaking point.

For the first time I am actually in agreement with runner. :)

You only have to work or talk to people in the mental health system to become aware of the high number of drug-induced schizophrenics and even young people who have developed a form of early onset dementia.

I would rather a system where drug addicts convicted of criminal offences were subject to a different form of incarceration. This might include rehabilitation, education and skills training and after-prison support to give them the best possible chance of making a new life. The worst thing a drug-addict can do is go back to whatever it was they were doing before and by becoming involved in the peer group of drug-culture. They need to find within themselves the courage and the skills to move on.
Posted by pelican, Thursday, 18 September 2008 1:38:21 PM
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I meant to add that the title 'The failed war on drugs' is a misnomer.

How do we know we have failed in the drugs war? How can you quantify this sort of failure when there is nothing to compare it with? How certain is the author that any other system would have done better? Have we also failed in the break and enter war, the paedophile war and the street racing war?

These are all problems for law enforcement but we don't legalise something because it has become too hard, we look for better strategies to combat it.
Posted by pelican, Thursday, 18 September 2008 1:43:55 PM
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Pelican,

On the contrary, a system of licensed, controlled availability would save lives. Most heroin overdoses are due to unkown concentration of the illegal product or poly-drug use, often occurring because users add cheap pharmaceuticals to their dose, with unpredictable results.

Household surveys show that controlled availability would not cause many more people to use drugs. After all, if heroin were legally (and unromantically) available on prescription, would you start sticking a needle in your arm? I thought not.

And yes, I do talk to people involved in mental health and they know that most of their clients already had severe problems and traumas before they started on drugs. The biased reports you read claim only a LINK between drugs and mental illness and do not show causality. In fact the incidence of psychosis has not increased since the 1960s while cannabis use has rocketed.

Nevertheless, drugs do have their dangers and harms. The point is they could be managed better if it was an above-ground activity, and also reduced through regulation (like not for sale to under 18s), quality control, better education and perhaps rationing.

The more they scream about the harms of drugs, the better the case against prohibition because all these harms are happening under that failed system (just like they did under alcohol prohibition in the US). For a good recent example of a balanced assessment of the dangers of cannabis, see this five-page pdf:

http://www.encod.org/info/IMG/pdf/Brink_Decriminalization_Cannabis_2008.pdf
Posted by Michael G., Thursday, 18 September 2008 2:16:41 PM
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