I see that Donald Trump tried to declare that opioid abuse is an Emergency. To be fair, it’s a problem; they are dangerous when abused. Probably the greatest danger is that people who are addicted to them become desperate and turn to doses that have no quality control: you may get heroin that has been cut with fentanyl, shoot your usual dose, and then you’re suddenly dead. That’s a problem.
Apparently nobody died of marijuana in 2015. Or, if they did, it was recorded as something else. If we look at this as a simple public health issue (AKA: Emergency) then, frankly, why are we worried about Methamphetamine at all? I was genuinely surprised that there are virtually no deaths caused directly by amphetamines, though it appears that some users mix amphetamines with opioids (Hitler’s “wake me up” was Oxycodone and Pervitin, an early version of Benzedrine) The benzodiazapenes, like Nancy “just say no” Reagan was hooked on, hardly register.If we were at all concerned with health outcomes, we would immediately ban tobacco. And regulate alcohol. Or maybe we’d try to arrange our civilization that that people can put whatever they want into their bodies, as long as they understand the choices and the consequences. There’s a problem with that basic libertarian position, namely that our past selves cannot adequately understand what our addicted future selves will think of their decision.
Last year, firearm deaths were about 12,000 and an additional 20,000 suicides using firearms. Would Hemingway have counted double, I wonder?
If opiates are an “Emergency” what are Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms? Drinking alcohol seems to be about as likely to kill you as firearms, the difference being that you (arguably – we are not going to debate free will here) choose to drink alcohol, but only 2/3 of the people who die by firearms did it of their own volition.
I’m not entirely sure where I am going here, but I think that alcohol and tobacco, being highly regulated and taxed, are predictable drugs: you don’t suddenly die like Carrie Fisher or Prince, you follow a predictable trajectory. People have plenty of time to ignore or facilitate you. Of course, Prince and Fisher and so on – they had facilitators, too, who saw it coming and variously tried or didn’t try to intervene. I’ve made my own minor attempts at interventions, usually against smoking. It has only worked once (but the patient relapsed a decade later). Michael Jackson could afford a private doctor to shoot him up; normally that would have been a good approach except the doctor screwed up.
Someone once said to me, “It’s not the heroin that kills you, it’s the poverty brought on by heroin that kills you.” To that extent, it’s true. There are people who have lived long (so far!) successful careers on heroin – they had access to good stuff that wasn’t cut, and they were controlled and careful about it. If we’re going to point to fentanyl as an emergency, we need to recognize that fentanyl is being used as a substitute for the oxycodone that used to be handed around like candy. The oxycodone was high quality stuff, made by careful robots in labs, and when it became harder to get, addicts started buying unregulated synthetic pure product from the black market. [stderr]
It’s hard to see opioids or fentanyl as an “emergency” when US drug policy is so completely irrational and unbalanced. It makes as much sense as using terrorism to fight a war on terror: doomed to fail, so hurry up and get the failing over with.
Imagine if the fentanyl makers (or the meth cookers!) had lobbyists. Come to think of it, I’m actually surprised they don’t – they ought to do like the alcohol makers did and get it regulated, then lock up the manufacture, tax it, and operate openly. Because “who will speak for the poisoners?” hand-wringing in the name of capitalism: [bbc]
The tobacco industry is hampering efforts to introduce life-saving interventions in low and middle-income countries, according to a report by the World Health Organization.
It makes me wonder, if tobacco were more closely regulated, are they prepared to go underground, cartel-style? No, not really, they’re just going to places that are less regulated and enjoying their profits here.
“There has been progress, but there’s more to do,” said Dr Vinayak Prasad, head of WHO’s tobacco control unit in Geneva.
“Most of tobacco usage is now happening in the Middle East, in Asian economies and (tobacco use ) in Africa is also adding up”
He said that tobacco companies are now increasingly setting their sights on “easier, less regulated markets”, and putting pressure on their governments.
Imagine this: today, representatives of the New Mexico Meth Cookers cartel gave anonymous testimony to congress, explaining “We are going to sell this stuff, anyway. You may have made it illegal to sell in the US, but why not let us bring jobs to New Mexico by cooking our meth and selling it in Africa. It’s good for the tax-base, it creates jobs, and if we operate openly, our product will be better and – who knows – it may save a life or two.” Goldman Sachs has expressed interest in underwriting the meth labs, “This is a significant vertical market and there are many synergies to exploit here,” said senior stock analyst J. Redacted.
Some of the world’s biggest tobacco manufacturing companies have told the BBC that whilst they do not oppose reasonable tobacco regulation, they do need to be part of the debate on policy.
Jonathan Duce from Japan Tobacco International, responsible for brands such as Benson and Hedges and Camel cigarettes, said: “We believe that public officials and policing organizations should have access to all facts when it comes to policy-making, including from businesses.
Oh. They’re already ahead of me.
My drug of choice is caffeine, which appears to kill about as many people as marijuana (which, sadly, doesn’t have any effect on me).
Oddly, the people who are being the most rational, in my mind, about drugs are the mormons and the 7th day adventists. When religions are being more rational than public policy, public policy is probably a mess.