Wednesday, August 12, 2015

America’s Absurd Relationship With Drugs

Far from ‘winning’ any any war on drugs (as if such a thing could even be measured), we feast on them within American society and condemn the mere whisper of their use among the athletes we revere. Don’t dare enhance their performance.

Meanwhile, out there among us ordinary dudes, annual sales for Cialis last year topped $2.3 billion. Cialis is an erectile dysfunction drug. Talk about performance enhancement.

Then there’s good old Prozac, for the treatment of major depressive disorder, including post-partum depression, obsessive–compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosa, panic disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. 

You got a disorder, Prozac probably has an answer. No matter that it also makes you twice as likely to suffer abnormal dreams, abnormal ejaculation (wonder what that means?) , anorexia, anxiety, asthenia, diarrhea, dry mouth, dyspepsia, flu syndrome, impotence, insomnia, decreased libido, nausea, nervousness, pharyngitis, rash, sinusitis, somnolence, sweating, tremor, vasodilatation and yawning. 

Yawning I could handle, but a two-fold increase of suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and adolescents, along with a 1.5-fold increase in the 18–24 age group is a bit much to ask for a prescribed drug. Yet sales continue at a $350 million per year clip.

The fact is that we humans are drug-seeking mammals and have been from the get-go. Give us a leaf to chew or a root to grind to get our kicks and there we are, chewing and grinding since the dawn of man. But it’s gotten out of hand.

We’re such a tight-ass conservative society that we believe law will cure any societal ill. Even though prohibition was repealed because it was unenforceable, our holier-than-thous keep throwing people in jail (occasionally for life) for smoking or distributing pot—no share thy wealth with the poor in that case.

The big brouhaha these days is on the sports pages. Banning drugs in sports does not reduce drug use, but makes things unsafe for players (see link).

In addition to that, sports trainers are constantly made to dance with what is and what is not permitted. Consider bike-racing star ance Armstrong. Remember him? Cool guy until he became uncool.

He won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005, but was stripped of those victories in 2012 after a doping scandal. Armstrong was whistle-blown by a competing rider, who came down off his own high for long enough to hire a lawyer. Career over, trophies returned and one of the most incredible feats in sports history trashed, Armstrong had competed among a group of riders all of whom were on some sort of performance enhancing drug or another. He passed every he was given during those seven victories.

Seven consecutive wins erased from the record book—seven years after the fact.

On the increasingly criminalized side of drug prevention, the 40 year War on Drugs is a shambles. Over a trillion dollars of taxpayer money has thus far been spent—that’s one thousand billion dollars, folks. When Richard Nixon first coined the term in 1971, he presented it to Congress as devoting more federal resources to the "prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted"

I can (and did) buy that, but it’s not what America delivered. What we actually got was

·      In Vietnam, in 1971 it was estimated (by the military) that 30,000 servicemen were addicted to drugs, most of them to heroin.
·      Operation Intercept, targeted at Mexican pot that almost shut down the border and only lasted twenty days.
·      Operation Just Cause, invading Panama with 25,000 American troops to get rid of Gen. Manuel Noriega.
·      Plan Colombia, a human rights disaster that left Columbia in the hands of drug-lords, the very people it was designed to eliminate.
·      The Mérida Initiative, a security co-operation between the United States and Mexico that left yet another friendly country in shambles.
·      A quadrupling of the prison rate in the US, making us by far the largest prison system in the world.
·      Creation of a permanent underclass, as one million ‘offenders’ are offloaded to prison every year.
·      Three-strike laws that give shoplifters life in prison without parole for that 3rd infraction.
·      Corrupt judges, border agents, cops and everyone up and down the drug enforcement ladder.
·      An associated gangster establishment that makes Al Capone look like a nostalgic relic of times past.

Legalization would put a 40-year mistake to rest. Hell, it only took us 13 years to realize prohibition wouldn’t work and that required the repeal of a constitutional amendment to put it in the ground. 

Twice as many drug abuse deaths are happening today as when the ‘war’ began. That casualty rate makes any sensible commander want to pack up his bags and take his war back home. Three out of four Americans agree the war is a mistake.

Too many Americans enjoyed their booze to make prohibition work. Too few Americans use illegal drugs to make the attempt to stop them viable. Too much political fear keeps government from throwing the war out the window and getting down to the serious business of feeding the hungry and housing the homeless.

We are an addictive species of mammal, but we have an absolutely absurd relationship with that undeniable fact.

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