Friday, March 20, 2015

Opiates and Other Drugs, Endemic and Cyclical (18 February 2014)

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            Page one of my local newspaper for 16 Feb. 2014, above the fold: "Opiates plague east county," a variation on headlines you've probably seen in your newspaper since the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and that I've seen since the 1950s.

            So here's a repetition of an exercise for you. ("Reps" are crucial for social attitudes, as well as building muscles.)

            Start with the observation that "alcohol and drugs" is improper English because alcohol is a drug, and "alcohol and drugs" makes as much sense as "editors and humans." The phrase "alcohol and drugs" may be acceptable as common usage, but it's unethical because it sneaks in a lie.

            Nicotine is also a drug, and caffeine; and if sugar isn't exactly a drug it acts like one, and in terms of the drug/crime connection, the history of sugar is atrocious for its key role in the Atlantic slave trade, where deaths and stolen lives were in the tens of millions. (Tobacco, molasses, and rum were also crucial for the sordid history of American slavery, so that crime/drug connection is very old, very wide, and deep in the cultures of the Americas.)

            So if you drink an Irish Coffee now and then, you're using drugs. Don't feel guilty, not unless you're a drunk, or you're stereotyping the Irish; drug use is normal human behavior and boozing as older than civilization.

            Drug use is normal but a problem since some portion of any population will misuse any drug for pleasure, and if the drug kills pain, significant numbers will become addicted.

            Drugs and drug problems are going to be both endemic — always around — and cyclical: following the laws of economics and trends in politics and even fashion.

            The solution?

            Social problems aren't math problems to be solved; social problem can only be ameliorated, managed. "First, do no harm," and after that, do what harm-reduction you can.

            The local newspaper headline was under the label, "Crime/Courts": That's part of the problem. Drug problems as such, with no immediate harm to others involved, should be handled under "Public Health," not criminal law. Handling drug problems, as such, as crime, does do harm, and more harm than it prevents.


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