Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Drug abuse.

Here's an idea that is not statistically valid, but may be a good indicator anyhow.

Think about how many of your relatives, friends and acquaintances have died from illegal drug overdoses or side effects. And how many have had serious addictions to illegal drugs.

Then think about how many rich public figures you can name who have died from illegal drug overdoses or side effects. And how many have had serious addictions to illegal drugs.

In the latter group, I can name at least 20 or thirty without trying hard.

Libertarians want to make it legal and affordable for everybody to enjoy addiction and death from overdoses. Free from oversight by government, doctors and pharmacists. Free from the expenses of black markets and dubious private doctors.

You too can have a pathetic side like Michael Jackson, River Phoenix, Janis Joplin, Rush Limbaugh, etc.

13 comments:

Glen said...

How many of my "relatives, friends and acquaintances have died from illegal drug overdoses or side effects"? None, as far as I know. Also no serious addictions to illegal drugs that I'm aware of. How about you?

Now let's add another question: "how many relatives, friends and acquaintances of yours have had at least one richly rewarding illegal drug experience?" Answer: many. Including myself and my parents. I mean, I'm aware of a few friends who claim they haven't used illegal drugs, but it seems, well, odd to me. Not normal. I mean, at some level I'm aware intellectually that roughly 58% of americans haven't smoked pot, but I don't know where one goes to find people in that demographic. I'm in the 42%-or-so that has.

If being a teetotaller is your kink that's fine; I'm not going to say you can't choose to refrain from illegal drug use, but why try to imbue that rather odd decision with some sort of nobility? It's like getting uppity over refraining from eating meat. Or refraining from wearing purple. (Or if you need an element of risk in this metaphor, refraining from skiing or going skydiving.)

Glen said...

As for the rest: "death from overdose" is something you tend to see when drugs are illegal, not when they are legal. When people are in enough pain that they need to self-medicate, I'd like it to be possible for them to do so safely and legally. When you can get it reliably in pill form, the primary long-term negative effect of opiate addiction is constipation. It's primarily the illegality - the fact that users can't get a stable supply of known potency - rather than any inherent characteristic of the drug itself that makes heroin so dangerous.

As for famous people, let's first exclude those whose drug problem was with *legal* drugs (including MJ and Rush). Then let's make a new list: how many rich, famous celebrities can you think of whose creative output was improved by illegal drugs? You can start with the Beatles, Robin Williams, and pretty much every musician ever...

Glen said...

Wait, I almost forgot: Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs, who says that trying LSD was "one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life." And Barack Obama, whose life doesn't seem to have greatly suffered from the fact that he admits to having used marijuana and cocaine while in high school.

I suspect "Libertarians want to extend to more people some of the pleasures and freedoms (and challenges) currently enjoyed by the richest, most talented, most desired, most famous people in the world" is not actually a winning argument for you. But hey, don't let me stop you from trying it...

digamma said...

Another good question is whether Huben thinks the country would be better off if Barack Obama had served jail time for his drug use.

I don't think it would.

David Fetter said...

There's a gigantic amount of room between the idiotic libertarian absolutist position of unregulated markets in recreational drugs and the current insane and expensive prohibition.

We're incarcerating 4% of our population, often for non-violent drug offenses. We need to change from criminalizing drug use, which has always failed, to harm reduction. People should be able to get drugs of known, regulated purity, clean needles, etc. without committing a crime, along with the free medical and other help they need, if they need it. Criminalizing addicts has never worked and never will. Making addicts go to the criminal underground for what they need has the effect of making ruthlessness, callousness and violence create wealth and (of course) power. Al Capone would never have had any political power if it hadn't been for Prohibition.

GlenH said...

Of course in Libertopia there would also be no government drug education or rehab programmes either. As for legal drugs like cigarettes,one of the most effective ways of reducing usage is increasing government taxation,which seems to be one of the most "immoral" things you can suggest to a Libertarian...

mikeyaustudent said...

Put self destructive behavior in the criminal code.Then watch your country self destruct.

Mike Huben said...

http://comics.com/think/2009-09-23/

I'm always amused by Glen's credulous eliefs and wishful thinking.

Glen said...

Fame - especially fame based on creative genius - is definitely a dangerous drug and one that a lot of people can't handle well. All those other drugs are pretty mild by comparison. I recommend Elizabeth Gilbert's TED Talk on better ways we might deal with creativity and genius - if we had more healthy ways of thinking about creativity perhaps we'd see fewer brilliant people killing themselves via drug overdose (or in other ways, for that matter).

Mike, if you want to sound credible on drugs and what might happen (or did happen) when they are legal, you should start with the Consumers Union report Licit And Illicit Drugs. If you find anything there surprising, find an old encylopedia and read the entries for each specific drug of interest and see if it bears out.

Jeremy said...

So how much is it worth to you to prevent your loved ones from possibly becoming addicted to drugs? How many people should be allowed to go to jail to protect your loved ones from access to dangerous drugs?

Some estimates put the cost at over $50 billion when law enforcement and incarceration costs are combined at the fed, state, and local level.

Some estimates of inmate populations related to the drug war put it at half a million, at least a slim majority of which were non-violent.

So I guess it comes down to this: how many people would go to jail before you'd reconsider the cost of protecting your loved ones? How much money would have to be spent before you'd reconsider the cost of protecting your loved ones from their own decisions?

I think you have a valid point, Mike - it just needs a balancing point.

brian said...

Some people think the increasing militarization of local police forces, rampant brutality, civil liberties violations, inherent bigotry in the structure of drug laws themselves and the overall cost in money & lives is worth the slightest decrease in the chance of someone they know taking up a drug habit. Other people know an idea that completely fails a cost-benefit analysis when they see it.

Joanna Liberation said...

It was always easy to buy drugs while I was in high school. They seemed actually quite cheap to me, I could always afford them (though only occasionally for fun), even though I grew up in relatively middle-to-low income family. The only result of prohibition seemed they were readily available in school, you didn't even have to go to pharmacy. There were even "friends" giving you drugs for free at first trying to get you addicted. After all, dealing in legal drugs would be as absurd as dealing in milligrams of detergents. And their illegality gave them always that nice magical aura of forbidden fruit, so tempting for a teenager. I have always wondered why people don't understand that prohibition in fact creates most drug problems. I have recently realized it's because people follow every media-generated hysteria of every single individual that hurt himself by getting high (btw, mostly because we have dangerous noname underground drugs instead of legal brands of tested quality), which is also visible in this very Mike Huben's entry: "think about how many rich public figures you can name who have died from illegal drug overdoses or side effects.".

Mike Huben said...

The drug war is a conservative overreaction and exploitation of the harms of drugs. The libertarian take on it is to totally ignore the harms of drugs.

The sensible, pragmatic and liberal take on the issue is regulation based on the hazards. For example, there's hardly any hazard from marijuana (and certainly much less than from cigarettes or alcohol, if it is not smoked in large quantities) and so marijuana should be legalized and regulated with taxes, advertising limits, and age limits as are alcohol and cigarettes. IMHO.

The demand for more hazardous drugs could be reduced by availability of relatively harmless recreational drugs. As well as education and medical care for addicts.

I have a drugs index, where advantages of this sort of policy over libertarian idiocy is explained by several authors.

http://world.std.com/~mhuben/drugs.html