Monday, June 29, 2009

Yes, addicts need help. But all you casual cocaine users want locking up | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

The same goes for heroin. The biggest study of opiate use ever conducted (at Philadelphia general hospital) found that addicts suffered no physical harm, even though some of them had been taking heroin for 20 years. The devastating health effects of heroin use are caused by adulterants and the lifestyles of people forced to live outside the law. Like cocaine, heroin is addictive; but unlike cocaine, the only consequence of its addiction appears to be … addiction.

Costa's half-measure, in other words, gives us the worst of both worlds: more murder, more destruction, more muggings, more adulteration. Another way of putting it is this: you will, if Costa's proposal is adopted, be permitted without fear of prosecution to inject yourself with heroin cut with drain cleaner and brick dust, sold illegally and soaked in blood; but not with clean and legal supplies.

His report does raise one good argument, however. At present the trade in class A drugs is concentrated in the rich nations. If it were legalised, we could cope. The use of drugs is likely to rise, but governments could use the extra taxes to help people tackle addiction. But because the wholesale price would collapse with legalisation, these drugs would for the first time become widely available in poorer nations, which are easier for companies to exploit (as tobacco and alcohol firms have found) and which are less able to regulate, raise taxes or pick up the pieces. The widespread use of cocaine or heroin in the poor world could cause serious social problems: I've seen, for example, how a weaker drug – khat – seems to dominate life in Somali-speaking regions of Africa. "The universal ban on illicit drugs," the UN argues, "provides a great deal of protection to developing countries".
Yes, addicts need help. But all you casual cocaine users want locking up | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian
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