drug policy

AA and "12 Step" programs don't work

Some 12 step groups hew less closely to the specifics of the steps than to a general attitude of social support. But at the root of it, 12 step groups are based on a religious ideology rather than scientific evidence. Bill Wilson even wrote, "At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God." Yet our legal system still forces people into these religious programs. And the addiction treatment industry is making a lot of money off of them, while not helping people. One might say they are making a killing, in both senses of the word.

AA and Rehab Culture Have Shockingly Low Success Rates (Alternet)

AA and rehab have even been codified into our legal system: court-mandated attendance, which began in the late 1980s, is today a staple of drug-crime policy. Every year, our state and federal governments spend over $15 billion on substance-abuse treatment for addicts, the vast majority of which are based on 12-step programs. There is only one problem: these programs almost always fail.

Peer-reviewed studies peg the success rate of AA somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. That is, about one of every fifteen people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober. In 2006, one of the most prestigious scientific research organizations in the world, the Cochrane Collaboration, conducted a review of the many studies conducted between 1966 and 2005 and reached a stunning conclusion: “No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA” in treating alcoholism. This group reached the same conclusion about professional AA-oriented treatment (12-step facilitation therapy, or TSF), which is the core of virtually every alcoholism-rehabilitation program in the country.

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NAACAP calls for an end to the War On Drugs

I'm not sure how this slipped by my radar, because it is big news for anyone concerned with drug policy: on Tuesday, the NAACP passed a resolution calling for an end to the War On Drugs.

This is hugely important because the NAACP is such a mainstream, conservative (in the "not radical", not the "in favor of preserving privilege for the wealthy" sense) organization. As Leonard Pitts puts it, "there has always been something determinedly middle class and cautious about the NAACP. This is the group whose then-leader, Roy Wilkins, famously detested Martin Luther King for his street theatrics."

But after 40 years, the failure of Prohibition to curb drug abuse has finally become so clear that even this cautious organization's President and CEO, Benjamin Todd Jealous, has to say that "These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America."

And so they have issued "A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Investigate Substance Abuse Treatment, Education, and Opportunities in Communities of Color for A Better Tomorrow". Once ratified by their Board of Directors, the resolution will encourage more than 1,200 active NAACP units across the country to organize advocacy for drug policy reform.

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Republican legislator busted for cannabis possession after anti-pot remakrs

Ah, hypocrisy, the sport of politicians. Back in February, Robert Watson, GOP minority leader of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, said that his state's legislature's priorities were only correct "if you're a gay man from Guatemala who gambles and smokes pot."

While the perfect irony would have been if he was then caught in a love nest smoking weed and shooting craps with a Guatemalan gay lover, one out of four ain't bad: on Friday, Watson was stopped at a checkpoint when cops smelled alcohol and marijuana. He failed a field sobriety test and cops found a bag of "suspected marijuana" and a bowl in his pocket.

His court date is May 11. Bet he wishes his colleagues in Connecticut had made drug law reform a higher priority...

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recreational pot polling better than Democrats in CA

The latest SurveyUSA poll of California voters has Democratic incumbent Barbra Boxer narrowly ahead 46% to 43% over Republican Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who got a golden parachute for running a once-proud tech company into the ground (the source of much of the fortune she's spending to buy this Senate seat) and is campaign as a demagogic know-nothing science denailist. I'm not a fan of Boxer, but a win for the Palin-endorsed Fiorina would be a sure sign that the U.S. is no longer interested in being a civilized nation; for the love of whatever gods you believe in, if you live in California, please help see that Fiorina is defeated.

Democrat Jerry Brown is up 47% to 43% over Republican Meg Whitman in the Governor's race. Brown has more than doubled his lead among Hispanics since it came to light that despite her strong rhetoric on immigration, Whitman employed an undocumented immigrant as a maid for several years, throwing her under the bus once she became a political liability. (Has anyone else noticed how "throwing someone under the bus" has become a favorite political metaphor the past few years?)

I have fond memories of Brown being the last actual liberal-leaning candidate in the 1992 presidential race, holding on to his primary challenge against moderate conservative Bill Clinton; and I like that Brown took a strong stance against Proposition 8 and for constitutional democracy when he was Attorney General. I'd like to see him back in the governor's mansion.

Polling better than either Boxer or Brown is the chronic: Proposition 19, which would legalize recreational cannabis in the state, would pass 48% to 41% according to this poll. The demographics on this are quite interesting: men favor it 54% to 38%, while women are just about evenly split, 43% in favor, 44% against. Voters 18 to 34 and 50 to 64 both strongly favor it (60% to 30% and 50% to 38% respectively), voters 35 to 49 are split 47% to 45%, and voters 65 and older are strongly against it, 48% to 36%. Whites and blacks favor it by substantial margins; Hispanics and Asians are evenly split. I can see older voters being against it, and the families of more recent immigrants being more comfortable with keeping the law as it is also makes sense; I've no idea about the gender gap, or why there's a "donut hole" in support by age group here -- did "Just Say No" really bend the minds of my generation that much?

Republicans and conservatives oppose it; Democrats, independents, liberals and moderates favor it by large margins. This has not gone unnoticed; some Democratic strategists are exploring putting cannabis initiatives on the ballot in Colorado, Nevada, and Washington in 2012 to help energize young liberal voters -- rather like the GOP's homophobic ballot initiatives (along with a stunning amount of voter fraud) helped Bush II win in 2004.

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why the people of Baltimore don't trust cops

I've previously touched on the malfeasance that runs rampant in the Baltimore City police department -- thousands of meritless arrests made each year, the lack of public trust in the force, incidents like people being arrested for asking for directions.

But if you need the most vivid possible example of why, as a general rule, no one can or should trust city cops, the off-duty Baltimore City cop who killed an unarmed man outside a Mount Vernon nightclub Saturday morning -- firing at him thirteen times -- is about as clear an illustration of what sort of scum all too often manages to get hired onto the force as could ever be provided.

Tyrone Brown was a Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq and came home safely, only to find that the city police harbored a violent lunatic, Gahiji Tshamba -- a 15 year BCPD veteran -- who would prove more of a threat than Iraqi insurgents.

Brown apparently made a pass at a woman accompanying Tshamba, and the two had words. Tshamba pulled out his city-issued sidearm and fired 13 times from close range, striking Brown with six bullets.

Now, here's the best part: Tshamba was "disciplined" by police department five years ago for shooting a man while intoxicated. That's right: a Baltimore cop shot a man while drunk and they let him keep his job. The BCPD's line was that the earlier shooting was justified because Tshamba was threatened; if you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you.

Of course not all city cops are as insane as Tshamba. But too many are willing to cover up for the true scumbags, and too many are willing to engage in less serious abuses.

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the War on (Some) Drugs: 40 years of utter and abject failure

The Associated Press reports on the 40th anniversary of the "War on Drugs", first declared by Nixon in 1970.

Nixon's initial WoD budget was $100 million; today's is $15.1 billion -- in inflation-adjusted terms, 31 times Nixon's amount. Over those 40 years, we've spent over $570 billion -- that $570,000,000,000, or over $1,800 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. -- just to arrest and imprison over 37 million nonviolent drug offenders. We've also spent billions on foreign interdiction, border enforcement, and anti-drug propaganda.

And according to Justice Department estimate, the consequences of our failed drug policy -- "an overburdened justice system, a strained health care system, lost productivity, and environmental destruction" -- cost us $215 billion each and every year. Says Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron, "Current policy is not having an effect of reducing drug use, but it's costing the public a fortune."

The global trade in illegal drugs is $320 billion annually -- 1 percent of the global economy. Ten percent of Mexico's economy is built on drug proceeds, which ought to explain why the country is in, and will remain in, utter chaos.

Think Obama -- who has admitted to cannabis and cocaine use, and who at one point said he favored eliminating criminal penalties for cannabis use or possession -- will change things? Nope. He is requesting a record $15.5 billion for the drug war for 2011, and according to Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, "President Obama's newly released drug war budget is essentially the same as Bush's, with roughly twice as much money going to the criminal justice system as to treatment and prevention...despite Obama's statements on the campaign trail that drug use should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue."

Drug prohibition is an utter and complete failure, and its end cannot come swiftly enough.

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CIA mind control experiments in France

It's well-known that the CIA's MK-ULTRA program dosed unwitting people with LSD in the 1950s and 60s as part of their mind control experiments. (Really. I Am Not Making This Up, and it is not loony conspiracy theory history -- read the linked Wikipedia article if you've never heard of MK-ULTRA before.)

However, these experiments were thought to have limited to administration of drugs to one person at a time, or at least only to small groups. But new research into the history of MK-ULTRA provides evidence that a bizarre 1951 outbreak of mass insanity and hallucinations in a southern French village was caused by the CIA spiking the food supply with LSD, rather than by ergot-containing fungus poisoning the bread.

Hundreds of people were affected, dozens were committed to asylums, and at least five died.

According to the Telegraph,

Mr Albarelli said the real "smoking gun" was a White House document sent to members of the Rockefeller Commission formed in 1975 to investigate CIA abuses. It contained the names of a number of French nationals who had been secretly employed by the CIA and made direct reference to the "Pont St. Esprit incident." In its quest to research LSD as an offensive weapon, Mr Albarelli claims, the US army also drugged over 5,700 unwitting American servicemen between 1953 and 1965.

None of his sources would indicate whether the French secret services were aware of the alleged operation. According to US news reports, French intelligence chiefs have demanded the CIA explain itself following the book's revelations. French intelligence officially denies this.

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Brave New World and the right to be unhappy; Island and sanity

I've been re-reading Huxley's Brave New World. There's an exchange near the end, between Mustapha Mond, World Controller of the insane civilization that encompasses most of the world, and "the Savage", product of the lunatic barbarism outside, that rather sums it up:

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

"In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."

"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

I think I shall have to spend some time rereading Huxley's Island next to balance things out. Written near the end of Huxley's life, Island is in many ways his alternative to Brave New World, his portrayal of a thoroughly sane society.

You've probably not heard of this book; its positive outlook on the use of psychedelics, and its positive portrayal of free sexuality, means that you're unlikely to see it added to any high school reading lists. The philosophy found on Pala is a blend of secular humanism and Mahayana Buddhism; its key text, quoted throughout the novel, is Notes on What's What, and What It Might be Reasonable to do about What's What.

Me as I think I am and me as I am in fact---sorrow, in other words, and the ending of sorrow. One third, more or less, of all the sorrow that the person I think I am must endure is unavoidable. it is the sorrow inherent in the human condition, the price we pay for being sentient and self-conscious organisms, aspirants to liberation, but subject to the laws of nature and under orders to keep on marching, through irreversible time, through a world entirely indifferent to our well-being, toward decrepitude and the certainty of death. The remaining two-thirds of sorrow is homemade and, so far as the universe is concerned, unnecessary.

...

Dualism. . . Without it there can hardly be good literature. With it, there most certainly can be no good life.

"I" affirms a separate and abiding me-substance; "am" denies the fact that all existence is relationship and change. "I am." Two tiny words, but what an enormity of untruth! The religiously-minded dualist calls homemade spirits from the vasty deep; the nondualist calls the vasty deep into his spirit or, to be more accurate, he finds that the vasty deep is already there.

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Mexico decriminalizes drug possession

I've seen surprisingly little discussion of this: as of Thursday, Mexico has eliminated criminal prosecution for possession of "personal use" amounts of illegal drugs. Those caught with drugs in amounts under the limit will be encouraged to seek "treatment". (Treatment is supposedly mandatory for a third offense, though there are no penalties specified penalties for noncompliance.)

Under previous law, possession of any amount of drugs was punishable by stiff jail sentences, but there was leeway for addicts caught with smaller amounts. In practice, nobody was prosecuted and sentenced to jail for small-time possession, said Bernardo Espino del Castillo, the coordinator of state offices for the attorney general's office.

"We couldn't charge somebody who was in possession of a dose of a drug, there was no way ... because the person would claim they were an addict," he added.

...

In the past, police sometimes hauled suspects to police stations and demanded bribes, threatening long jail sentences if people did not pay.

"This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty ... for a practice that was already in place," Espino del Castillo said.

...

The maximum amount of marijuana considered to be for "personal use" under the new law is 5 grams — the equivalent of about four joints. The limit is a half gram for cocaine, the equivalent of about 4 "lines." For other drugs, the limits are 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams for LSD.

...

Mexico has emphasized the need to differentiate drug addicts and casual users from the violent traffickers whose turf battles have contributed to the deaths of more than 11,000 people during Calderon's term. In the face of growing domestic drug use, Mexico has increased its focus on prevention and drug treatment.

Sen. Pablo Gomez of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party praised the legislation: "This law achieves the decriminalization of drugs, and in exchange offers government recovery treatment for addicts."

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two former Batlimore cops say: "It's Time to Legalize Drugs"

Peter Moskos and Neill Franklin both served as Baltimore City police officers; Franklin is the former commanding officer at the police academy, and Moskos is now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In the Washington Post, they write:

We all learned similar lessons. Police officers are taught about the evils of the drug trade and given the knowledge and tools to inflict as much damage as possible upon the people who constitute the drug community. Policymakers tell us to fight this unwinnable war.

Only after years of witnessing the ineffectiveness of drug policies -- and the disproportionate impact the drug war has on young black men -- have we and other police officers begun to question the system.

...

Legalization would not create a drug free-for-all. In fact, regulation reins in the mess we already have. If prohibition decreased drug use and drug arrests acted as a deterrent, America would not lead the world in illegal drug use and incarceration for drug crimes.

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