Here’s a great example of the stupidity of public officials in many countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands – when it comes to drugs, and more specifically, marijuana policy.
In the US, marijuana is “classified” as being as risky as heroin and meth for a person. So, the Congressman above keeps asking the top administrator of the Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) a simple question: are heroin and meth more dangerous and addictive than marijuana? Watch the reaction of the administrator as she keeps selling the “official” answer.
One wonders how long these fact-free policies can go on. In the Netherlands, kids are now on the streets selling marijuana, because of a government-enforced registration of marijuana smokers. We have, among others, the Christian Democrat party to thank for that. The smaller Christian Union is even proposing, out of pure religious zeal, to abolish the distinction between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drugs, which will result in the same idiotic charade as witnessed in the video above.
I keep coming back to the same question: what goes on in the brains of these people? If anybody has an answer, I’ll be glad to hear it.
Here’s a great-looking documentary about the legendary re-inventor of, among others, MDMA (xtc): the Berkeley resident Alexander Shulgin (1925). A psychiatrist, pharmacologist and chemist, Shulgin not only popularized MDMA by inventing a new synthesis method, thus jumpstarting the electronic music rave revolution, but an enormous host (about 230) of other psychoactive drugs. These include the 2C family, such as 2C-b and 2c-e. Together with his wife Ann Shulgin, he has collected and published his knowledge in the books PiHKALand TiHKAL.
Shulgin is, quite probably, one of the most influential chemists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. And responsible for countless enlightening and liberating experiences for millions of people. Thus, a true hero, out there in the ranks with Albert Hoffmann, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Aldous Huxley, Simon Vinkenoog and other great minds.
I haven’t yet seen the entire thing but the first minutes look promising. Interestingly (but perhaps not surprising), Shulgin and his wife Ann come across as very kind, patient people. Even though they’ve tested literally hundreds of drugs, they themselves are not really fond of the scene they’ve set off, but would rather try things out in the vicinity of their home.
- Edit: Also check out this last interview of Shulgin with VICE Magazine (he has been in retreat since then).
Rightwing political activist, televangelist and former presidential candidate Pat Robertson (81) – a guy who is more conservative than the Dutch political parties of VVD, CDA, PVV and SGP combined times two, squared – has yesterday spoken out in favor of marihuana legalization.
That makes mr. Robertson – a Southern Baptist founder of, among others, the Christian Coalition and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and 1988 Republican Party candidate – more progressive than the current cabinet in the Netherlands and the parties supporting them.
Well, join the club, Pat. You’re in good company, as former liberal conservative statesman Frits Bolkestein (VVD), is also an ardent support of marihuana legalization.
His argument is as clear as it is simple: treat marihuana the way we treat alcohol. Since marihuana is less harmful than alcohol, it couldn’t be more straightforward than that, could it?
Of the many roles Pat Robertson has assumed over his five-decade-long career as an evangelical leader — including presidential candidate and provocative voice of the right wing — his newest guise may perhaps surprise his followers the most: marijuana legalization advocate.
“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”
Mr. Robertson’s remarks echoed statements he made last week on “The 700 Club,” the signature program of his Christian Broadcasting Network, and other comments he made in 2010. While those earlier remarks were largely dismissed by his followers, Mr. Robertson has now apparently fully embraced the idea of legalizing marijuana, arguing that it is a way to bring down soaring rates of incarceration and reduce the social and financial costs.
“I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up,” he said.
For his part, Mr. Robertson said he was “not encouraging people to use narcotics in any way, shape or form.” But he said he saw little difference between smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, a longstanding argument from far more liberal — and libertarian-minded — leaders.
“If people can go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of alcohol and drink it at home legally, then why do we say that the use of this other substance is somehow criminal?” he said.
Mr. Franklin, who is a Christian, said Mr. Robertson’s position was actually in line with the Gospel. “If you follow the teaching of Christ, you know that Christ is a compassionate man,” he said. “And he would not condone the imprisoning of people for nonviolent offenses.”
Redelijke mensen, vreest met grote vreze: het lang aangekondigde drugsdebat in de Tweede Kamer is aan de gang. Hét moment waarop alle leugenachtige rechtse politici hun op angst en onwaarheden gestoelde praatjes kunnen debiteren in hun queeste Nederland tot een land te maken waar één drug getolereerd is (de meest schadelijke van alle): alcohol, en de rest vanuit een vaag, ongemotiveerd en subjectief gevoel van burgermansonveiligheid VERBOTEN wordt.
Er is geen enkel ander beleidsterrein waarop conservatieve politiek zó door de mand valt als het drugsbeleid. Rechtse Kamerleden en hun aanhangers verliezen het vermogen na te denken – hun hersens te gebruiken – als het over dit onderwerp gaat. Hun meest recente wapenfeit, het paddoverbod van 2008, was een ongekend staaltje populistische emotiepolitiek waar geen empirisch feit aan te pas kwam. Hoewel het simpelwegniet waarwas dat de incidenten van destijds aan paddo’s te wijten waren – GGD en rechters hebben dit ontkracht – werden deze aangegrepen om tegen adviesorganen in tot een totaalverbod van een schadeloze en in de natuur voorkomende schimmel te komen. Had dat intelligenter gekund? Ja, natuurlijk, maar daar doen VVD en CDA het niet voor.
Hetzelfde patroon is nu te ontwaren rondom hasj, en uiteindelijk rondom alle “drugs” (behalve alcohol uiteraard): VVD en CDA zijn op weg naar een totaalverbod. Prohibition, drooglegging. Dit tegen alle globale trends in, in de wereld, in Europa en in de Verenigde Staten. Ze doen dit geleidelijk, maar met een duidelijk zichtbaar pad. Begonnen met het paddoverbod, met vervolgens de volstrekt idiote regel dat coffeeshops niet een paar honderd meter bij scholen vandaan mogen staan (leidend tot sluiting van de meerderheid van coffeeshops in Nederland), tot het verbod op zwaardere marihuana, het quatverbod, tot nu het hasjverbod. En tot, uiteindelijk, het is erop wachten: de afkondiging in Nederland door de rechtse partijen van een Totaalverbod op Alle Drugs, behalve die met koolzuur en waar “Heineken” op staat. Ik gok 2013 of 2014.
De feiten: er is inmiddels stapels wetenschappelijk onderzoek waaruit blijkt dat middelen als marihuana, hasj, xtc en paddo’s veel minder schadelijk zijn voor het individu en de maatschappij dan alcohol. In de V.S. is medicinale marihuana wijd en zijd verkrijgbaar. Aan topuniversiteiten over de hele wereld wordt onderzoek verricht naar de positieve en therapeutische effecten van middelen als lsd, xtc en paddo’s, met positieve resultaten. In Groot-Brittannië roepen voormalige hoofden van MI5, het Openbaar Ministerie, Hogerhuisleden, zorgorganisaties en wetenschappers op tot matiging van het repressiebeleid. Idem dito op wereldschaal, waar mensen als Javier Solana, Kofi Annan, George Schultz, Paul Volcker zich verenigd hebben in hun oproep aan Westerse politici hun antidrugsbeleid te herzien. In Portugal en Tsjechië is drugsbezit al meer dan tien jaar gedecriminaliseerd, met zeer positieve resultaten zowel in termen van dalend drugsgebruik als in aanpak van criminaliteit. De globale War on Drugs, daarentegen, waar VVD en CDA Nederland bij aan willen doen sluiten, kost miljarden, verwoest honderdduizenden mensenlevens, en is contra-effectief.
Dit zijn de FEITEN. Maar rechtse politici, en hun aanhangers, geven niet om feiten. Waar ze om geven is gehoor geven aan de veronderstelde wens van de angstige burger – die wel bier zuipt, de openbare ruimte vernielt en z’n vrouw slaat – tot een “cleane”, naar zijn subjectieve normen conformerende maatschappij. Daarbij schrikken ze er niet voor terug om leugens te gebruiken. Lees bijvoorbeeld dit stuk in De Groene, waaruit blijkt dat Opsteltens elitecorps de Taskforce Georganiseerde Hennepteelt cijfers over de export van cannabis naar het buitenland uit haar duim zuigt om de beeldvorming te manipuleren. Dit volgens het Trimbos Instituut, dat net als het ministerie van Volksgezondheid langzaam haar greep op het drugsbeleid aan het verliezen is. Een zelfde gemankeerde argumentatie vinden we rondom hasj, waarvan beweerd wordt dat criminele organisaties in Afghanistan en Marokko (hoe! eng!) ervan profiteren. Tell you what: in Marokko en Afghanistan rookt iederéén hasj! Dat is daar al eeuwenlang normaler dan alcohol. En dan nog: waar zijn de cijfers? En kan het wel als we het in Nederland telen?
Nederland heeft al veertig jaar een succesvol en pragmatisch drugsbeleid. De Nederlandse cijfers qua drugsgebruik liggen nu nog lager dan in andere landen (wat betreft alcohol liggen die overigens veel hoger!). Waar er een miljoen alcoholisten zijn, gaat de Nederlandse drugsgebruiker over het algemeen verstandig om met zijn middelen, die hij of zij met matiging en na testen gebruikt. Waar een groep over de schreef gaat, wordt ingegrepen met behulp van preventie en voorlichting, in de sfeer van volksgezondheid. Dát is rationeel beleid, en het wordt nu over de hele wereld gekopieerd. Met een thuisteler, en met een kleine coffeeshop, waar een volwassen persoon naar believen een middel van zijn keuze kan genieten (dat minder destructief is dan het overal gepromootte alcohol), is niets mis. Natuurlijk, echte criminaliteit moet worden aangepakt, maar dat doe je door juist de achterdeur te reguleren, en niet door een onhandhaafbaar, peperduur, hypocriet en immoreel totaalverbod. Dat bovendien nooit zal werken, omdat ongecontroleerde, ongereguleerde middelen de markt zullen overspoelen. Desalniettemin is dat waar rechts naartoe gaat. En waarom? God knows. Ik begrijp die mensen niet.
‘The freedom to explore your own consciousness’, dat is waar het om draait. Dit is tegengesteld aan mensen willen vormen en modelleren in een op particularistische, subjectieve normen gebaseerde mal, waar het in ieder geval de religieus-conservatieven van het CDA uiteindelijk om te doen is. Die vrijheid is een recht dat op een ongevaarlijke, onbedreigende manier uitgeoefend kan worden, met verantwoordelijkheid over eigen lichaam, met zorg en informatie, zonder dat daar groteske leugens of ideologisch gekleurd beleid op hoeven te worden losgelaten. Of zonder dat je productie en distributie in handen geeft van de criminaliteit. Het zou voor dit land een zegen zijn als dit kabinet, dat op allerlei terreinen maar vooral op deze, regressieve ideologie laat prevaleren boven op feiten en rede gebaseerde politiek, voortijdig ten val zou komen. Laten we behouden en uitbouwen wat we hebben, in plaats van het voor niets om zeep te helpen.
- Edit: Hier een mooi stuk op DeJaap over het hasjverbod.
- Edit 2: Boris van der Ham (D66) over het drugsbeleid: “Wij waarschuwen voor deze blinde ideologische benadering van drugs, die praktische oplossingen in de weg staat.”
It’s not the first time: sanity from Great Britain in the drugs debate. The Liberal Democrat party – currently in government – is expected to pass a motion calling for an independent inquiry into the decriminalization of drug possession at its fall conference. This is supported by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
The motion is based on Portuguese drug reforms (blogged about those here and here) enacted a decade ago, which through decriminalization have succesfully pushed back problematic drug use, whilst leaving alone unproblematic users. Drugs are considered a health issue instead of a criminal one, except in the case of big-time dealers.
That is not to mention the Global Commission on Drug Policy, consisting of the former presidents of Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, former UN Secretary Kofi Annan, former EU High Representative Javier Solana, former US Secretary of State George Shultz, Richard Branson and former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, among others. It’s noteworthy that a lot of politicians come out in favor of drug decriminalization after their tenure.
Drug reform advocates could be about to secure a significant victory in their campaign to liberalise the law after a Liberal Democrat motion for full decriminalisation was submitted.
The party is likely to overwhelmingly back the motion to establish a panel to urgently consider the decriminalisation of personal drug use at its conference this autumn.
The move would likely prompt friction with the Lib Dems’ Conservative coalition partners, whose rank-and-file membership are strongly opposed to any change to drug laws. The party would need Conservative support before the panel could be established.
David Cameron’s record as a backbencher was distinctly liberal when it came to drug reform. He called for heroin ‘shooting rooms’ and a public health approach to drug use before taking the leadership.
Drug liberalisation views are surprisingly popular in Westminster circles, but it has been considered politically impossible for several years, mostly due to fear of the tabloid reaction and the views of ‘middle-England’ voters.
Former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth quickly came out against the “disaster” of drug regulation after leaving his front bench position.
Nick Clegg is understood to be distinctly relaxed about the motion, however, suggesting the Lib Dem leadership will not back down in the event of a yes vote.
There is “increasing evidence that the UK’s drugs policy is not only ineffective and not cost-effective but actually harmful, impacting particularly severely on the poor and marginalised”, the motion reads.
“Individuals, especially young people, can be damaged both by the imposition of criminal records and by a drug habit, and… the priority for those addicted to all substances must be healthcare, education and rehabilitation, not punishment.
“One of the key barriers to developing better drugs policy has been the previous Labour government’s persistent refusal to take on board scientific advice, and the absence of an overall evaluative framework of the UK’s drugs strategy.”
The demand comes amid unparalleled change internationally on drug laws, with several highly-respected figures and institutions calling for a more liberal policy on narcotics.
The Global Commission on Drugs Policy, headed by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan recently called for world governments to consider regulating the drug trade.
Under decriminalisation, people caught with drugs would no longer be given fines or jail sentences but rather treatment and counselling. Dealers would still face the current legal penalties, however.
A similar policy was recently adopted in Portugal, and led to surprising results, with some sources suggesting cannabis use has decreased by 50%.
The Lib Dems have a long track record of an evidence-based policy on drugs and called for the legalisation of cannabis in 2002. But with the party now in power, their vote is likely to play a much more significant role in the public debate.
The motion will be put forward by Ewan Hoyle, founder of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform, and backed by Lib Dem MEP Sir Graham Watson
Really looks more like a candy box than anything else…
The Dangerous Drugs—Identification Kit contains harmless facsimiles of the more commonly abused dangerous drugs. The Kit was designed to be used primarily as an instructional aid in educational and training programs directed toward combating the existing narcotics and dangerous drugs problem. It consists of a plastic container which is transparent and durable. Plainly visible within the container are facsimiles of amphetamines and barbituates, reproduced with exacting fidelity in terms of color, size, shape, and other distinguising characteristics.
Na de hele mediabombarie rondom het verscheiden van Herman Brood, vandaag tien jaar geleden, valt er eigenlijk nog maar weinig toe te voegen. Brood, een van de weinige écht non-conformistische, vrije geesten die bekend zijn geraakt in dit land. Het laatste decennium is Nederland opvallend veel van dat soort helden kwijtgeraakt… Simon Vinkenoog, Gerard Reve, Jan Wolkers, Ramses Shaffy, Sugar Lee Hooper, Brood, ja zelfs André Hazes. Iconen die, als je het maatschappelijk klimaat in dit land nu bekijkt, uit een hele andere tijd lijken te stammen. Een tijd dat Nederland nog wel vrij, origineel en individualistisch was. Het lijkt decennia geleden.
It’s official now: the global War on Drugs has failed. So says the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a transnational body consisting of the former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, former UN Secretary Kofi Annan, former US Secretary of State George Shultz, Richard Branson and former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, among others.
Their report states that “the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”
The report also calls for an end to the “criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others,” and for governments to experiment with ways to regulate drugs so as to undercut organized crime and improve public health.
But tell all this to the tenaciously stupid governing parties in the Netherlands today (Christian Democrats and conservative liberals, of course), who are taking a country that for forty years has been on the vanguard of a sane, rational drugs policy now back into retrograd repression.
While in the rest of the world, increasingly voices are heard calling for an end to a hyper-costly, completely failing War on Drugs; while in more and more countries in Europe, with proven success possession and use of small amounts of drugs is decriminalized, and public policy starts to revolve around health issues; in the Netherlands, the government is closing down coffee shops and implementing a nationwide system for the registration of drug users. It’s not hard to see what the next step will be.
And of all of this out of a mistaken sense of ideology. Because they don’t like you to take drugs. It would be saddening if it wasn’t so maddening – and maddeningly irrational.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes several former heads of state and UN officials, has released a report calling the global war on drugs a failure.
“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” the report reads. “Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”
Among the members of the commission are former presidents of Columbia, Mexico and Brazil, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, among others.
The report calls for an end to the “criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others,” and for governments to experiment with ways to regulate drugs so as to undercut organized crime and improve public health.
“Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime,” the report says. “Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights - and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation.”
In a comment to The Guardian, a spokesman for White House drug tsar Gil Kerlikowske disagreed with the report’s conclusions.
“Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Making drugs more available – as this report suggests – will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe,” the spokesman said.
The Awl has a very cool and interesting interview with Eddie Einbinder, author of the book How to Have Fun and Not Die, about responsible drug use, which won the New York Book Festival’s grand prize in 2008. At the release of the second edition in May, Einbinder will also debut a related documentary.
For his book, Einbinder travelled across the US exploring various party scenes. He’s an advocate of drug use, but in an adult and responsible way: that is, measured, and one at a time (that is, never in combinations). How to Have Fun and Not Die is therefore full of tips and tricks for the ‘safe’ use (between brackets because to some extent it’s never safe) of several drugs, including the most tricky ones.
Einbinder does this proceeding from a public health perspective – you can’t prevent drug use, so you better make it safe (while of course not encouraging the use of the really dangerous stuff). For similar, older endeavours in Dutch, by the way, check out veteran psychonauts Gerben Hellinga’s and Hans Plomp’s voluminous website Uitjebol.net; and of course there are test centers in the Netherlands, which are lacking in the US, hence the need for such a book.
The interview with Einbinder is pretty entertaining, so here it is:
Tell me about this trip you just got back from.
I was in upstate New Hampshire, somewhere really rural, for six days at a gathering for people to just, well, do drugs in peace. There was a lot of DMT, MDA, acid, mescaline…
What are DMT and MDA?
DMT is as serious a hallucinogen as acid, but it only lasts ten to 15 minutes. MDA—also known as “sass rocks”—is like MDMA, but less emotional and more hallucinogenic and stimulating.
It’s hard to draw the line sometimes, you know, between work and play for me.
I can imagine. So did you do a little bit of everything while you were there?
No, no, no. I was watching a lot of people doing things. I did try Ether for the first time. Ether gives you a horrible headache. It’s useless. Don’t do it. Oh, and I numbed my gums with some sass rocks. Other than that, I was just drinking, getting high on hash, and playing dominoes a lot.
How old were you when you had your first drug experience?
That’s oddly not a common question. I tried cigarettes the summer I was 11. That was probably one of the more emotional drug experiences I’ve had. My 12-year-old girlfriend introduced them to me. That year I also started dipping. I was in that palace in the woods kids make for themselves as a retreat to hook up, do drugs, and eat deli sandwiches, when I packed a lip for the first time. I probably weighed 90 pounds and I was given no guidance, so I kept it in way too long—30 minutes maybe—and I passed out. I was totally unconscious. I woke up and thought, I’m definitely never dipping again.
Did you ever dip again?
Yeah. In the summer of 2003. There were 80 of us living in the woods in conjunction with a minor in Environmental Studies in the Northwest.
How’d take two go?
I remembered why I don’t like dipping much.
What other memorable drug initiation experiences come to mind?
Trying acid for the first time at 19 was a big deal. I tried coke at 20 in college at Lehigh. I have a pretty mindful approach to trying things. I believe in moderation, and knowing your limits. And doing something with a purpose rather than out of habit, or to get a fix.
Can pleasure be a purpose?
Sure. It’s about having good relationships with drugs.
So what inspired you to pursue your special brand of drug education?
It was on that trip to the woods in 2003 I mentioned that I realized that my friends and I were not putting the necessary amount of thought into our drug use. I thought to myself, why haven’t I Googled “most common ways kids are going to die today,” and put it up on my fridge? I was right that there are some blanket rules that can seriously up your odds of surviving. If you can take one sentence from the lecture I give, it should be that the vast majority of overdoses result from two or more substances at once in your body. That right there, on top of keeping in mind that what’s billed as either heroin or coke or ecstasy includes multiple substances—whatever they’re cut with for profit—is key. When people do a drug respectfully, in the way it’s meant to be done, they rarely die.
What have been the best resources for researching the new book and making the movie?
ER doctors are great. I realized that in 2006 when a girl I dated ended up hospitalized. She’d been doing a lot of coke that summer, as well as Ambien, and Valium. And drinking. I’ve since developed several relationships with ER doctors who keep me informed about what kids are overdosing on. Watching drug use firsthand is important, too. Oh, and dentists. You should talk to your dentist about meth mouth. They have the most horrible stories.
Are you ever treated like an outsider by the kids you observe?
Nope. I only ever get to observe because I’m welcomed in the first place. The participants are people who understand that my message is to educate.
And these people want to be on camera taking drugs?
They sign contracts six weeks prior to filming, when sober. This is not Girls Gone Wild. No one’s face will be fuzzy.
Are you ever an active participant during filming?
No, not while filming. Things would veer off track. It’s a more structured setting.
What do your parents think about what you do?
As long as I’m working hard, they’re fans. They realize—like most rational teachers and doctors and people I speak to—that this is absolutely necessary. I’m trying to promote honest, open health education. They understand that.
What are your thoughts on addiction?
I feel lucky I’ve never been addicted to anything. I think it’s probably genetic. Only 1.3% of Americans are addicted, though. It’s the minority. Most people are just casual drug users who might accidentally overdose, which is what we’re trying to prevent.
Do you get any backlash? If so, where from?
Institutions. It’s one of the most upsetting issues to me. Colleges are running businesses. They’re trying to ensure the safety of the school’s reputation more than the welfare of their student body by refusing to acknowledge that drugs are being done and refusing to educate kids on the safest ways to handle drugs.
Do you think people are naive to the differences between black market and prescription drugs?
People think prescription drugs are much safer. Though the misuse of prescription drugs is black market. There’s a dealer at most high schools nowadays. And kids steal them from their parents. Prescription pills have replaced weed in a lot of areas because they’re so accessible and there’s nothing easier than swallowing a pill. It’s like vitamins! It’s everywhere, and it’s causing a lot of problems. I talk a lot about how marijuana is not at all a transitional drug. People like to label weed as “the gateway” drug, but that’s a farce. I think it’s actually prescription pills that make for a smooth transition to other drugs. Adderall to coke. Oxycontin to heroin.
If you were charged with designing an effective drug awareness campaign, what would it look like?
It certainly wouldn’t have an awful, misleading slogan like “Hugs not drugs” or “Drugs are bad.” Those messages don’t work for the same reason abstinence sex-ed is ineffective. You have to be open and honest. Educate. I’d create a mandatory year-long course based on the lecture I give with a textbook version of my book. And I’d show my film, which depicts real situations supplemented with dialogue about safety measures. It also incorporates commentary from lawyers and doctors about legal and medical ramifications. We’re looking to get some interviews with people in positions of extreme opposition, too.
Like the dude who prosecuted Paris Hilton for cocaine possession and was then caught purchasing crack?
At what age would you educate your own kids about drugs?
Most professionals say by middle school it’s advisable, so at least by then. I don’t think I can say without knowing my child. It will have more to do with his or her behavior and level of curiosity.
What’s your favorite drug?
Alcohol’s the easiest thing to continuously have fun on and not get too crazy.
How about other than alcohol? Weed?
No. I’m useless on weed. Hash is a favorite. It’s an incredibly chill high and I’m still able to have a good time and be social. On the other extreme of alcohol, I think LSD can be one of the more rewarding experiences one can have.
How about uppers?
I’ve been into them before.
Is there a drug you haven’t tried?
Me neither! Want to do it together when we’re 75?
Maybe 90. After nicotine, heroin is the drug with the most potential to become addictive. And who wants to trust themselves injecting something?
So when’s the last time you purchased a drug?
Truthfully, since I’ve gotten into this work more formally, I haven’t purchased a drug.
Are they given to you?
If I am doing something, it’s because I’m going with the flow. So yeah, it’s usually given to me.
So you’re not a frequent drug user?
If you leave me alone to write for a week, the only thing I’d do is tea. I’m really into tea these days.
[Laughs] You’re mocking, but tea is a drug. And it’s a good one.
What do you think compels a person to try a drug?
Boredom, and because it’s the cool thing to do.
What’s the coolest drug to do right now? What’s trending on college campuses?
Alcohol will probably always be the biggest problem on college campuses because of its social acceptance. As I was traveling west in 2009, I heard more and more about Salvia and DMT. But your traditional popular drugs are still prevalent, like cocaine, mushrooms, and acid. And weed is absolutely everywhere.
One of the strategies you suggest to marketing representatives hired to sell your book at schools is to throw a Celebrity Overdose party where people dress up as dead celebrities. Who would you dress up as at such an event?
I’m pretty sure it’s never happened. But I think John Belushi would be the most fun to portray.
Cause he was a party animal. I’m just picturing Animal House.
Do you think you’ll encounter a problem continuing this work as you age?
I’m able to do whatever the fuck I want right now, which works well. But I’m well aware that as I get older, I might not be able to blend into the college crowds as much. I’ll figure it out. There’s a lot to be done.
Who funds your work?
The work funds the work. Speaking fees. The book. There are some private investors in the film.
Any parting words?
Yeah. I think cocaine’s a bigger issue for 20-somethings in finance than it is on college campuses. The social scene surrounding finance in general lends itself to those drugs more than any other environment I’ve witnessed. Like certain religions use psychedelics. Oh, and the people trying to pass legislature for random drug testing on campuses in New York state are moronic.
So say a group of prominent British public figures, including former heads of MI5, the Crown Prosecution Service, the BBC, the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council. The group also includes Members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords, including Conservatives. Together they have formed an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, which calls for new drug policies in the United Kingdom based on scientific evidence.
Since Britain’s prisons, like those in the United States, are overcrowded and full of people convicted on (small) drug charges, it’s possible that the parliamentary group’s calls will receive a ‘sympathetic audience’ in Whitehall, where the government is trying to cut the numbers and costs of the prison population.
In that respect, they can look to Portugal, where a rather succesful experiment with decriminalization of drug possession has reached its tenth year. Here, there has been a 63 percent increase in drug users getting treatment, and a 499 percent increase in amount of drugs seized (by focusing on the big fish).
Either way, present UK (and US) policy – the full criminalization of drug possession and use – is a very costly disaster. A big societal issue that some people should finally start to think rationally, rather than ideologically about.
Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become more accessible.
Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country.
The increasing use of the most harmful drugs such as heroin has also led to “enormous health problems”, according to the group.
The MPs and members of the House of Lords, who have formed a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, are calling for new policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence.
It could lead to calls for the British government to decriminalise drugs, or at least for the police and Crown Prosecution Service not to jail people for possession of small amounts of banned substances.
Their intervention could receive a sympathetic audience in Whitehall, where ministers and civil servants are trying to cut the numbers and cost of the prison population. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, has already announced plans to help offenders kick drug habits rather than keeping them behind bars.
The former Labour government changed its mind repeatedly on the risks posed by cannabis use and was criticised for sacking its chief drug adviser, Prof David Nutt, when he claimed that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol.
The chairman of the new group, Baroness Meacher – who is also chairman of an NHS trust – told The Daily Telegraph: “Criminalising drug users has been an expensive catastrophe for individuals and communities.
“In the UK the time has come for a review of our 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. I call on our Government to heed the advice of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that drug addiction should be recognised as a health problem and not punished.
“We have the example of other countries to follow. The best is Portugal which has decriminalised drug use for 10 years. Portugal still has one of the lowest drug addiction rates in Europe, the trend of Young people’s drug addiction is falling in Portugal against an upward trend in the surrounding countries, and the Portuguese prison population has fallen over time.”
Lord Lawson, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1983 and 1989, said: “I have no doubt that the present policy is a disaster.
“This is an important issue, which I have thought about for many years. But I still don’t know what the right answer is – I have joined the APPG in the hope that it may help us to find the right answer.”
Other high-profile figures in the group include Baroness Manningham-Buller, who served as Director General of MI5, the security service, between 2002 and 2007; Lord Birt, the former Director-General of the BBC who went on to become a “blue-sky thinker” for Tony Blair; Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, until recently the Director of Public Prosecutions; and Lord Walton of Detchant, a former president of the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council.
Current MPs on the group include Peter Bottomley, who served as a junior minister under Margaret Thatcher; Mike Weatherley, the newly elected Tory MP for Hove and Portslade; and Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.
The peers and MPs say that despite governments “pouring vast resources” into the attempt to control drug markets, availability and use has increased, with up to 250 million people worldwide using narcotics such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin in 2008.
They believe the trade in illegal drugs makes more than £200 billion a year for criminals and terrorists, as well as destabilising entire nations such as Afghanistan and Mexico.
As a result, the all-party group is working with the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust, to review current policies and scientific evidence in order to draw up proposed new ways to deal with the problem.
Despite Gaddafi’s rants on hallucinogenic pills poured by Bin Laden into coffee like Nescafe being the cause of the Libyan unrest, the dictator looks pretty drugged himself all the time. Seriously: if you watch his face and expression in the recentvideos, this guy’s got his brains fried.
In that context, David Ignatius of the Washington Post recalls a story when he met Gaddafi in the early 1980s for an interview. Their encounter calls into mind the treatment you can get from the Tursteher of Berlin’s famous Berghain club…
In the early 1980s, I traveled to Tripoli with several other journalists hoping to interview Gaddafi. When the appointed date arrived, we were taken to a large hall, frisked several times and then made to wait for the “mercurial” leader, the euphemism reporters used in those days to describe the Libyan strongman.
First, Gaddafi’s bodyguard blew into the room brandishing his automatic weapon. He was barefoot and had wild, unkempt hair and was genuinely scary-looking, even by Middle East-bodyguard standards.
Then came Gaddafi.
He marched straight toward me (was it the fact that I worked in those days for the Wall Street Journal?), stopped about a foot from my face and stared at me with bulging, bloodshot eyes. Then he shouted something in Arabic to his aides and bolted from the room, never to return. Sorry, no interview, his terrified aides told us.
It was one of the oddest encounters I’ve had as a journalist. Honestly, I thought at the time that Gaddafi was high on drugs. Those eyes were popping with unnatural intensity. And he had a self-dramatizing manner that was unusual, even for a Third World dictator.
David Nutt, one of Britain’s top experts on drugs and sacked last year because he advocated a rehaul of the British drug classification system to upgrade marihuana and alcohol and downgrade ecstasy, has published an update of his study in The Lancettoday.
Nutt’s group’s methodology consists of ranking the dangerousness of drugs along three categories, these being personal harm, addictiveness, and societal harm. If you review all available drugs (including alcohol, the most commonly used drug) along these lines, a whole other picture of the harm of certain drugs emerges than the media want you to believe.
In this new study, alcohol even turns out to be the most harmful drug today. Not a surprising find, if you take into account the millions and millions of alcohol addicts, the situation in inner cities in the weekends, the aggression and damage it causes. Now compare that to certain other drugs, although badly depicted in many media, that merely elicit empathy and goodwill in users while being hardly addictive nor physically harmful. According to the Nutt research group’s guidelines, in fact, even heroin is less dangerous and harmful than alcohol.
Now of course I’m not advocating heroin use. But research like this is something to think about when you have your innocent little beer… the one legalized and accepted drug.
Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the UK by a considerable margin, beating heroin and crack cocaine into second and third place, according to an authoritative study published today which will reopen calls for the drugs classification system to be scrapped and a concerted campaign launched against drink.
Led by the sacked government drugs adviser David Nutt with colleagues from the breakaway Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, the study says that if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.
Today’s paper, published by the respected Lancet medical journal, will be seen as a challenge to the government to take on the fraught issue of the relative harms of legal and illegal drugs, which proved politically damaging to Labour.
The new paper updates a study carried out by Nutt and others in 2007, which was also published by the Lancet and triggered debate for suggesting that legally available alcohol and tobacco were more dangerous than cannabis and LSD.
Alcohol, in that paper, ranked fifth most dangerous overall. The 2007 paper also called for an overhaul of the drug classification system, but critics disputed the criteria used to rank the drugs and the absence of differential weighting.
Today’s study offers a more complex analysis that seeks to address the 2007 criticisms. It examines nine categories of harm that drugs can do to the individual “from death to damage to mental functioning and loss of relationships” and seven types of harm to others. The maximum possible harm score was 100 and the minimum zero.
Overall, alcohol scored 72 – against 55 for heroin and 54 for crack. The most dangerous drugs to their individual users were ranked as heroin, crack and then crystal meth. The most harmful to others were alcohol, heroin and crack in that order.
Nutt told the Guardian the drug classification system needed radical change. “The Misuse of Drugs Act is past its sell-by date and needs to be redone,” he said. “We need to rethink how we deal with drugs in the light of these new findings.”
For overall harm, the other drugs examined ranked as follows: crystal meth (33), cocaine (27), tobacco (26), amphetamine/speed (23), cannabis (20), GHB (18), benzodiazepines (15), ketamine (15), methadone (13), butane (10), qat (9), ecstasy (9), anabolic steroids (9), LSD (7), buprenorphine (6) and magic mushrooms (5).
If you ever only see one documentary about drugs, let it be this one. The acclaimed BBC series Horizon episode “Is alcohol worse than ecstasy?” examines the dangers of the 20 drugs most commonly used in the United Kingdom.
It does this based upon a qualification by a group of scientists, composed of Britain’s leading drug experts and members of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). This group in 2007 published an article in The Lancet (to be found here), in which a rational scale for assessing the danger of drugs was developed. This scale took the form of a list, in which the 20 drugs were ranked according to potential harm.
In Great Britain, regulatory policy regarding drugs consists of a classification along three categories: Class A (most dangerous), Class B and Class C (least dangerous). Alcohol and tobacco are not included in the categorization. This approach, on the face of it, seems better than the Dutch system of ranking substances either as “hard drugs” or as “soft drugs”, as it allows for more nuance. There are, however, a number of problems with the British system. The system was invented in 1971, whereas a substance like ecstasy was added to it in 1977 – way before it was used the way it is today. This leads to a rather weird categorization: while lsd, mushrooms and ecstasy are ranked alongside heroin and crack in Class A, dangerous stuff like ketamin is ranked alongside sleeping pills in Class C.
The research group therefore wanted to develop a new method for assessing the danger of drugs. They did this by employing three criteria. The first of these is personal harm; what a drug does to you if you take it in. The second one is addictiveness; how fast you get hooked to it. The third one is societal harm; how much damage it can do to those around you and society at large.
Based on these criteria, and after consultation with other experts, the researchers assembled their list of twenty drugs, in order of harmfulness. And the results are remarkable. While, unsurprisingly, heroin and cocaine top the list as the most dangerous drugs, other results are counterintuitive (that is, if you base everything you know on media reports): alcohol and tobacco, for instance, turn out to be far more harmful than lsd and ecstasy, while marihuana is not the innocent drug it is often proclaimed to be.
Here’s the list (with some interesting graphs alongside it, click to enlarge):
4. Street methadone
16. Anabolic steroids
19. Alkyl nitrates
So the place of ecstasy on this list, as the documentary has it, “massively conflicts with its reputation”.
Another report, this time by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs itself (from 2009, to be found here), based on a 12-month study of 4,000 research articles, addressed this particular issue. Ecstasy is a substance that has been the victim of a relentless media campaign. The report even addresses this: during the 1990s in Scotland, for example, every instance of a fatality involving ecstasy was widely reported on, while only a fraction of (far more frequent) fatalities with other drugs were reported on. Similar observations regarding media publicity can be made regarding Australia (see this report) and the Netherlands (see this report by the political party D66).
According to the researchers, however, ecstasy’s bad reputation is unwarranted. First of all, ecstasy is not physically addictive (it can, of course, like any drug, be psychologically addictive). Second, ecstasy is not harmful to society (ecstasy turns users into empathic softies, whereas alcohol and cocaine can make users prone to violence; the number of hospitalizations of ecstasy users is negligible, and nearly always due to combining it with other drugs; and just compare it to the million-wide addiction to alcohol and tobacco). The true danger is personal harm. Metastudies (pdf) reveal, however, that personal dangers predominantly arise in cases of chronic and excessive use.
All researchers in the BBC documentary make clear that media reporting about ecstasy has been biased and overblown. Quote:
It’s not a drug that’s hazard free, by any means. But having said that, many thousands of people in the UK have tried it, and a good proportion of those people derived pleasure and a good experience from it. So I’m not going to sit here and say that it’s a very dangerous drug.
The position of ecstasy near the bottom of the list was defended by Prof Nutt, who said that apart from some tragic isolated cases ecstasy is relatively safe. Despite about a third of young people having tried the drug and around half a million users every weekend, it causes fewer than 10 deaths a year. One person a day is killed by acute alcohol poisoning and thousands more from chronic use.
Thus, the researchers and experts of the ACMD in their 2009 report made the policy recommendation to the British government that the ABC-classification scheme needed revision: ecstasy needed to be downgraded to Class C, while alcohol, tobacco and marihuana needed to be included and upgraded to Class B and A. In addition, Prof. David Nutt, chair of the ACMD, wrote a paper for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies of King’s College, London (to be found here), arguing along the same lines.
The researchers’ conclusions, however, did not match the political considerations of their employers. Hours before publication of the ACMD report, the Home Office sent a letter rejecting beforehand two of three policy recommendations. When David Nutt published his paper, moreover, he was immediately sacked by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary.
This, however, led to a great deal of protest, as the ACMD in response threatened with mass resignation. The Guardian(here’s more):
The government was at the centre of a furious backlash from leading scientists last night following its sacking of Britain’s top drugs adviser.
The decision by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, to call on Professor David Nutt to resign as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has thrown the future of the respected independent body into severe doubt. There were claims last night that many of those who sit on the 31-strong council – which advises ministers on what evidence there is of harm caused by drugs – may resign en masse, raising serious doubts about how ministers will justify policy decisions.
Several were this weekend seeking urgent reassurances from the government that it will not try to control their agenda and will allow them to speak out before they decide whether to quit. One is said to have already resigned.
That’s a lot of intro, but here’s the BBC documentary. While informative in its entirety, the remarkable conclusions are, of course, that ecstasy is not nearly the dangerous drug it is portrayed to be; and that alcohol, were it invented today, would immediately be listed a Class A drug. I think that’s something to think about.
In honor of his 116th birthday were he still alive, Dangerous Minds posts a television interview with one of my all-time heroes: writer, essayist, humanist, pacifist, intellectual, spiritual seeker and psychedelic Aldous Huxley (1894-1963).
Huxley is the arch-open minded figure: a hugely talented person, author of Brave New World (1948), who later in life rejected the mores of the establishment to which he belonged, and began a sort of spiritual quest. And of course, Huxley openly took and advocated psychedelic drugs, such as lsd and mescaline (of which he wrote in The Doors of Perception (1954), which everybody should read), and as such stands at the basis of the countercultural revolution of the 1960s. He did this not as a thrill-seeker, but as someone genuinely interested in the worthwhile possibilities of consciousness-altering substances for the human experience. This is a welcome counterexample to the present-day rigidity and bourgeois aversion to psychedelic substances.
In this interview, conducted by the famous news anchor Mike Wallace on The Mike Wallace Interview in 1958, Huxley speaks about:
[How] overpopulation relates to freedom; technological development in proportion to authoritarianism; future dictatorships; Brave New World in America; the power of advertising in politics; subliminals and brainwashing; education and group morality; societal decentralization; how productivity necessitates freedom; and of course drugs.
This is part 1. Find part 2 and part 3 here and here.