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.”
In the past 48 hours we have learned about everything there is to know about the life of Steve Jobs from the countless obituaries. Most attention has obviously gone to his role in the evolution of Apple Computer. Other popular topics were his business and marketing genius, his difficult personality and even his love life. Some articles also briefly mentioned his conversion to Zen Buddhism and his experimentation with LSD in the 1970′s. This piece by Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan focuses on that topic. It highlights the impact that Buddhism and experimentation with mind-altering drugs have had on his creativity and how Steve Jobs can be seen as an example of the other America, the America that lies beyond the narrow idea of the “Christian Nation” as it was constructed by conservatives in the past decades:
Steve Jobs, who died yesterday, combined in himself all the contradictions of the Sixties and of Bay Area experiments in consciousness. It seems to me entirely possible that the young Jobs would have joined the OccupyWallStreet.org protests.
He is a one-man response to the charge that the counterculture produced no lasting positive change. Jobs’s technological vision, rooted in a concern for how people use technology or could use it more intuitively, profoundly altered our world. He used to say that those who had never had anything to do with the counterculture had difficulty understanding his way of thinking.
I’d be interested to know how that happened. There is very little Buddhism in India. Tibetan Buddhists have centers in places like Varanasi (Banares) in North India, because these monks are political or cultural exiles from Communist China. The Dalits or ‘untouchables’ of western Indian have had a conversion movement to Buddhism. Jobs is said to have gone with a college buddy to see a Hindu guru devoted to the monkey-god, Hanuman. I really wonder whether the Buddhism was not encountered in the US rather than in India, though the trip to India may have influenced his decision.
In the same period, he was doing psychedelic drugs like LSD, which he later said were very important to his creative vision.
Indic spiritual traditions were important to Jobs, especially Buddhism. The quest for states of altered consciousness, which characterized some in my generation, was central to his creative vision.
The DOS operating system was something that only an engineer could love, a set of odd commands entered on a blinking line against a black backdrop. Jobs preferred icons, and changed computing forever. He, at least, was convinced that without the liberal social and spiritual experimentation of his youth, his creative vision would not have been the same.
The conservative backlash of the past 30 years has put hundreds of thousands of people behind bars for drug use (though not for alcohol use, the licit dangerous drug), and Rick Perry’s insistence that the US is a Christian nation is an attempt to erase the Steve Jobses from American history. Herman Cain’s Islamophobia is an attempt to exclude people like Jobs’s biological father from American legitimacy. But you can’t take a Muslim Arab immigrant, a Hindu guru, Buddhist monks, and some little pills out of this great American success story without making nonsense of it. Multiculturalism and cultural and religious experimentation, not fundamentalism and racism, are what make America great. Jobs showed that they are not incompatible with that other American icon, business success. Contemporary conservatism has given us over-paid and under-regulated financiers who add no real value to anything, unlike Jobs. If the Perrys ever do succeed in remaking the US in their own image, it will be a much reduced, crippled America that can no longer lead the world in creative innovation.
Psychedelic drugs, Markoff argues, pushed the computer and Internet revolutions forward by showing folks that reality can be profoundly altered through unconventional, highly intuitive thinking. Douglas Engelbart is one example of a psychonaut who did just that: he helped invent the mouse. Apple’s Jobs has said that Microsoft’s Bill Gates, would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.” In a 1994 interview with Playboy, however, Gates coyly didn’t deny having dosed as a young man.
Thinking differently–or learning to Think Different, as a Jobs slogan has it–is a hallmark of the acid experience. “When I’m on LSD and hearing something that’s pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther brain state where I’ve stopped thinking and started knowing,” Kevin Herbert told Wired magazine at a symposium commemorating Hofmann’s one hundredth birthday. Herbert, an early employee of Cisco Systems who successfully banned drug testing of technologists at the company, reportedly “solved his toughest technical problems while tripping to drum solos by the Grateful Dead.”
“It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain,” said Herbert. “Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used.”
Burning Man, founded in 1986 by San Francisco techies, has always been an attempt to make a large number of people use different parts of their brains toward some nonspecific but ostensibly enlightening and communally beneficial end. The event was quickly moved to the desert of Nevada as it became too big for the city. Today, it’s more likely to be attended by a software engineer than a dropped-out hippie. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, are longtime Burners, and the influence of San Francisco and Seattle tech culture is everywhere in the camps and exhibits built for the eight-day festival. Its Web site suggests, in fluent acidese, that “[t]rying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.”
Gilmore doubts, however, that a strict cause-and-effect relationship between drugs and the Internet can be proved. The type of person who’s inspired by the possibility of creating new ways of storing and sharing knowledge, he said, is often the same kind interested in consciousness exploration. At a basic level, both endeavors are a search for something outside of everyday reality–but so are many creative and spiritual undertakings, many of them strictly drug-free. But it’s true, Gilmore noted, that people do come to conclusions and experience revelations while tripping. Perhaps some of those revelations have turned up in programming code.
And perhaps in other scientific areas, too. According to Gilmore, the maverick surfer/chemist Kary Mullis, a well-known LSD enthusiast, told him that acid helped him develop the polymerase chain reaction, a crucial breakthrough for biochemistry. The advance won him the Nobel Prize in 1993. And according to reporter Alun Reese, Francis Crick, who discovered DNA along with James Watson, told friends that he first saw the double-helix structure while tripping on LSD.
EDIT: Slate just published an article on the topic as well.
We’ve devoted attention to the subject on this blog ever since we started it, but here is once again an article from a high-profile online magazine about the renaissance in scientific research on the beneficial effects of psychedelic drugs on the state of mind of people diagnosed with illnesses such as terminal and recurrent cancer. Salon has a must-read story about the uptick on studies into this matter across top-notch universities.
If you still think subjects like psychedelic drugs are for hippies living in the 1960s, think again. As previously written about in, among many others, the New York Times, The Globe and Mail and TIME, and reported about on CNN and BBC, psychedelic research is currently in its second big phase, with medical scientists and psychotherapists from Harvard, NYU, John Hopkins, Berkeley and several European universities running research programs on it. Psychedelic drug conferences are also increasingly being convened.
This Salon article describes research projects at John Hopkins, NYU and UCLA attempting to pinpoint how psychedelics alleviate fear and anxiety in patients. In controlled settings, lsd and psilocybin are administered in order to provide consciousness-expanding experiences. Patients report very existential experiences, and come down from the trip feeling better equipped mentally to deal with sickness and death. This is, therefore, a subset of the field of palliative care.
For people interested in it, the article also provides some historical background featuring such drug luminaries, writers and philosophers as William James (The Variety of Religious Experiences), Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception, Brave New World, Island), and Timothy Leary. But the point to drive home is that unlike in the 1960s and 1970s, psychedelic research is currently conducted with a twenty-first century scientific focus, with a rather circumscribed goal. The goal no longer is to reform society, but to help people through appliance of medical science.
What for me was new in this piece was the info on how the current research programs on psychedelic drugs came about. Either way, I highly recommend this article if you want to know more about this highly interesting subject.
Kristof Kossut arrived at an unlikely address for his first psychedelic experience. The 60-year-old New Yorker and professional yachtsman opened the door not to an after-hours techno party, but to the bright reception room at the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research, a large spa-like space occupying the second floor of New York University’s College of Dentistry. Kossut was among the first subjects of an NYU investigation into the question: Can the mystical states of mind occasioned by psychedelic drugs help alleviate anxiety and depression in people with terminal and recurrent cancer?
Shortly before Kossut’s arrival on the morning of his session, two clinic employees entered a high-security storage room, which just happens to face a painting of a white rabbit. From a massive steel combination safe they removed a bottle containing one gram of synthesized psilocybin, the psychoactive agent animating the 200-member fungus family commonly known as “magic mushrooms.” The duo carefully measured the small container against the previous day’s weight, as if securing a store of weapons-grade plutonium. They then pill-pressed an amount of powder containing 20 milligrams of the molecule, first identified in 1958 by the Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman, most famous for his other psychedelic synthesis, LSD-25.
They delivered the pill to a converted exam room gutted of its dental chair and refitted for comfort with holistic panache: plush pillow-strewn sofa, Persian carpet, Buddha statuettes, books on spirituality and mysticism, a high-performance sound system. Only the ceiling lighting track betrays the former identity of New York City’s federally sanctioned psilocybin room.
Receiving the pill is Dr. Stephen Ross, a 40-year-old assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Medical School and the cancer study’s principal investigator. Ross has a precise scientific manner softened by an upbringing in Southern California, where his mother (also a doctor) took him to hospice centers as a child, sparking an interest in end-of-life issues. Now director of the addiction division at Bellevue, Ross is among the youngest of a new generation of psychedelic researchers. With his cancer study still two years away from publishing results, he is already looking ahead to testing psychedelic treatments for drug addiction and alcoholism.
For now, Ross is fully focused on treating existential anxiety in people like Kossut, who lies on the couch, ready for his initiation into the psychedelic mysteries. In the research jargon, Kossut is “psychedelic naive.” After swallowing the pill Ross presents — in the cap of a ceremonial ceramic mushroom — all he can do is close his eyes, lose himself in the preselected tabla drum and sitar music, and try to remember the advice to not fight it, to move ever deeper into the light, to let go …
“It was absolutely incredible,” remembers Kossut. “The first rush was a little scary as I realized it wasn’t the placebo. That passed and next I was crossing boundaries of time and space and reality. I felt this weightlessness, this sense of being close to an unspeakable beauty that was unlike anything in my experience. For the first time since my diagnosis, I was not afraid of anything. The wall of depression that was building up day by day, the fear that I was going to die soon, that my daughter is only 8 — all those things disappeared. I wanted to stay there. I wanted it to last longer.”
It did. More than one year after his psilocybin session, Kossut reports greatly improved states of emotional and psychological well-being. “I walked out of the session happy, unafraid of death,” he says. “I don’t know why, but a transformation took place after being in that peaceful place. I relaxed. I started enjoying food again and was able to gain weight. The session taught me to be fully in the present. I’m optimistic. Mentally and physically, just better.”
This glowing report — based on a single dose of a naturally occurring, non-addictive, low-toxicity substance — sounds impossible. Surely one pill can’t succeed where months of traditional psychotherapy and antidepressants usually fail. According to science, that’s not how drugs work. It’s foreign to the model. But high success rates in ongoing concurrent studies at NYU and Johns Hopkins strongly suggest that Kossut’s psilocybin-assisted psychological rebound is no fluke. So do the findings of a pilot project conducted by Dr. Charles Grob at UCLA. Between 2004 and 2008, Grob administered psilocybin to 12 cancer patients suffering fear, anxiety and depression. His data, published last year in the Archives of General Psychiatry, showed long-term diminished anxiety and improved mood in every subject. The NYU and Johns Hopkins studies build on Grob’s pilot program with more subjects and higher doses. Midway through the research, their results are just as strong, signaling larger, multi-site trials to come.
This is the subdued, clinical language of a psychedelic science renaissance quietly entering its third decade. If its practitioners and advocates avoid the utopian claims and liberationist rhetoric that defined the LSD gospel of the 1960s, this is no accident. A new generation of psychedelic researchers understands that public and official support depends on exorcising the ghost of Timothy Leary, whose democratic acid crusade grew out of and ultimately helped destroy the first wave of psychedelic science in the 1950s and ’60s. Their goal is not to promote the legalization of these drugs or tout their value for everyone, but to revive the once-great and now largely forgotten promise of psychedelic science. And that just might, among other things, change the way we confront and think about death.
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.
We wrote about Portugal’s succesful drug decriminalization experiment before, and a couple of days ago this success was once again confirmed. At the press conference marking the tenth anniversary of the law, Portuguese health experts have shown that drug addiction has hugely declined, that drug-related infections have declined, and that drug-related crimes have declined.
The facts: the number of frequent hard drug users has declined from 100,000 in the early 1990s to 50,000 now. The reduction in numbers of infections and crimes is deemed “spectacular”.
In short, along almost every conceivable line, decriminalizing drugs has been a success. It should be stressed that Portugal’s policy does not consist of decriminalization alone: the core is treating drug use as a health problem instead of a crime. People getting caught with a sufficient amount of banned substances have to appear before special addiction panels rather than a criminal court. Here, it is determined whether a person is a casual user or an addict. Personal possession was decriminalized, allowing police authorities to focus on large-scale drug trafficking.
Conservative politicians need to recognize this objective, measurable success. The facts are clear for all to see: drug criminalization does. not. work. It just doesn’t. Battling drug use through criminal law alone only results in stigmatization, unnecessary financial costs, people’s lives wasted in jail and a neglect of the health problem. Moreover, it fails to distinguish between casual users who are no problem to society at all, and addicts.
Read more about the empirical success of Portugal’s drug policy here and here. Also see Glenn Greenwald’s report on the effects of drug decriminalization in Portugal.
Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.
“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.
The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.
Other factors had also played their part however, Goulao, a medical doctor added.
“This development can not only be attributed to decriminalisation but to a confluence of treatment and risk reduction policies.”
Portugal’s holistic approach had also led to a “spectacular” reduction in the number of infections among intravenous users and a significant drop in drug-related crimes, he added.
A law that became active on July 1, 2001 did not legalise drug use, but forced users caught with banned substances to appear in front of special addiction panels rather than in a criminal court.
The panels composed of psychologists, judges and social workers recommended action based on the specifics of each case.
Since then, government panels have recommended a response based largely on whether the individual is an occasional drug user or an addict.
Of the nearly 40,000 people currently being treated, “the vast majority of problematic users are today supported by a system that does not treat them as delinquents but as sick people,” Goulao said.
In a report published last week, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said Portugal had dealt with this issue “in a pragmatic and innovative way.”
Drug use statistics in Portugal are generally “below the European average and much lower than its only European neighbour, Spain,” the report also said.
“The changes that were made in Portugal provide an interesting before-and-after study on the possible effects of decriminalisation,” EMCDDA said.
Many of these innovative treatment procedures would not have emerged if addicts had continued to be arrested and locked up rather than treated by medical experts and psychologists. Currently 40,000 people in Portugal are being treated for drug abuse. This is a far cheaper, far more humane way to tackle the problem. Rather than locking up 100,000 criminals, the Portuguese are working to cure 40,000 patients and fine-tuning a whole new canon of drug treatment knowledge at the same time. None of this is possible when waging a war.
The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.
And finally, one last reference to the recent report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which has come to the same conclusions.
Wow, this is cool. Everyone who’s read Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Testor just knows a little bit about the origins of the 1960s counterculture knows that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, while on their legendary LSD-fueled road trip from San Francisco to New York, taped the whole thing. In fact, filming it was sorta essential to the experience -- just like rigging the Furthur bus with all kinds of sound equipment was.
Now unfortunately, afterwards nothing was ever done with the film material. Until now. I’m pretty excited about this, because apparently, some people have gotten together and created a documentary about the 1964 Magic Trip based on loads of original raw material never seen before. This means that all those characters -- Kesey himself, Neal Cassady (the driver in On the Road and (!) the bus driver), Babbs, Mountain Girl, Ed McClanahan, Sandy Lehman, etc. -- are in there. And it’s in color too.
Wow. I wonder if the Merry Pranksters’ encounter with the other psychedelic pioneers of that time -- the East Coast based Harvard professor Timothy Leary and his followers -- is in it as well. Apparently, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg are in it too.
Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s MAGIC TRIP is a freewheeling portrait of Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster’s fabled road trip across America in the legendary Magic Bus. In 1964, Ken Kesey, the famed author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” set off on a legendary, LSD-fuelled cross-country road trip to the New York World’s Fair. He was joined by “The Merry Band of Pranksters,” a renegade group of counterculture truth-seekers, including Neal Cassady, the American icon immortalized in Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and the driver and painter of the psychedelic Magic Bus. Kesey and the Pranksters intended to make a documentary about their trip, shooting footage on 16MM, but the film was never finished and the footage has remained virtually unseen. With MAGIC TRIP, Gibney and Ellwood were given unprecedented access to this raw footage by the Kesey family. They worked with the Film Foundation, HISTORY and the UCLA Film Archives to restore over 100 hours of film and audiotape, and have shaped an invaluable document of this extraordinary piece of American history.
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.
The CIA originally tested LSD on (sometimes unknowing) subjects as a mind control drug. While that didn’t really work out, newly discovered breeds of fungi show that apparently some sort of connection can still be made.
Four new species of fungi discovered in the Brazilian rain forest have the ability to take over the brains of ants, turning them into mindless zombies. Employing mind-altering chemicals, the fungi let the ants carry them up very specific branches in the sun, then kill them. How they do this is still a mystery; but the fungi are related to the fungi that LSD comes from. After that, the fungi turn the dead ants into spore-producing factories…
Four new species of brain-manipulating fungi that turn ants into “zombies” have been discovered in the Brazilian rain forest. These fungi control ant behavior with mind-altering chemicals, then kill them. They’re part of a large family of fungi that create chemicals that mess with animal nervous systems.
Usually scientists study these fungi as specimens preserved in a lab, said entomologist David Hughes of Pennsylvania State University, co-author of a study March 3 PLoS ONE. “By going into the forest to watch them, we found new micro-structures and behaviors.”
Once infected by spores, the worker ants, normally dedicated to serving the colony, leave the nest, find a small shrub and start climbing. The fungi directs all ants to the same kind of leaf: about 25 centimeters above the ground and at a precise angle to the sun (though the favored angle varies between fungi). How the fungi do this is a mystery.
“It’s related to the fungus that LSD comes from,” Hughes said. “Obviously they are producing lots of interesting chemicals.”
Before dying, ants anchor themselves to the leaf, clamping their jaws on the edge or a vein on the underside. The fungi then takes over, turning the ant’s body into a spore-producing factory. It lives off the ant carcass, using it as a platform to launch spores, for up to a year.
Of the four new species, two grow long, arrow-like spores which eject like missiles from the fungus, seeking to land on a passing ant. The other fungi propel shorter spores, which change shape in mid-air to become like boomerangs and land nearby. If these fail to land on an ant, the spores sprout stalks that can snag ants walking over them. Upon infecting the new ant, the cycle starts again.
The Netherlands’ drug policy is often perceived to be the most liberal in Europe. Not only is that not true in the sense that the Netherlands is getting increasingly regressive; it’s also not true in the sense that there are other European countries with more liberal drug policies. In the Czech Republic, for example, since 2009 possession of small amounts of marihuana and mushrooms, as well as some hard drugs is only a misdemeanour. And in Portugal, possession of all drugs has been decriminalized since 2000.
The Boston Globe has an interesting article on the effects of this policy on Portugal’s public health and crime rate. Here, ten years ago politicians decided to decriminalize personal possession, in order to allow police authorities to focus full-time on distribution and trafficking. The overarching goal was to treat drug use as a public health concern. And it seems to have paid off! There has been a 63 percent increase in Portuguese drug users getting treatment, and a 499 percent increase in amount of drugs seized. Portuguese society has not collapsed because of drug decriminalization; instead, drug addicts, not having to fear going to jail anymore, are getting treatment.
To be clear: this is not a solution I advocate. I’m in favour of a complete legalization of relatively innocent drugs, such as marihuana, hashish, mushrooms, xtc and lsd, and a continuing ban on hard drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Legalization allows for regulation, bringing for example the thc level of weed down and getting clean xtc on the market, and making it available strictly to over-18s (I think that should go for alcohol too, by the way). For psychologically more difficult stuff, like shrooms or lsd, I’d advocate some sort of permit, or examination, to prepare people for the experience. But then on hard drugs that are dangerous to the individual and society, I’m still in favour of treating possession, distribution and trafficking as a criminal matter.
But anyway, here’s the article on Portugal’s experiences:
Faced with both a public health crisis and a public relations disaster, Portugal’s elected officials took a bold step. They decided to decriminalize the possession of all illicit drugs — from marijuana to heroin — but continue to impose criminal sanctions on distribution and trafficking. The goal: easing the burden on the nation’s criminal justice system and improving the people’s overall health by treating addiction as an illness, not a crime.
As the sweeping reforms went into effect nine years ago, some in Portugal prepared themselves for the worst. They worried that the country would become a junkie nirvana, that many neighborhoods would soon resemble Casal Ventoso, and that tourists would come to Portugal for one reason only: to get high. “We promise sun, beaches, and any drug you like,” complained one fearful politician at the time.
But nearly a decade later, there’s evidence that Portugal’s great drug experiment not only didn’t blow up in its face; it may have actually worked. More addicts are in treatment. Drug use among youths has declined in recent years. Life in Casal Ventoso, Lisbon’s troubled neighborhood, has improved. And new research, published in the British Journal of Criminology, documents just how much things have changed in Portugal. Coauthors Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens report a 63 percent increase in the number of Portuguese drug users in treatment and, shortly after the reforms took hold, a 499 percent increase in the amount of drugs seized — indications, the authors argue, that police officers, freed up from focusing on small-time possession, have been able to target big-time traffickers while drug addicts, no longer in danger of going to prison, have been able to get the help they need.
“Often, there are lot of fears, misconceptions, and mythology around decriminalization and what might be the consequences,” Hughes said. “This reform has shown that it is possible to decriminalize illicit drugs…without necessarily increasingly drug-related harm, without increasing the burden on the criminal justice system, and without increasing drug use.”
The total number of people who have ever used drugs, though, has increased. The article evaluates that as ‘not positive’. I don’t see it as a problem, as long, as said above, it’s the relatively innocent stuff. But for that, you need to regulate.
But the numbers aren’t all positive. According to the latest report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the number of Portuguese aged 15 to 64 who have ever tried illegal drugs has climbed from 7.8 percent in 2001 to 12 percent in 2007. The percentage of people who have tried cannabis, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy, and LSD all increased in that time frame. Cannabis use, according to the drug report, has gone up from 7.6 to 11.7 percent. Heroin use jumped from 0.7 to 1.1 percent, and cocaine use nearly doubled — from 0.9 to 1.9 percent. In other words, said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, the changes in Portugal have had a somewhat expected outcome: More people are trying drugs.
Acid is back. I concluded that when I looked back at 2010. In a few days the new Boys Noize compilation Super Acid will be released. Dutch DJ/producer Benny Rodrigues has made a great contribution. It is a timeless track that could easily have been a floor killer in a 1991 Speedy J set. A nice tribute to classic Dutch house. Enjoy: