Monday, August 20, 2007

Let's Talk Drugs for a Minute

We’ve consistently pointed here to the inconsistent and hypocritical stances we as a nation take regarding our treatment of drugs and their users. If law must be legit and respected to be willingly obeyed, this counter-effective approach would predict drug war failures, different treatment of the wealthy, celebrities, talk show hosts, and athletes as long as they ring cash registers, and wider crime than before we went insane. And, surprise, that’s exactly what we find. Corrections sentencing is the dumping ground for the lack of constant principle and rational thought, so any time we run across stories like the ones below, we should pay attention:

· Painkiller use way up in the last few years, with more resulting emergency room visits and prosecuted doctors. As one of the doctors in the story says (who has stopped prescribing the drugs nevertheless), "People with cancer are surviving longer, elderly people are living longer," Charles said. "So, physicians are walking a fairly fine line. We're walking a narrow path. And I think we'll continue to see it for a while." And the states known for lax enforcementon this, like IN and FL, are apparently seeing amazing economic growth at the same time.

· Elsewhere, the real killer and danger, alcohol, marches on, legal because we recognized the foolishness and destruction of trying to ban it. This time we find out that it’s associated with greater stroke occurrence. If this had been pot, it would have been the front page on every newspaper and website.

· Most of the problem lies in our inability to determine whether addiction, the real problem with its subsequent costs and behavior, is a genetic or environmental problem. The answer, of course, as it is with all these false dichotomy “nature or nurture” situations, is it’s both, as Mind Hacks makes clear. Which makes it a personal and political decision when you opt for acting on one or the other rather than both. As we’ve emphasized over and over, crim just policy is based on stories of human nature, either of shiftless individuals unable to control themselves or of obstructed environments preventing basically good traits from emerging, nothing but a reiteration of the false nature/nurture thing, and just as false a basis for forming policy whether conservative or liberal. Hacks applies the recognition of the use in the demonstrably flawed drug debates well. I’m sure it will change everything.

· Meanwhile, the debate over addiction moves to other areas, like food and the Internet (and coffee, exercise or cell phones???). Same arguments, same conclusions, same simplistic rationalizations, same failure to come to grips with the interlinked nature of an individual, that person’s genes, and the environment in which the person lives. If/when we as a society ever get past second grade in our mentality on these issues, chances for effective corrections sentencing policy may improve. But, given that we’ve been unable to get past the “either-or” after millenia of human thought, what are the odds of that?


Steve said...

I agree with many of your observations about addictions, but wouldn't you agree that there is some foolishness in calling cell phones addictive on par with "drugs"? And isn't there something to be said about our culture where so many choices are deemed affiliations of an addiction? Sure, food has addictive qualities, but are we really to believe that the myth addict and the food addict are the same?

Michael Connelly said...

I agree with your skepticism. Today I posted a whack from Mind Hacks at the "Internet addiction" concept that I hope you like. Thanks for commenting.